Three Factors Pharma Markets Must Consider When Finalizing 2022 Brand Planning
Aug 04, 2021
Each year, pharma marketing teams participate in a multi-phased, cross-functional, multi-organizational strategic planning and alignment workstream that many in the industry simply refer to as “Brand Planning Season”.
For the uninitiated, Brand Planning is typically a three-phased process consisting of Strategic Planning, Tactical Planning, and Budget Planning. The initiative typically kicks off in Q2 with marketing teams (Consumer, HCP, and Payer) aligning on the brand’s mission, strategic imperatives (or critical success factors for some), and high-level programs. The marketing team then engages both internal and agency teams in a tactical ideation process that defines a vast majority of what the brand will say and do over the course of the next year. The process typically concludes at the beginning of Q4 as senior marketing leaders approve those tactical plans and set budgets for each respective team.
While this is normally an established and well understood process, the events of the last 20 months have been far from normal. Pharma target audiences were forced to use platforms and channels that were chronically underutilized, with many of those experiences deemed positive. Those positive experiences, and the likelihood that those behaviors become the new norm clearly suggest that pharma marketers do not have the luxury of picking up the standard go-to playbook of “block-and-tackle” tactics that comprised the bulk of previous tactical plans. The traditional approach did not, and will not, work as it once did — and the data backs that up. Despite significant increases in site traffic (+16%), engagement rates on pharma websites were down. HCP satisfaction with their digital experiences was also down.
The pandemic and social/political/economic crises have dramatically disrupted traditional marketing channels, which should have forced pharma marketing teams to pivot to more digital tactics, as was observed in other industries. However, theDigital IQ Index: Pharma Rx 2021 clearly showed that while some brands certainly did this, that quick read-and-react was not universal. Even within a single brand, different marketing teams were not always in sync. Brand teams that recognize the evolved nature of the marketing environment and their target audiences have an advantage over their slower-moving peers, and a lead that is widening if they have already made adjustments
Pharma marketing leaders looking for an opportunity for their organization to surge forward and catch-up, or extend their lead, should look to the brand planning process as the fastest way to make that happen. A large number of pharma organizations operate on a calendar fiscal year, and most of those organizations are currently finalizing tactical planning for calendar 2022. Before committing to those initiatives, pharma marketing leaders should ensure their teams:
Start pushing now. Providing upfront expectations and holding partners accountable is the fastest way to ensure that change actually happens. Marketing leaders that are reviewing recommendations from internal and agency partners must validate that everything being proposed takes the new marketing environment and evolved target audience into account. Ensure internal and agency partners are briefed and provided updated personas that accurately reflect the organization’s POV on data usage and privacy.
2. Close the gap. Despite a significant increase in website traffic, a majority of brands (consumer and HCP) did not take steps to provide users with the tools and utilities that they needed. Additionally, brands suffered lower visibility against an evolving set of search keywords as a result of stunted content strategies. Challenge teams to advance the content strategy (or develop one) that better fits the environment and aligns with stakeholders.
3. Plan for hybrid experiences. Almost everyone had to adopt some form of digital behavior over the past 20 months, and most of those behaviors will stick. More patients are researching conditions and therapies, more HCPs are taking virtual details, more events are a combination of virtual and in-person, and more healthcare is being delivered virtually. Marketing teams must plan to create and distribute content in a hybrid environment if they want to keep pace with industry leaders.