Marketing strategy – PharmaTimes Magazine March 2022

Healthcare digital guru David Reilly offers four counter-intuitive strategies for supporting effective pharma marketing

Marketing in our industry sometimes requires a counter-intuitive strategy that can adapt, especially in pharma’s dynamic post-pandemic marketing environment. This requires a new model of strategic thinking – one which creates lasting impact and produces more consistent rewards.

With this in mind, I’m going to describe four counter-intuitive approaches to modern digital marketing.

Don’t obsess over the PMCPA code

Yes, it’s important and the PMCPA code – guidance for UK prescription drugs sales and marketing – is in place for very good reasons. After all, it provides an ethical compass for our entire industry.

Obsessing over it can create a culture of fear, however, and a stifling ‘code says no’ mentality can become the enemy of innovative thinking. Many leading pharma company names have had PMCPA code violations brought against them in their quest to test and experiment, which of course involves risks, but it has not curtailed their respective enthusiasm for testing and deploying innovative digital solutions. Get over the code restrictive mindset and work with it.Collaborate with start-ups and accelerators

Some of the best inventive digital solutions are emerging from start-up hubs and accelerators which demonstrate how digital can support drugs and medicines in meaningful ways. The Digital Health London accelerator, for instance, selects 20 small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) every year for its NHS programme.

Indeed, many of the digital products and services currently providing vital innovation, support and capacity to the NHS – in response to COVID-19 – have emerged from the accelerator programme and provide great examples of how tech and digitally inspired innovation is responding to patient needs.Seek inspiration outside the pharma bubble

Great ideas, and not just in marketing, can be extracted from companies or sectors outside pharma, especially those that found traction during lockdown. Peloton Bikes used personalised video instruction and referrals via its own digital community, while meal kits like Gousto cleverly integrated digital engagement into its customer experiences. What can you observe about changing patient needs, and how digital touchpoints integrate into these experiences, by going outside your comfort zone?

Leading with purposeMany marketing messages do not emphasise the meaningful impact that pharma products have on patient lives. Uplifting narratives are much more likely to be captivating if they are first-person accounts of how lives have been transformed by your therapy or your company’s contribution to the green agenda. Leverage your marketing strategy with purposeful intent and share the patient stories in order to inspire.

This is not urging you to be different just for the sake of being novel. This is about thinking creatively around the dynamics of patient engagement using clever digital orientated solutions. Study the needs of the HCP and patients carefully and really understand the post-pandemic nuance of crafting meaningful marketing strategies.

David Reilly is founder of Let’s Learn Digital which delivers quality training in digital strategy and emerging technology. Go to