Oct 16 2016

This timepiece has been running slow

Projects rarely run like clockwork, and sometimes don’t deliver what they promised. 

In Pharmaceutical Marketing far too many fail to deliver good quality in reasonable timeframes.  But don’t worry; the project can still be “Award Winning” ;)

Despite growing demands from the top to achieve results, improvement has been slow to materialise. History, and the evolution of the industry help explain why.


Solid gold carriage clocks

The 80s and 90s were the golden years for the Pharmaceutical industry. It was a period where budgets were large and the cash just kept pouring in. All you needed to sell product was a bold message delivered with a strong voice, a warm smile and a gift (no leave piece!) for the doctor. Efficiency in sales and marketing hardly mattered, and Sales Reps were king.

The world has changed.  We now need to have much more sophisticated conversations with a diverse set of influencers in order to let the world know that there are great products available on the market.


Tick follows Tock… until Digital came along

Those “single channel” Sales Reps who were promoted into Marketing Brand Manager roles are a dying breed because the new kids on the block need to understand a much more complex landscape, and be able to engage with many people in many ways on many subjects.  They need to have marketing qualifications and “Digital” experience; a rarity in Pharma right now, but that’s got to change.  Look outside the industry, and you’ll see a very different breed of Marketers. 

Did you hear me? THAT’S GOT TO CHANGE. Put it on your to-do list.

All is not lost though.  Within our industry, often outside of the UK, there are good examples of high performing teams, I have seen this in Italy where the tenure of marketers is longer – sometimes as long as 6 to 8 years working in the same brand group. These teams take care of the digital baby because their long term future relies on it.

“Digital Marketing” and “Marketing” are now the same thing unless you are hand writing your Reply Paid Cards and entering customer contacts into a Filofax.  Until the new blood arrives, the Pharma Marketing teams need some help to bridge the gaps, and the bridge is a person commonly called a Digital Manager.


Who’s winding the watch up (or putting batteries in) for Digital Projects?

Digital Managers

  • Say: ize cant believe they paying me so much money just cuz I learned me facebook instagram an twitter.

  • Specialist skill: every communication in under 140 characters.

Pharma Marketing

  • Say: Let’s make something sparkly that looks great and will definitely definitely improve sales by next month. I’ve got loads of budget.

  • Specialist skill: Tenure: of 18-24 months – until the sparkly thing has been made, but before anyone asks whether it worked.

Creative Agency

  • Say: Look at this sparkly thing, it will definitely fit into an omni multi channel engagement strategy thing that we sold you last month.

  • Specialist skill: knowing a lot more about marketing than the marketing team.


  • Say: Let’s do that project for half of whatever you said it would cost, but with twice as much good stuff inside.

  • Specialist skill: being thick skinned while killing dreams.

Information Technology Systems Solutions (or whatever they’re called today)

  • Say: Not unless we can connect to the RedHerring system directly with L7 otherwise we will have to create an intermediate transport layer.

  • Specialist skill: baffling.

Medical Legal Regulatory teams

  • Say: I know I said it was OK during final testing yesterday, but today I have seen a very good reason for stopping this project.

  • Specialist skill: sales prevention.

Stereotyping aside, it is a fact that good project teams are made up of a diverse mix of people, but often getting them to work effectively together can be an almighty task.  But that’s not just an industry problem.



What the process should look like:

…or you can take a shortcut and…

Abdicating responsibility for any element of the process is very tempting.  Why risk your own job when you can pay someone else to take the blame if the outcome isn’t what was desired.  That’s assuming it was actually stated at the outset what the outcome should be!

Because Pharma rarely completes good Return On Investment analysis, or maintains long term detailed strategies for its brands, those involved on projects are rarely held to account for the quality of the marketing project.


Time for change

There’s going to be a fairly rapid evolution now.  Those Digital Managers are beginning to control A&P budgets, and the whole business is waking up to the need for better knowledge and skills.  Over the next few years, the Digital Managers should become relics as the new marketers blossom, using their new capabilities to really promote their products.  But everyone will still have to keep on their toes, because nothing stands still. So, add the following to the to-do list you started earlier.

  • Marketing management – find skilled resources from outside the industry and find a way to lengthen the tenure of brand managers. 

  • Marketers - Return on Investment can be tricky, but that’s no excuse. Find ways to do it. Talk to experts, and consider more challenging options, like removing sales rep promotion in a geography or pilot campaigns.

  • Digital Managers – bring in expertise, and educate the business effectively in digital excellence. Never give up playing and learning.

While achieving it may not return us to the golden age of the 80s and 90s it should give the industry a better chance of delivering successful projects in the future.