Words by Isabel O’Brien
The Atlantic Ocean divides two English speaking nations, but if these two land masses came together, old coastlines would become hard borders, and the respective healthcare systems near impossible to amalgamate. American folks arrive at the restaurant and the head chef greets them with a pitch of his culinary delights. In Great Britain, diners choose from the set menu, but there is the consolation of having no bill to settle at the end. Communication between populations and the pharmaceutical industry must be regulated in line with how healthcare is delivered, but how do such differences impact the creation of a global marketing strategy?
“The reason behind direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing in the US is to inform patients suffering from diseases about the potential treatment options,” says Jose Luis Luna, Senior Associate Director, Global Marketing, Inflammation (Rare Diseases), Boehringer Ingelheim. “This means to make the individual aware and help them to make informed decisions together with their healthcare provider.”
In the US, strategy must involve direct communication with patients: sandwich boards are donned and appropriate boulevards selected. A report by Kantar Media states that two-thirds of adults take some form of action after seeing a drug or device television advert, and 40% make an appointment with their doctor. DTC is an essential empowerment tool for US patients, who must act autonomously with regard to their care.
In Europe, “it’s important that the broader community feels they can trust what we are doing, how we are doing it, and have faith in the decisions made by their medical teams,” says Pieter De Muynck, Global Marketing Leader, Global Commercial Strategy Organisation, Janssen.
Conversely, a lack of visibility to European patients is vital, with marketers required to not disrupt the equilibrium of free healthcare systems. However, we are in the era of the proactive, empowered patient, who will seek out information for themselves. The full menu should be available on the internet, as should patient-centric side dishes, such as podcasts and social media campaigns. Marketers must create this kind of content, cast it out, and wait for it to be found.
This conflict in global regulation is not unique to the marketing sector, it is similar if we look at data privacy. In the US, each commercial sector has its own set of specific regulations, whereas in Europe we have GDPR: “GDPR is a comprehensive, omnibus law that regulates every aspect of the processing of personal data; privacy legislation in the US is commonly referred to as a ‘patchwork’ of laws,” explains Efrain Castaneda Mogollon, Privacy Legal Researcher, OneTrust.
When it comes to regulation, difference is both prevalent and necessary in order to accommodate the local nuances of that area. The global aspect of any pharma marketing campaign, the consistency, must therefore come from brand story: “In our hyperconnected world, the essence of a brand must be consistent for all customers, wherever they are,” says De Muynck.
In order to do this for patients, “one important aspect is to ensure this process considers relevant local insights that are included in the development of archetypes, which can be implemented at the local level; this way the global direction and strategic approach is maintained with the flexibility for local implementation,” says Luna.
If you establish a brand story that can be disseminated through different marketing mediums and emerge whole and consistent, you have successfully globalised your marketing campaign. Achieving this solid base then allows for an injection of creativity, which will make your company stand out against competitors.
For example, Bayer’s campaign in support of sustainable agriculture, whilst not for a singular drug, featured an eye-catching, living billboard of freshly growing kale, parsley, collards, and three varieties of chard, in St. Louis for the US market. They then created a range of videos and articles around this cause for their social media channels and website, which visualised this story with the same vigour, but in an unobtrusive way, more suitable for European consumers: the same story told in varying regulatory climates.
In our hyperconnected world, the essence of a brand must be consistent for all customers, wherever they are
“Personally, I appreciate the regulations we have in our industry. It’s important to respect them and I take our responsibility to support the medical community extremely seriously,” concludes De Muynck. “Ultimately, it’s vital that everyone can trust what we say and do.
Whilst regulation can generate challenges, I also believe that this can drive creativity!”
Whilst differing regulations mean a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy will not work country-to-country, these differences can challenge pharma marketers to create a universal brand story: a consistent dining experience, served up at varying temperatures across the globe.