Industry Insights

Pharma Wars - Episode I: The Multichannel Menace

Posted by April Giarla on Feb 29, 2016 6:00:00 AM

Pharma marketing has never been easy but these days it’s tougher than ever.  Every generation of pharma marketers has believed this about the challenges they face, but there is now data to show this.

Historically, efforts were focused along a limited number of customer engagement channels. Back in the blockbuster era, there were only one or two stakeholders to seriously consider and the toolbox was pretty limited. 

Even though channel mix planning was much simpler, there were surprisingly few best practice examples. One rare case was the excellent BMS/Sanofi launch of Plavix across its major cardiovascular indications globally. 

Within a very short period of time, major multicenter trial results were announced globally at key cardiovascular meetings. In concert with this, national PR communications ran across most major markets where new indications were granted. Locally, doctors and payers received communications including rep details about how many leading centers were changing their treatment algorithms to include Plavix. 

And all stakeholders could read about the real life stories of local patients who had participated in the clinical trials and their experience with Plavix therapy which had improved or even saved their lives. 

All of this was implemented globally within a period of only two weeks.  The so-called "surround sound" effect was impressive and much greater than if the same communication had trickled out over the course of months in an uncoordinated fashion.

Since that era and with the introduction of new technologies, so much has changed yet the fundamentals have remained the same. And how are we doing in terms of customer satisfaction?

The force is definitely not with us all...yet. 

In addition to the “old school” tools, virtually all pharma companies have expanded their toolboxes to include new digital and non-digital tools to engage with their customers.  And most companies are working with these tools across a wider range of customers and stakeholders.  Still, in these days of increased complexity, best practices seem to be in a galaxy far, far away.

With some many more options and increasingly demanding customers, this environment raises a new "multichannel menace" to be handled in marketing planning and execution. 

And not surprisingly, in our experience, few pharma players really succeed in coordinating all of their communications channels and engagement tools to the point where they achieve maximum impact and true customer satisfaction.

One great example today is some of the work that AbbVie is doing with Humira in indications like SPA (Active Non-Radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis).  They are successfully using both traditional and non-traditional channels in very challenging markets and are doing so with great success and superior customer satisfaction.

The most effective way to ensure well-coordinated multichannel communication is to adopt a customer-centric approach and define the engagement you want your customers and stakeholders to experience and work back from there. 

It sounds easy, but most companies fail in the process. The real winners are the companies that really understand their customers’ needs from the beginning.

Another key to success: ensure that all teams and agencies that design and implement multichannel communications plans are coordinated and inspired to succeed for their customers and, of course, for the sake of the patient.

These challenges can be addressed with the right experiential learning approach.  It is essential that teams can properly define, develop and implement successful customer-centric multichannel communication plans. Teams can sharpen skills and achieve success by learning to avoid the potential pitfalls, something that simulation-based learning is uniquely well positioned to do. 

While it is a lot of fun, it isn't just playing marketing games.  The right experiential learning initiative can provide a true competitive advantage on the ground in real time.

Feel free to contact Yann Cartier ( to see how StratX can help your teams tackle the Multichannel Menace.

Stayed tuned for our next installment -- Episode II: Attack of Patient Centricity.

Article written by Alan Slavik and Richard Hainsworth 

Topics: Biopharma

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