Archive for January, 2011

2011 Outlook

2011 will be the year of the healthcare mash-up. Healthcare reform meets empowered patients, pharmaceutical firms stumble off the patent cliff, and everyone confronts the immediacy and transparency of digital and mobile communications. It actually should be good for patients if healthcare companies embrace the change and provide clear leadership. If.

Digital marketing is not just another channel

Digital marketing has been evolving from an afterthought to an important element of brand strategy. In 2011, marketers will begin to recognize that digital is actually not just another channel. It’s a new paradigm of thinking and communicating that threatens the entire advertising model. Professionals and patients are looking for tools that help them (apps), not stories that distract them. They prefer support that continuously evolves, not packaged solutions that are only updated annually. Digital opens up the possibility of personalized communication and customized transactions, and as people experience this level of interactivity in others areas of their lives (travel, ecommerce, social networks) they will demand it from the healthcare system. If pharma marketers can’t deliver, professionals and consumers will turn to their peers and independent sources for content and context.

Share of voice is less important?

Fragmented consumer attention and fragmented media channels mean it’s even harder to connect with audiences. Pharmaceutical marketers will learn to their chagrin that share of voice is less important than share of mobile memory and screen real estate. The remarkable speed at which health care professionals have adopted smart phones (72% penetration, with 95% of smartphone docs using them to download medical info) is inversely correlated to their desire to meet with sales representatives, and the traditional office visit will continue to be challenged. A new focus on account service and flashy iPad sales presentations will slow but not stop the slide in office access.

Who is eating whose lunch?

Warren Buffett’s famous quote that “it’s only when the tide goes out that you find out who’s been swimming naked” will be relevant to traditional agencies as they see more and more assignments lost to small niche agencies they’ve never heard of before. As one global agency president said to me, “they are eating our lunch and we can’t do anything about it.” Agencies that try overnight extreme makeovers into digital agencies will be hard pressed to convince brands that they really know social media and mobile, while small digital start-ups will learn how hard it is to convince risk adverse brand managers to trust them with their strategy. Niche agencies will move quickly in 2011 to hire away seasoned account executives to manage the client relationships so their 20-something digital savants can continue to create the future in healthcare advertising.

Participatory Medicine is not coming. It’s here.

When 78% of consumers report they are interested in mobile health solutions including communicating with their healthcare professionals via mobile or wireless monitoring devices and Kaiser Permanente patients send 2.6mm emails per quarter to their doctors, you can be sure that participatory medicine isn’t just coming, it has arrived. According to Manhattan Research, 80% of nurses direct their patients to trusted health-related online sources. Look for patients to increase their confidence and engagement in managing their own health care, leading to more blending of traditional and alternative medical solutions. Opportunities still lie with those who are able to create trusted online and mobile sources of content and community in which people recognize “patients like me.”

(Portions originally published in Med Ad News, January 2011,