This is not an article about the end of advertising in pharma or the end of advertising at all. In fact, over the years advertising has become more effective (Don’t believe me? The IPA has plenty to say about this). But the bar has been raised. The way brands interact with customers has changed dramatically and will continue to do so. Increased access to information and repeated breaches of trust by companies has made buyers beware and customers no longer rely on what brands say about themselves. The proof is in what brands do and how customers experience them. David Jones wrote in “Who Cares Wins” that “brands are defined by what customers say to each other about them, not what brands say to customers.”
For better or worse, customers talk about their experience with a brand. Understanding the nature of those experiences and how to make them as good as possible means marketers need to have a deep understanding of who their customers are; their values, needs, objectives and behaviours.
In pharma, this focus on experience is even more important. There is a long list of decision-makers between the brand and the patient. Even then, filling a prescription and taking it the right way at the right time involves yet another set of experiences for the patient, all of which need to be considered.
Our customers include internal stakeholders, regulatory, payers, HCPs and ultimately patients. While their backgrounds and interactions of the brand will vary widely, each of these customers will follow a similar pattern of experience and assessment:
- First impressions: Assessing expectations and how this experience compares to others
- Open to another experience: Was a repeat experience positive? Have others had similar experiences?
- Does this align with my needs, objectives and fit with my habits?
- Have continued experiences been reliable?
- Share experience (advocacy): Do I feel strongly enough about the brand that I would recommend it to friends and colleagues, linking my reputation to the recommendation?
There are more of these experience points to manage than ever before but the good news is that they can be shaped. Not that it’s easy – most traditional advertising are used to thinking about words, pictures and film and how to place them for maximum effect. Transforming experiences requires skills that go beyond this, touching on all the senses. It requires people who focus on the impact of the entire experience, not just the words and pictures.
The first step to improving the brand experience is understanding what will influence this pattern of experience and assessment in a positive way. For one client we helped their product launch with a series of workshops to help get their internal teams aligned with their customer. It was all about changing perceptions. Using dramatic ice breaker exercises we challenged them to see, hear, feel and do things differently. For each example the team gained a better understanding of how to align with their customers’ needs but also how to do things differently to meet those needs.
This is just another way marketing and advertising are changing.