Thursday, February 26, 2009

Your brand's digital footprint: Too important to ignore!

“After reading comments from others, I will discontinue this medicine…” says a woman writing on There are loads of facts and figures stating the tremendous influence consumer generated media or “CGM” has on consumer decision-making but this quote really brought it home to me.

The blogosphere is chocked full of comments about medications and a cursory cruise through cyberspace provides tremendous insight. Positive comments also exist such as “I have been on Brand X for almost a year and my blood pressure is 115/68, it was 155/100 before I took this drug. My doctor was very smart.”

The first step in managing your brand’s footprint is to know what it is by conducting a deep dive into cyberspace. Not only does cyber-generated learning lower the costs associated with generating actionable insights, the information is real-time and unvarnished. You can even get RSS feeds that regularly deliver updates on the chatter surrounding your brand.

Like the Obama campaign used the internet to lower their research costs, we have a similar opportunity to reorient our marketing “polling” from focus groups and A&U studies with on-going deep dives into the blogosphere.

Many pharmaceutical marketers stay away from this information citing fear of finding all sorts of reportable adverse events. However, a recent whitepaper by Nielsen Online found that only 1 out of 500 posts to a message board met all the requirements for adverse event reporting.

While anyone who has ever worked in and around Pharma understands the risks and costs associated with AE reporting, the American public does not. When I explain the reasoning behind pharmaceutical marketers’ reluctance to people outside the industry, they “get it” but still come back at me with, “but doesn’t the industry want to know if there is something wrong with their products?” And I don’t really have a soul-satisfying answer.

Once you understand your brand’s digital footprint, there is a wealth of new ways to “engage” consumers to build a more balanced picture of your brand. Strategies include: 1)amplifying the effects of your off-line efforts online, 2) supporting/creating communities and 3)strategically building an online presence using the available social media platforms such as You Tube.

What is important is to start. The “Dell Hell” case is a great example of a company that faced the social media firestorm head-on, embraced what consumers had to say and emerged stronger for it. Social media just may hold similar redemptive properties for Pharma.


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