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Pharma Brands Are Finally on Brink of Digital Transformation


A profound shift to rapid, iterative, data-driven brand management is about to take place in pharmaceuticals. It will significantly improve patient outcomes by enabling physicians and sufferers to obtain solutions that are better tailored to their needs without undermining the confidentiality of patient data that is so important to their trust.  Pharma brands will transform from digital laggards to leaders by harnessing privacy protected data across the global healthcare ecosystem to improve sufferers’ paths to adoption and adherence.

Conditions are ripe for a major shift:

For the first time since the potential of digital healthcare emerged pharma leaders have the means and opportunity to effect agile brand management.  The agility comes from newly available data sources that will enable brand leaders to adapt their go-to-market strategies rapidly and iteratively based on close to real time feedback.  They will be able to target and tailor content more specifically, improve interactions and experiences more effectively and offer value-added services more broadly.

Means:  Pharma brands now have omni-channel access to sufferer and caregiver segments.  They have it in their power to offer content, programs, services, access and formats at relevant steps in the path to adoption and adherence.  Until now,  they’ve lacked the data to deploy their tools.

Opportunity: The explosion of de-identified patient treatment and social data is the game changer that will usher agile pharma brand management.  Extensive patient claims data is now finally available at a granular level for many of the largest health conditions.  De-identification allows pharmaceutical brands to harness this data without violating the privacy or regulatory requirements that are so crucial to patient trust and the ethical operation of the business.

Agile pharma brand management will develop in phases:

Digital transformation in other industries marked by multiple stakeholders and technical product innovation indicates agile pharma  brand management will undergo three successive phases of development.

Phase 1 Marketing/Sales Innovation – will be characterized by iterative, data-driven delivery of content and media across channels so it becomes more relevant to sub-segment and eventually micro-segments  at each step in the path to adoption and adherence.  Pharma brand teams will need to adopt the rapid test and learn capabilities and mind-set of digital marketers to leverage the newly available data sources.

Phase 2 Experience Innovation – typically follows marketing innovation quickly. It will be shaped by innovation in the interface between pharma companies and patients/physicians as well as in added value services, self guided learning tools, access enablers and incentives that spur adoption and adherence.  To succeed pharma brand teams will need to develop experience touchpoint design and continuous improvement expertise to supplement  the A/B testing skills required for marketing/sales innovation.

Phase 3 Solution Innovation – will take some time to develop as pharma brands uncover how to incorporate their solutions into larger connected ecosystems for home, work and health.  Brand teams will need to develop their ability to prototype and test  innovative solutions within and across the full range of potential ecosystems (e.g. with home assistants such as Alexa, with hospital operating systems such as EPIC, and with device makers such as FITBIT as well as with new software, networks or devices). Pharma company understanding of patient data protection will need to be shared with ecosystem partners while brand teams must learns how to negotiate, evaluate, test, deliver and improve ecosystem partnerships.

An experience operating system is needed:

Agile brand management requires integrated planning, measurement, implementation and governance across the path to adoption and adherence that we, at Prophet, call an experience operating system.

The system relies on a data-based visualization of each step in the path to adoption and adherence for different patient/physician profiles.  Behaviour metrics (e.g. first visit to doctor or share of scripts) and important attitudinal data from social listening (e.g. reluctant to try new treatment, confused by drug administration directions) are refreshed regularly while remaining linked to de-identified patient profile information.  The view reveals how the path to adoption and adherence shifts for micro segments as products and programs are launched and evolve in the market. It provides the foundational data-driven platform for assessing progress in growing the brand and for test and learn experiments in marketing, experience and solution innovation.

Talent: New talent with skills in data analysis and privacy protection will typically need to be added. Marketing, experience and solution innovation skills as well as test and learn expertise must be enhanced and expanded throughout the team.

Process:  A macro process for measuring progress, rapidly adapting strategies and plans, identifying innovation opportunities, concepting, in-market testing and scaling must be built. It must operate more adaptively and iteratively than the annual planning routines that underlie most of the work of brand management in pharmaceutical companies.

Tools: Path to adoption visualization tools and analysis tools capable of integrating both behavioural data (what we do) with perceptual data (why we do it) will be key additions to the brand management  toolbox.  The enterprise must also codify routines to work with data and data providing partners in ways that ensure patient data privacy.

Teaming:  The need to foster organization-wide adoption of a digital mind-set that relishes rapid, iterative, data-driven improvement and the team design to carry these actions out are crucial to success .  Fostering a digital mind-set is not limited to brand management. It includes other functions and, most important, senior leaders across the organization.

Beginning the transformation

Building an experience operating system takes a multi-disciplinary approach that relies on partners who can incorporate:

  • Brand management expertise from inside Pharmaceuticals and outside industries
  • Marketing, experience and solution innovation understanding
  • Digital transformation experience
  • Big data integration, analysis and patient data security skills
  • Change management and employee engagement capabilities

At Prophet we’ve found that operationalizing an initial, very basic, data-based visualization of the path to adoption and then growing it in sync with building the talent, processes, tools and teaming is the best way to operationalize the system.  This approach delivers quick wins that generate momentum in the business that, in turn, drives additional investment in building out the system.

Learn more about setting up an experience operating system by  talking to our team

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