Feb2

For Optimized Brand Strategies, Look to Market Research

brain_gears_on background_Who knew that Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors, knew a thing or two about market research? Proof is in one of his great quotes “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

That’s a comment on discipline, and it takes on a whole different—and cautionary—meaning when it’s applied to primary market research.

As a market researcher, my first order of business is to help clients “get the facts first.” The discipline of gathering the right facts from the right stakeholders―and in the right way at the right time, to boot―allows us to not only uncover our customer’s drivers and motivators, but also to help inspire changes in behavior.

There are certain activities and processes that are important for us, as an agency, to shepherd our clients through. For instance, we don’t want brand team members driving the creative according to their personal beliefs and perceptions about the product. Rather, we want our clients to clearly hear their customers’ voices, and shape their brand strategy accordingly, with our guidance.

As market researchers, we help ensure that clients “hear” their customers by answering 4 key questions:

1. What are the right facts?

  • The right facts can be as simple as the customer’s geography (physical location) and demography (age, gender, occupation, socioeconomic status), or as complex as their behavior (product consumption level, use patterns, frequency, and loyalty), and psychographic profile (interests, attitudes, and opinions)
  • By targeting the specific questions that our clients need to answer, and by understanding how that data are meant to inform business decisions, we determine the right facts to gather

2. Who are the right stakeholders?

  • Pharmaceutical clients often believe they have a “physician problem,” but chances are they could also have a patient, caregiver, payer, or pharmacist problem (And I could go on!). Sometimes it’s even more than one problem! Healthcare is a sector defined by intricate interdependencies among a long list of stakeholders that ultimately impact product usage
  • Well-designed market research takes into account all relevant stakeholders, including them as the research questions dictate. We often talk with clients about, at minimum, viewing patients, physicians, and payers as three legs supporting their product’s stool—the “length” (eg, importance) of those legs can vary by therapeutic area, but they all need to be taken into account when planning brand strategy

3. What is the right way to gather the facts given budgets and timelines?

  • Do we need one-on-one conversations with customers where we can take the time and latitude to investigate the “why’s” behind responses, and explore topics that might be challenging to articulate in front of others?
  • Do we need small groups of customers to talk with us about our clients’ products’ features and benefits, and the extent to which they produce functional, emotional, and/or personal benefits?
  • Do we need to use projective exercises in which ambiguous or vaguely defined stimuli grant customers’ considerable freedom in their responses? Images and metaphors can sometimes reveal a deeper dimension of thought/decision-making processes and feelings than objective, “correct” responses to explicit research questions
  • Do we need to survey a large number of customers, and on a big enough scale so we can obtain results that are statistically significant?
  • Do we need to survey various types of customers to understand the number and size of diverse market segments, including what those segments look like?
  • Do we need to deploy mobile or app-based methodologies that allow us to track customer thinking and behavior in real time?

4. When is the right time to gather the facts?

  • Sometimes we want to conduct research, either to take the market pulse on the heels of a significant marketplace event, or to get a “snapshot” of the market at a particular moment
  • Sometimes we want to be in the field when the market is quiet, so we can get a baseline against which to compare the impact of future disruptive events
  • Sometimes we want to longitudinally gather the same metrics from the same customers at certain intervals to get a long-term understanding of customer behavior and product usage
  • Sometimes we simply have materials or concepts to test. This might warrant multiple rounds of research, depending on customer response

Contrary to Mr. Twain’s memorable comment, the second order of business for market researchers is to make sure that clients do not distort those facts to fit their own view of their marketplace–or the marketplace they want instead of the one they have.

It’s therefore our job not just to provide the facts, but to give them meaning and to make actionable recommendations. The beauty of being part of the larger Ogilvy CommonHealth organization is that we have a wide and deep network of resources to help us round out our interpretation.

Drawing on our own backgrounds in multiple therapeutic areas, and working closely with our account team counterparts, optimizes our point of view on the research. Having our secondary research, data analytics, and digital colleagues weigh in allows us to ensure that our recommendations are deep and broad, and showcases our capabilities as an integrated agency.

Consider how primary market research can help your organization’s brand teams to get the right facts first (distortion-free!), and use that data as a platform on which to build robust strategies that firmly stake your brands’ positioning in the marketplace.

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Also posted in advertising, agency life, Branding, Clients, Content Strategy, Data, Healthcare Communications, Marketing, Medical Education, Patient Communications | Tagged | Leave a comment
Dec8

Biosimilars: You Won’t Feel a Thing (For Now, Anyway)

With the recent launch of Zarxio™, the pharmaceutical industry has been buzzing about the impact of biosimilar products. But how quickly will biosimilars enter the US market, and will their impact be as strong as some forecasts predict?

Biosimilars are made through a more complex process involving living cells as compared to generic versions of small molecular products, which use an exact copy of the chemical makeup of the original. Because manufacturing techniques are considered proprietary, there are slight differences between reference products (the original, branded product) and the biosimilar, thus the first set of hurdles to rapid uptake.

FDA guidance has defined requirements for a product to demonstrate biosimilarity to a reference product; however, final guidance around interchangeability and labeling of biosimilars remains open. The gap in defining interchangeability opens a host of clinical hurdles that biosimilars will face in patient and physician adoption, adding layers of complexity to diseases and treatments that already require heavy time investments around treatment decisions. Indications for biosimilar products may be different from the reference product; multiple biosimilars may be considered equivalent to the reference product, but not to each other; sub-populations, including treatment-naive or -experienced patients, may have different responses to reference vs biosimilar products.

Beyond clinical hurdles, regulatory and payment hurdles are additional speed bumps that biosimilar products will need to pass. Unlike the European Union, where biosimilars have been available for years and there are centralized price and access controls, the US market is more fragmented and local pricing and reimbursement will impact prescribing. The recent consolidation of large payer organizations nods to stronger bargaining power for drug pricing, but discounts for biosimilar products are not expected to be as steep as price differences for traditional small molecule products. Novartis has said they will sell Zarxio™ at a 15% discount compared with Amgen’s Neupogen® making it a lower-cost alternative, but requiring large volume shifts before significant savings will be realized. Even in the European Union, biosimilar pricing has been modestly lower than reference products, price erosion has been gradual, and the shift of market share to biosimilar products has varied widely across therapeutic categories.

Additional legal challenges will likely also slow momentum of biosimilar products. Although patent infringement rulings were in favor of Novartis, nuances in the manufacturing of biologics will continue to introduce new hurdles for biosimilars –disclosure on proprietary manufacturing processes that impact the efficacy of biologic products will continue to provoke relations between pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of biosimilar products. Beyond the legal risk required, the high cost of manufacturing biosimilars will create additional barriers to entry.

In favor of biosimilars are provisions within the Affordable Care Act (the 2010 passage of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act opening the door for biosimilars), payment reform and bundled payments supporting physician use, and the increased scrutiny on the value of healthcare in the United States.

Other questions remain open: will patient education and support for biosimilars match the reference product, or will specialty pharmacy and large health systems pick up patient support services? How will the integrity of pharmacovigilance be impacted when switching has occurred? What will happen when physicians need to overturn automatic substitution for a specific patient, despite interchangeability?

The introduction of biosimilars has opened the door for many changes to our healthcare landscape, with the promise of large savings in the future. Yet there are many questions to be answered and changes to be made across a large and fragmented system before biosimilars take a majority share, spanning legal and regulatory hurdles, clinical considerations, manufacturing challenges, pricing and contracting incentives — So for now, you probably won’t feel a thing.

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Also posted in Access, Branding, clinical trials, Design, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, medical affairs, Pharmaceutical, Pharmacists | Tagged | Leave a comment
May12

Product Launch Made to Work

Product Launch Blog ImageIntroducing a new product into the highly diluted pharmaceutical market is no easy feat. Our industry spares no time for coming up short of flawless, where the barriers to entry are a proverbial North Korea for the inexperienced and unprepared. The road to success is windy and narrow, but once achieved, the view is unmatched.

In today’s marketplace, suppliers are red-flagged for doing things the way they have in the past, and the competitive edge gained is in the ability to differentiate completely in some cases, and only partially in others.

How can we differentiate ourselves?

For a baseline, any transaction within the pharmaceutical space is a complex sale. The traditional model of selling a product, handling the logistics, and looking forward to a reorder does not cut it. As suppliers, we must adapt to the notion that we are no longer offering or launching a product, but rather have entered the era of solution-based selling. We must come to terms with the reality that being “geared” toward a client or industry is no longer acceptable, and complete customization comes at little or no extra revenue.

Make no mistake: selling a product is still physical, but an in-depth understanding of the customers’ base is now essential to the sale of a creation. The utilization of that understanding is to align our goals to match the customers’ needs. The result of a properly executed alignment is the transformation of the supplier into the partner. By outgrowing the paradigm of being the wholesaler, and embracing a newfound cooperative mantra, trust becomes the foundation of our rapport.

But trust isn’t just a way in, and a share of the market isn’t the only measure of our success. We have to continually push the limits of our capabilities to stimulate fresh ideas, and remain at the forefront of innovation to our clients. The growth driven from market advancement is what will allow us to maintain our business and simultaneously cultivate new opportunities. With trust, our new partners will expect us to act on our promises and will be more critical of our deliverables. We are no longer reacting to a signed Statement of Work (SOW) or Request for Proposal (RFP), we are building a proactive and cooperative plan of action. Suppliers cannot simply provide a product; they must also act as consultants.

The stigma of “Big Pharma” having deep pockets and quick trigger fingers is far from the truth. Pricing is critical and partners will expect us to eat a slice of the risk pie when entering into an agreement (you are a partner now, why wouldn’t you?).

We optimize the product for the consumer experience through the ability to launch a solution directed toward a specific client and their void. This style is undoubtedly the wave of the future, and the relationships formed via this approach will be more personal, more customized, and ultimately, more lucrative.

Differentiation begins with common interest, and results in great success.

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Apr8

An Observer’s View of the Cancer Wars

Cancer Word Cloud BlogWith the National Cancer Act of 1971, President Nixon officially declared that the US was at war with cancer. The goal of this war is to defeat cancer as a major cause of death through a better understanding of cancer biology and the development of more effective treatments.

In the 40+ years since the act’s inception, how much progress have we actually made?

Cancers overall still remain a major cause of death, however significant progress has been made in early detection, prevention and treatment:

• In December 2014, the American Cancer Society reported a 22% drop in cancer mortality over the last two decades, with a corresponding increase in the survival rate of all cancers in both men and women
• The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 made it possible to test the value of genomic approaches and identify underlying genetic changes that lead to cancers
• Emerging data since 2003 have significantly changed the way cancers are researched and have led to the development of new diagnostics, therapies, preventive measures, and early detection
• Research direction is currently focused on combining new compounds and diagnostics to help increase efficacy and reduce toxicity through the use of agents that target specific tumor pathways most relevant to a patient’s own disease
• Scientific advances in treatment have also been born out of our growing ability to harness the immune system to fight cancer

These scientific discoveries have led to a shift from an organ-based to a molecular-based approach, and the results are already having a profound impact on the way cancer is being treated and treatments are being personalized to patients. Personalized medicine is an ideal that is driving much of the future of cancer research. The hope is that tailoring treatment to patients’ individual needs based on their genetic data will improve outcomes and reduce adverse side effects. With our increasing knowledge of the human genome, this is steadily becoming a real possibility, and the advent of immuno-oncology brings another layer of individualized therapy into the clinic.

While many battles against cancers have been hard fought and won on several fronts, the “cure” to cancers still seems elusive, largely because cancer is a cluster of many diseases. Looking to the future, one of our greatest challenges may be translating our recent discoveries into treatments that address patients’ individual mutation profiles and truly treat the patient instead of the disease.

One of our biggest questions may be whether our healthcare system can afford the cost of “high-quality” cancer care. Most likely the answer will be no, but to address this challenge, the onus will be on the healthcare community (providers, payers, insurers) to determine how we will use our growing understanding of individualized cancer therapy to advance the quality and effectiveness of cancer care.

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Also posted in Culture, Efficacy, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Medicine, Pharmaceutical | Tagged , | Leave a comment
Feb12

So What’s Your EHR Strategy?

EMR Blog Image2As pharmaceutical marketers, we no longer live in a world of traditional marketing where we can cast a wide net and hope we’re engaging with the right customers. We need to move communications to where our physicians are. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies have shifted away from traditional face-to-face tactics to more digital interactions, spending 25% of their marketing budgets on websites and online media.

“Unlike traditional forms of advertising, digital technologies enable tailoring of advertisements to individual physicians on the basis of data from clinical encounters,” according to Christopher Manz, MD, and David Grande, MD, MPA, from Penn Medicine, who recently gave a point of view on electronic health records (EHRs) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Digital marketing provides us with tools to communicate more effectively with our customer through more individualized and personalized engagements, ensuring that the correct message is being delivered at the appropriate time. With new tools coming out weekly, it is easy to get caught up in the hype. Choosing a tactic simply because it’s the “newest” or “coolest” option will not guarantee success. Without the right strategy, we are just wasting time and resources. A strong digital marketing strategy is essential for communicating with our customers and staying ahead of our competition. The key is understanding our customers as well as a brand’s overall strategic and marketing objectives and then selecting the appropriate digital channel(s) that will help reach our target audience and goals.

As brands fight for share of voice in an overcrowded digital space, it’s time for companies to stop looking at the traditional online engagements as the cornerstone of HCP engagement and focus more on targeted engagements within electronic medical records (EMRs). According to market leaders, EMRs will become the dominant communications stream for physicians, and pharma has been slow to engage in the EMR format.

There has been tremendous growth of the EMR marketplace over the last few years. According to the latest government statistics, 72% of office-based physicians are using an EMR or EHR system, up from 48% in 2009, driven by meaningful use, which provided incentive payments for physicians and hospitals to implement them. EMR is now the center of physician workflow, and its data offers valuable insights into practice management and the physician-patient dynamic. This data can be leveraged to better serve patients and physicians by providing the tools that they need, such as patient education or reimbursement support. To that end, aligning with the right EMR solution should increase HCP engagement. What is encouraging, according to Manhattan Research’s latest Taking the Pulse survey, is that 71% of physicians are interested in interacting with pharmaceutical companies in this way, so we as pharmaceutical marketers need to capitalize on this channel in a strategic way that brings value to both providers and patients.

Integrating With the HCP Workflow

So how can we leverage the use of EMRs to benefit healthcare providers, patients and payers? With the demands placed on them today, physicians have less time for each patient, pharmaceutical reps, and for searching for information between appointments. Marketing to HCPs through EMRs will better integrate with a physician’s daily workflow and shift the mindset from disruptive marketing to a partnership. Physicians use EMRs for their tools, and the more information physicians are getting through these systems, the more opportunity for marketers to provide value. Leveraging EMRs to deliver meaningful assets to physicians when they are with patients represents a prime opportunity to change the behavior of our physicians.

There are several ways to reach physicians through EMRs. One obvious component is providing information about a brand at the point-of-prescribing that is of high clinical value to physicians. Additionally, according to Taking the Pulse, at least 40% of HCPs say patient education, samples, vouchers, patient financial support and product information are features they are most interested in seeing in EMRs. Other examples include formulary data and safety updates. EMRs can also be used for direct marketing to physicians through banner ads, industry-sponsored clinical resources and emerging solutions.

Marketing to HCPs through EMRs is not without its obstacles. There are approximately 600 EMR system vendors with only a handful offering partnerships with pharma companies. Therefore using EMRs is not a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, and it might be required to customize materials for each platform. There are also concerns about privacy, interruption of the HCP process by forcing information during a clinical decision, and the intricacies of integration with EMRs. These all need to be considered when determining if and how an EMR plan and roll-out is right for your brand.

Looking to the Future

EMRs represent an opportunity for marketers to communicate to physician throughout a product life cycle—from clinical trial recruitment to workflow “interventions.” The opportunity for marketers in EMRs is here, and physicians want pharma involvement. But it’s imperative that a brand has a clear EMR strategy to capitalize on this channel opportunity and ensure we are providing a fully integrated communications plan.

 

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Also posted in behavior change, Data, Design, Digital, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Physician Communications, Strategy, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment
May1

Oncologists to Initiate Discussion Around Value

money stethoscopeEarlier this month a new initiative was announced to encourage oncologists to discuss the price and relative value of cancer medicines with their patients. No, this was not driven by executive fiat as part of the ACA, nor is it the brainchild of an insurance carrier. Instead, it comes from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, or ASCO, the professional organization for oncologists and publisher of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, among other titles.

ASCO has formed working groups that will weigh efficacy, side effects and price to help better define the value of oncology medicines. Initially these groups will look at treatments for advanced lung and prostate cancer and for multiple myeloma, said Richard Schilsky, the group’s chief medical officer.

This comes a little less than a year after Scott Ramsey from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle published a study suggesting that individuals with a cancer diagnosis were 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy compared to a matched control group.

Not unlike hepatitis C, the price of therapy in oncology is a hot topic, as 11 of the 12 cancer drugs approved by the FDA in 2012 were priced at more than $100,000 per year.

To date, ASCO and another group, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), have published treatment guidelines that payers use as the basis for reimbursement coverage of cancer drugs, but these guidelines have been value-agnostic, meaning the price of the drug has had little or nothing to do with strong category recommendations. ASCO’s move could change this.

So how could this impact our clients’ business?

·         Pharma has traditionally had to defend ultra-premium pricing only to payers, who, in many cases, were/are legally obligated to cover the costs, at least for Medicare/Medicaid patients.  Broadening this conversation to include HCPs and patients could affect overall product positioning, messaging and channel strategy.

·         Manufacturers need to rethink how they approach the value section of the AMCP dossier as they submit these to payers as the way payers (public or private) are assessing value will change.  The dossier must also be consistent with value messages to non-payer audiences.

·         With compensation models for oncologists already shifting from “buy and bill” to “pay for quality,” these ASCO value ratings could further aid in the rapid adoption of biosimilars and generic targeted small molecules that will begin hitting the market in the next few years.

·         To the ire of many payers, pharma has been able to mitigate some financial barriers to obtaining therapy through the use of co-pay cards and other assistance programs. If the conversation turns from out-of-pocket costs to “costs to society,” demonstrating meaningful value will be of paramount importance to brands.

·         Dialogue studies in this category suggest sometimes broken dialogue between HCPs, cancer patients, and their caregivers. Layering on a discussion about the value of a drug could add to the confusion. As oncologists experiment with this new value lexicon, it could create an opportunity for brands to take a leadership role in framing the value discussion.

Historically in the US, positioning a drug on “value” has been akin to admitting your brand does not offer a meaningful advantage over existing therapy options. Will this nascent movement result in opportunities for value-based oncology brands? Only time will tell, but in the meantime rethinking how we articulate value is more important than ever.

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Mar4

Let the Sunshine (Act) In

5116469For many of us in the healthcare industry, the advent of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act has loomed large and ominous. The mere mention conjures up visions of significant changes in the way we work with healthcare providers (HCPs), in addition to endless data collection and reporting. On March 31, 2014, healthcare manufacturers are required to submit their first annual federal reports; these reports will include data captured from August 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. By September 30, 2014, CMS will publically disclose the information on their website. This regulation is associated with the Affordable Care Act, and as we have come to learn, there may be changes, revisions, or postponements to current guidance on reporting and timing of data review and corrections. Nevertheless, the industry needs to be prepared and many of our clients have been adapting for some time.

So to date, do we really know how this regulation will transform our corner of the healthcare geography? Are we prepared to adapt and innovate?

From a medical education and scientific publication perspective, we have already seen substantial changes in the way our clients collaborate with HCPs.  For example, in December of 2013, GSK announced that the company will begin a process that will effectively stop direct payments to HCPs for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences. To fill this gap, it appears the company may expand its focus on developing multichannel capability to support the dissemination of information about its products and relevant disease states to healthcare professionals.

The effects of the Sunshine Act are also noticeable in the scientific publication realm. Due to the transparency requirements, academic research institutions are once again modifying their guidelines and tightening their restrictions on working with industry on clinical trials and subsequent data publication to avoid the perception of and potential for conflicts of interest. These restrictions also pertain to the development of disease-state articles that update standards of care and provide best practice approaches for HCPs and allied health professionals.

Clearly the Sunshine Act is meant to shine the light of transparency and public disclosure. But it also has the potential to hamper scientific exchange, which is the lifeblood of effective medical communications.

How do we as an industry respond? My vote is to adapt along with our clients and lead and encourage the innovation and continued delivery of robust scientific exchange. How will you respond?

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Also posted in Affordable Care Act, Clients, Ethics, Healthcare Communications, medical affairs, Medical Education, Science, scientific publication, Sunshine Act | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
Feb26

Digital Trends Impacting US Healthcare – Infographic

In the past year, digital innovations have brought about new markets and channels for digital health interactions. This infographic is a visual mapping of the technologies and innovations which are already playing a key role in shaping the future of healthcare and the experiences and journeys which surround it.

Of course the ACA is affecting healthcare coverage, but it is also affecting our healthcare experiences by placing increased importance on and driving more frequent interactions with NPs, PAs, and Pharmacists. Additionally, more priority has shifted to consumers to educate themselves and take responsibility for their own health, especially when combined with our growing culture of social media and trust networks, and recent draft guidance from the FDA. Video remains hot, but the trending has shifted to the length of videos patients are consuming, increasing its relevance to pharmaceutical marketers. Mobile and tablets continue to grow rapidly, with and quantified self driving deeper engagement though apps, not just web. Last, but certainly not least, EHR is poised to enter the next phase of meaningful use, setting the stage for a platform shake-out as certification requirements evolve to provide more and deeper data sets to systems of connected health as providers continue to on-board.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Technology is evolving fast, and healthcare, believe it or not, is keeping pace and even leading the charge on many fronts. Spurred on by government mandates and initiatives, innovative organizations ranging from Google and Apple to Silicon Valley startups like Practice Fusion are quickly carrying the ball forward, sometimes struggling to keep pace with consumer expectations of today’s technology. It’s these digital healthcare innovations which have set the trends affecting us today, and will carry us forward to tomorrow.

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Also posted in adherence, advertising, Data, Digital, Digital Advertising, Healthcare Communications, Infographics, Managed Care, Marketing, Media, Medical Education, Multi Channel Marketing, Patient Communications, Physician Communications, Social Media, Strategy, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
Feb21

Choosing Your Road—Transitioning From Bench Science to Specialty Healthcare Communications

road

 

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by…  – Robert Frost

A common question floating around the brains of many researchers is, “Where do I see myself in the future?” It was one that I faced many times throughout my scientific training. The well-travelled path of continuing in academic research is the one that is traditionally followed. But if that’s not for you, what is it like transitioning away from research and into medical/healthcare communications? After years of being a “bench scientist,” the transition to working in an alternative career can be a little scary. As researchers, it may feel like we’re not prepared for a career outside of what we know, but our training actually provides us with a thorough, deep understanding of science and a lot of transferable skills. These skills, including the abilities to learn quickly, problem-solve, integrate information from varied and disparate sources, and communicate and advocate concepts and ideas, can be assets for both the company we work for and the clients we work with. Additionally, it can be really exciting to work on the “other side” of the biomedical industry—taking highly complex scientific information and communicating it to stakeholders in simple and meaningful ways. When working in research, as a natural function of the job we tend to focus very specifically on a disease state and even on a particular pathway or phenomenon within that disease state. As a member of Science and Health Strategy within Specialty Marketing at Ogilvy CommonHealth, I have had the opportunity to touch many aspects of a product’s lifecycle, including brand identity and development, HCP marketing, direct-to-patient marketing, medical advertising and promotion, and scientific communications. Through this career path, I have been able to expand my scientific expertise from a background in virology and immunology to one that encompasses a wide array of therapeutic areas, including oncology. Additionally, through this career path, I’ve been learning more about the multiple channels of communicating scientific/medical information. If you realize that you want to move away from academia or research but don’t know how you can transition, here are some ways the skills we learned as scientists, combined with our scientific knowledge, can apply in the medical/healthcare communications field: 1. Problem solving: As researchers, at some point or another we’ve had to MacGyver our way into how to do an experiment for the all-consuming paper or thesis. It may have involved trying to trouble-shoot an experiment, figuring out how to borrow and extend reagents because research funding was low, or convincing a company that their product was faulty and they needed to return the thousands of dollars you wasted (not to mention time) because of said product. (Yes this has happened, and it was definitely a “no really, it’s not me, it’s you” and “I need a DeLorean” type of situation). When it comes to alternative careers, problems will still be a fact of life. Your ability to recognize the issue, assess the situation, and come up with a solution will be a great asset. 2. Communicating and advocating concepts and ideas: With the number of times we’ve had to give seminars, poster presentations, write papers and abstracts, and present our data at meetings, you’d think we’d have the communication thing down cold. While we have a lot of experience in the art of communicating our ideas and research to a high-science audience, we often forget that they actually aren’t our only audience. An important piece of advice I received when I was a second-year graduate student was to learn to be able to tell people what you do in just a few sentences. Nobody knows what you do better than you do, so this is the best and sometimes most complicated place to start. In a career in healthcare communications, it’s important to be able to communicate high-science information in an easy-to-understand manner. In this career, you’re writing messages for doctors, nurses, patients, and caregivers, so you have a very varied audience in terms of scientific knowledge and expertise. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication and public speaking skills. 3. Integrating information from disparate sources and critically analyzing data: These two skills (which actually encompass many other skills as well) are particularly important for medical/healthcare communications. In this field, one of your jobs is to pick out useful nuggets of information that can help promote your client’s product and position it appropriately in the market, while remembering that fair balance and ethics are critical. Being able to critically analyze data and integrate information can also be useful when strategically comparing your product against the others in the marketplace. When looking for the right opportunity, make sure you find a position and company whose goals and mission match your skills and passions. It’s also important to look for an employer that values its employees having diverse backgrounds so that it can develop solid teams capable of different points of view with a high degree of depth in their respective fields. Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide is one such company that embraces this, and as a result is able to develop unique solutions based on a strong scientific platform communicated across various channels. As a scientist who previously worked with other scientists, it’s been an incredible learning and working experience to be able to function on teams comprised of people of all different backgrounds—from art to copy to project management—and converge all of our talents to provide our clients with marketing, advertising and strategic solutions that are unique and smart. Knowing yourself and what you can offer are the first steps to choosing a path that is beyond the traditional…don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com. Please allow 24 hours for response.

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Jan21

Marketing Performance Mis-measurement: Mistaking Strategy for Objective

graph io blogIf you ever wondered why your monthly campaign tracker or reports show stellar results but your brand is underperforming in the marketplace, you may be measuring (and celebrating) the wrong leading metrics. You may be mistaking strategy for outcomes, thus celebrating the wrong “successes.” This piece elaborates on this measurement error and provides suggestions for setting things right.

Strategy is not objective

A common trap analysts, marketers, and advertisers fall into is mistaking strategy for outcome. Strategy is a means to an end, the selection of options intended to ensure the achievement of specific goals or objectives. With regard to marketing, this implies the focus on specific targets, and selection of channels, tactics, and messages intended to enhance the likelihood of achieving some desired outcomes. The effectiveness of a strategy is therefore not in the execution, but how well it delivers on the outcome. In other words, a good strategy (or execution) is deemed successful, not because it is implemented, but because it delivers on the objectives and goals.

With few exceptions, most marketers, planners, and strategists understand the difference between objectives, strategy, and plan. But when it comes to measurement, this understanding seems to blur, disappear or become less important. Just to be clear, you should measure strategy, but do so in order to understand how you have executed the strategy. This should not be mistaken as an indication of marketing success.

For instance, a common objective for launch brands is to achieve a certain level of awareness among HCPs and convince them to try the product. A decent strategy could be a multichannel marketing approach that combines digital and a few offline tactics with a specific message, cadence, and level of investment against a target HCP specialty. Going by this illustration, if the execution of the strategy is flawless, the measures will show timely delivery of the messages, exposure of audience to the message, and good interactions with the respective channels. This is a successful execution of the intended strategy.

But, this same successful strategy could result in 35% awareness compared to the targeted awareness and preference of 60%. In other words, the strategy was well executed but failed to deliver the desired business outcome. It’s no surprise when marketers’ dashboards show very impressive movements in engagements and interactions, while their brands are getting clobbered in the market.

Measure strategy, but know what you are measuring is executional accountability

Executional accountability is measuring how well you are executing your strategy so that insights form the basis for adjusting strategy and evaluating the quality of execution. This is also the primary role of the execution team—clients that have tried to separate executional accountability in the spirit of fox and chick coop concerns are making a mistake. Executional evaluation must be quickly available to the execution team, to ensure a seamless understanding and feedback loop. This feedback is important to both marketers and their agency/consultants; it is in the best interest of the advertiser to understand how well the strategy is being executed. This proximity provides an immediate feedback loop for learning and improvement. Even better, incorporating leading indicators of desired outcomes makes a highly responsive and rapid cycle optimization. That way, consultants also understand what strategy works when they take on a different client engagement. That is the concept of data-driven or data-integrated marketing.

Outcomes, on the other hand, are usually empirical measures and difficult to fudge—eg, sales, market share, awareness. Unlike campaign tracking, these outcomes metrics are fine to assign to independent parties for measurement

Consultants and execution teams who take accountability seriously must track strategy as well as leading indicators of success (outcomes). These help evaluate quality of execution (strategy tracking) as well as quality of the strategy (leading indicators of objectives).

Below are examples of the difference between strategy metrics and outcomes. Specifics will depend on your marketing or campaign objectives.

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At Ogilvy, our proprietary Fusion methodology, the rigorous methodical approach for communications strategy development and evaluation, also provides the basis for identifying the right execution as well as outcomes metrics. The Scorecard from Fusion empowers the integrated team of strategists, planners, accounts, creative, and analyst with clarity of metrics that help evaluate strategy and outcomes.

In summary

  • Measure objectives as the ultimate measures of success, not the attainment of strategy
  • Measure strategy and tactics, but understand these are strategy measures. You may be successful with your strategy execution but fail to deliver the expected outcomes
  • Execution teams should be responsible for, or have almost seamless access to, execution trackers, as this prevents the teams from “flying blind”
  • Execution teams should ensure they include leading indicators in their tracking and analysis efforts, as this helps evaluate strategy’s effectiveness in delivering outcomes
  • Get third parties to evaluate outcomes. Typically, these skillsets rarely reside with execution partners and the measures are hard to fudge. Rx trends, awareness penetration, market share, revenue, patients base, formulary preference—are all key outcomes measures that are difficult to fudge

Happy data-driven marketing in 2014! May your strategy deliver on the intended.

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