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Insights on healthcare branding
2. Establish a relationship with a patient
Last year all of the healthcare publications discusses health policy and Big Pharma as it
– online and offline - were buzzing about relates to MS. “I’ve received emails from the
social media and its potential impact on our Today’s patient population is completely communications department of isolated
industry. Pharma spent nearly $1.2 billion different than those of years past. They are pharma companies who are developing MS
to market online in 2008, a figure that is involved, well educated, and not afraid to treatments. But the purpose is often just to
expected to reach $2.2 billion by 2011, question the advice of their physicians. In distribute a press release and not actually to
according to digital tracking firm eMarketer. its 2008 report, How America Searches: develop a mutual relationship…
Yet there is still much confusion about how Health & Wellness, iCrossing found that
Talk with us, not at us. Engage with
to integrate new forms of communication, 59% of patients turn to the Web as their first
participants. Patients will not bite.” All
particularly digital and mobile, into a brand source of health information. Physicians
pharmaceutical companies have advisory
marketing plan. If 2008 was about creating rank second at 55% and traditional media
boards of physician opinion leaders; now is
awareness that social media exists, then like television and print trail in the distance
the time to create ones with patients, too.
2009 should be about exploring how to attracting only 20%. As a result, patients
meaningfully engage. And engage in a way have begun to forge relationships with one
that makes the team feel comfortable. another online, discussing medications,
3. Support a social network in your
therapies, symptoms and more. This has
There still appears to be much reluctance
led to the rise of a new type of expert: the
about social media because of regulatory Over the past few years, patient-led
Patient Opinion Leader. These are non-
considerations. I am usually the first to discussions about every disease imaginable
medical professionals who inspire trust
say there are ways around it, but to be fair have moved from Yahoo Groups and
and act as guides for other patients. They
ours is an industry that is highly regulated listservs to full-blown social networks. As
write blogs, voice their opinions in patient
and there are potential pitfalls. So rather already mentioned, patients are connecting
communities, post videos on YouTube,
than suggest ideas or programs that some with each other online, often disclosing
and create FaceBook pages devoted to
could perceive as too risky, we will focus on personal medical histories and detailing
six steps you can reasonably take without their treatments. Patient-focused networks
incurring the wrath of regulatory. One such POL is Kerri Morrone Sparling of exist in a number of places: large general
Six Until Me, a popular diabetes blog that social networks like FaceBook, Ning
attracts 50,000 visitors per month. Readers and MySpace; general health sites like
1. Start tracking your brand online. often ask Kerri for advice and opinions, and HealthCentral, WebMD, RevolutionHealth;
At a minimum, all marketers should be while she is careful to point out that she is and specialty platforms like CureTogether,
monitoring how their brands live online. not a medical professional, her followers PatientsLikeMe, Inspire.
With nearly universal adoption of the appreciate her candor and accumulated
How can you get involved? You need
Internet among physicians and 72 million wisdom as someone who has lived with the
not start from scratch and create a new
U.S. adults visiting a health site in 2008 disease for twenty-two years. Kerri believes
forum – go where your audience already
(comScore), there is an astounding amount her audience would welcome a dialogue
congregates. Alexandra Carmichael,
of unfiltered discussion and information with a pharmaceutical company as long
president and co-founder of CureTogether,
flow taking place among patients, as it is done in a way that is honest and
a site that enables people to anonymously
caregivers, and physicians online. respectful. “Earning the trust of your user
compare symptoms, treatments and health
base is crucial to the growth of the industry.
Dialogue is happening all over the Internet data, believes there are many opportunities
If Big Pharma wants to really touch the
– on wikis, health-related social networks, for collaboration where all parties benefit.
lives of patients, they need to show us that
general social networks like FaceBook, “Pharma companies can send us inclusion
they care, that my health, and the health
blogs, videos, message boards and drug criteria for clinical trials they need filled.
of my fellow diabetics, is something their
rating sites. Do you have a solid grasp of They can also send us surveys about adverse
company holds in the highest regard.”
the social media landscape where your side effects, drug efficacy, and company
Fellow blogger Lisa Emrich, a musician who
product or the therapeutic category is perception for specific populations of
lives with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid
being discussed? If you don’t, then you are patients.”
arthritis, agrees. Lisa’s blog Brass and Ivory
missing out on a golden opportunity to
listen in and learn from your customers.
Do you have a solid grasp of the social
The findings can help marketers monitor
general perceptions, provide a quick read on
media landscape where your product
an unfolding situation, uncover issues that
had not been considered, or even confirm
or the therapeutic category is being
primary market research.
discussed? If you don’t, then you are
No one has time to pore over all of the sites,
and some companies prohibit such visits, so
missing out on a golden opportunity to
it makes the most sense to select an outside
listen in and learn from your customers.
service that will aggregate the information
in which you are most interested. Many
research companies now offer robust
sentiment tracking or blogmining services.
Work with your branding or advertising
agency to help select the one that best
meets your goals.
Six ways with social media – 2 www.interbrandhealth.com
6. Go mobile.
A great example of a company that to create Better Blogcast, which offers
partnered with a thriving patient network industry a novel way to access the blogging Mobile applications that focus on health
is LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company, community in a completely transparent and wellness for consumers and medical
and manufacturer of the OneTouch Glucose way. Using an unrestricted grant model, tools for professionals are exploding.
Meter. Lifescan learned about TuDiabetes, a Better Blogcast invites top bloggers to write Well over half of all physicians own an
social network for those living with diabetes about specific topics. The posts are shared iPhone, Blackberry, or other brand of PDA
founded by Manny Hernandez in 2007, at an across all participating sites through a or smartphone, according to Manhattan
Amercian Diabetes Association-sponsored news widget. Research, and the majority believe it is a
expo. They developed a partnership tool they can’t live without. Apple’s App
Communities where physicians congregate
that resulted in an entire section of the Store offers over 150 medical tools for
are also a good venue for encouraging
OneTouch site dedicated to Sharing – physicians, many of which are free but
discussion and debate. In addition to
the root of all social networking - which even more that are not. The most popular
Sermo and Medscape’s Physician Connect,
features information about TuDiabetes downloads provide comprehensive
there are specialty-specific communities
and its programs. According to Manny, the drug information, medical calculators,
that may be more appropriate for certain
relationship with Lifescan has been warmly terminology or protocols/interpretations
brands. Examples include: EyeSpaceMD for
received by the TuDiabetes community and (eye exam, ECG interpretation). Why not
opthalmologists; SpineConnect for spine
has helped the group grow. This proves that use some of your marketing dollars creating
surgeons; MedTrust Online for oncologists.
when done correctly, partnerships between an app that physicians find useful and
Big Pharma and patients can work. relevant? It is also a good way to engage
in dialogue with customers because many
5. Use video to communicate and educate.
physicians willingly post feedback.
Compelling video is the next frontier. A few
4. Engage with physicians at one of their
pharma companies have created branded As the article points out, there are many
many online haunts.
YouTube and Facebook pages. While it’s ways to engage in the social media universe
The Internet is completely integrated into
a great first step, the content they have that are no more risky than what you are
physicians’ personal and professional lives.
posted is not as enticing as it could be. To doing today offline. No matter which path
Manhattan Research studies the Web effectively drive viewership of health video, you choose, make 2009 the year you do
behavior of doctors and found that 99% are marketers need to think about the intended something.
online daily, 85% maintain broadband in audience, medium and distribution.
their offices and 83% consider the Internet A common mistake is to use material
essential to their practice. Physicians go developed for TV or DVD and upload it to
online during the day, between patient the Web. According to Josh Silberstein,
visits or during patient consults to search CEO of Health Guru, the largest provider
for information. They also peruse favorite of health video on the web, “The path to
blogs, share information in MD-only social success starts with differentiated and
networks and read the online versions engaging content. Repurposed TV content
of preferred journals. These destinations is the proverbial square peg in a round hole
represent prime locations where savvy when it comes to online video. Patients
marketers can disseminate compelling are usually looking for more detailed and
content that goes far beyond ad banners. comprehensive information.” Distribution
and uptake is another important issue so it
For example, the medical blogosphere
is best to work with a company that knows
is blossoming in size and stature. One
content and search optimization to ensure
of the best-known bloggers is Val Jones,
buzz and page views. When done correctly
M.D. of Getting Better with Dr. Val. She
the rewards can be dramatic: Health Guru’s
recently teamed up with other well-
library of over 1,000 videos generated 150
regarded physician and nurse bloggers
million page views in 2008!
Six Ways Pharma Marketers Can
Use Social Media
Bunny Ellerin, InterbrandHealth New York
(first published in Pharmaceutical Executive,
www.interbrandhealth.com Six ways with social media – 3
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