Digital Insights: Pharma's Digital Revolution. Better Late Than Never

Big Pharma’s concentration on digital marketing nearly tripled in 2011 with consumers increasing reliance on technical gadgets and social media.

By Michele V. Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

All I want for Christmas is the iPhone 4S. And I am sure if I had the iPhone 4S, all I would want for Christmas was the Droid Incredible. And if I had them both I would most likely see a commercial for some other technological super gadget and go after that next. I am obsessed with making sure my digital devices can do all but flip pancakes, and I don’t think I am alone.

According to Cutting Edge Information’s recent study, “Pharmaceutical Digital Marketing and Social Media: Managing Growth, Mitigating Risk and Mastering Strategy,” pharmaceutical companies are beginning to exceed their normal, traditional marketing channels and incorporate more than half of these budgets to digital activities.

Although the industry is still without clearcut digital marketing guidance from FDA (hello? is this thing on?), the study found that digital channels accounted for 54.7% of drug companies' media mix in 2011 while traditional media accounted for 42.1%. All three main digital marketing channels—mobile media, social media and websites—grew in 2011, but mobile led the way, rising from 5.6% of the media total in 2010 to 15.5% in 2011. Guess I am not the only one obsessed with my phone.

"The data reveal a clear trend of pharmaceutical marketing shifting toward digital media channels and away from some of the more traditional ones," said Casey Ferrell, research analyst at Cutting Edge and the study's lead author. "It's particularly interesting that digital media growth has accelerated in 2011, especially for small and mid-sized pharma companies."

Social media made the largest gain as a percentage change in the media marketing mix in 2010, rising from 6.3 % of the mix to 9.7% which is not surprising considering the number of Big Pharma social media channels has more than tripled in the past two years. However, the report also stated that social media was one of the most difficult parts of the media mixes to measure customer engagement and ROI. 

The study also found print media and television/radio slipped 5.0% and 2.0%, respectively in 2009 and 2010, but those numbers rose in 2011.

It appears Big Pharma and the digital marketing revolution is plowing full steam ahead regardless of the lack of guidance from FDA and it seems these numbers will only increase as consumers continue to increase their involvement on digital and social channels. And so I wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season and may you all find warmth and comfort in the soft glow of your (insert media device here)’s LCD screen.

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