What do you see as the biggest misconception in pharmaceutical circles or in pharmaceutical marketing circles, if you will, with regard to digital channels and media?
James: That’s a good one, Marc. Well, in the spirit of controversy, I guess in terms of the big picture actually defining digital as a series of channels would, to me, be a misconception in itself. When you think of digital, what the digital era has done is transform the way that people search for information, how we absorb messages, how we engage in dialogue, how we interact, what we share, who we trust, what we find valuable and how we experience our brands and, also, how we judge them, of course. It’s done other things like shorten our attention spans, it’s raised our expectations of interactions and it’s held brands accountable for these experiences.
So, really, digital has made a mockery of the traditional media monologue. You can no longer project messages and ideas and instructions onto your target audience and expect them to think and do as you say. Digital has changed how people behave, which goes beyond a series of channels. And while pharma may be a unique, highly regulated industry, the pharma audience is made up entirely of human beings. You know, HCPs, patients, payers, shareholders, regulators. They are all people. Therefore, they all have some idea of what should be possible with digital. Physicians, for example, demand engaging interactive experiences with reps. They don’t want you to just flash them a PDF of a sales aid. The chances are they owned an iPad before you did. They already know that you can do some amazing things with it, so you better go do something amazing with it. As for consumers, you can no longer sell to consumers in this era. You need to help with them the information they’re looking for, help them manage their diseases, exchange dialogues, exchange value and make it a good experience. You can’t control the dialogue, but you can listen and take part and correct misinformation. So, it’s not really about channels.
While we’re on this subject, this notion of the empowered patient. It’s not like the patient suddenly said one day: “Finally, digital is here. Now I can be an empowered patient. I can get one over my doctor. I’m going to stick it to the pharma industry with my new found knowledge.” No, the empowered patient is itself a manifestation of the changing communication behavior of people, which is enabled by technology. If I can log on and get information on my disease from 100 different sources, why wouldn’t I do that? If I can chat online with patients like me, why wouldn’t I do that?
And by the way, I’d also like to have some of that interaction with the guys who developed my life enhancing drug or whatever that may be.
So, my point is, digital is much more than a series of channels. It’s a lifestyle. We are all living it and it represents an era of radically-changed consumption behavior and I think if you’re not fully on board with this notion, then I think you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
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