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Marketing Is More Than a Pen and a Tissue Box

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In interviewing more than 500 marketers in the past 10 years, the most common response to the question, “How do you build a product brand?” is that the marketing and sales teams should build a stronger and closer connection with the key opinion leaders (KOLs). On the client side, I’ve heard, “We need to think about doing things differently.”   

However, the recent changes in how companies spend their money in terms of promotion mean that companies need a different approach to marketing their products. These changes are forcing companies to think differently.  

Other changes in the market include patients taking more ownership of their disease and treatment. Patients are getting connected through social media, and patients groups are becoming more active. I met an old friend who is a marketing director at a global EU company and has faced some compliance issues in the past 12 months. I asked if his company was still in the “sin bin.” He looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Philip, at the end on the day that was just the wakeup call that our company needed. We had become a little lax and complacent.” He explained that many marketers at his company were in the business of MR promotion with a focus on share of voice and KOL management. Marketing is more than a pen with the product name on it and tissue box.”  

The marketing director’s attitude reminded me of a quote from Howard Schultz in his book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul: “In times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we’re made of.”  

The changes within the market have been the stimulus for marketing departments to adopt a more patient-centric approach. Marketers are now empathizing and looking to walk in their patients’ slippers. What is the real-world situation and cost-effectiveness of the therapies?  

Qualitative research is shaping the marketing plans for the future. The best marketers are interviewing patients in their homes and observing real-life situations. What are the habits of the patients?  

The marketing director explained that they hope patient-centric cost-benefit analyses will be intertwined with clinical research and that the results of these studies contribute to the evidence gained from the research as a whole. Such studies are expected to bridge the gap between the clinical study and the conditions of daily life.  

Perhaps we need a crisis to awake us from our slumber and implement real change. The acclaimed American economist Milton Friedman said it best, “Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” 

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