How one message from Coca Cola could change your ROI

Coca Cola may not be an obvious choice for pharma marketers to turn to for inspiration, but there is much to learn from the brand powerhouse’s blue-sky strategies and approach to marketing spend, according to Ryan Willoughby, head of content and education at Australian Doctor Group (ADG).

Speaking at the recent Prime Academy in Sydney, Willoughby urged marketers to be bold and take a lesson from Coke’s 70:20:10 strategy to allocate marketing budget as a way to continue the tried and tested, but also deliver innovation:

Coca Cola’s spend strategy looks like this:

  • NOW: 70% of marketing budget allocated to the tried and tested; what you know works (think e-detailers and GP dinner meetings).
  • NEW: 20% to something that’s relatively new (such as a new customised website with EDMs or a patient app). They are still new and show some ROI.
  • NEXT: 10% to blue-sky ideas; the high-risk but potentially high-reward tactics.

Willoughby acknowledged that the pharmaceutical industry often felt hampered by the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct when it came to innovation, but he pressed the industry to rethink its marketing approach to healthcare professionals (particularly in digital) and recognise the need to push boundaries.

“We need to stop looking at the MA Code of Conduct as a rule book and look at it as a guide,” Willoughby told delegates, adding that marketers were not leveraging the power of digital because of a fear of falling foul of the code.

Willoughby argued that the industry had some key advantages on its side:

  • Existing digital platforms with established and verified HCP audiences make them easier to target
  • HCP audiences have an appetite for education, especially around therapy areas and treatment
  • Doctors are people too in the way they consume content.

“Digital is how they connect and consume information today,” he said.

So, what are the key strategies for pharma to achieve ROI in an ever-changing digital landscape?

1. Don’t build new websites: go to where doctors already are

Websites have long been an effective way to educate HCPs with therapy and product messages, but with Australian regulations mandating S4 content is delivered to doctors via gated websites, marketers face a perpetual challenge: building audiences for new websites.

However, Willoughby said bounce rates were as high as 80% for websites that required doctors to register to gain access.

“You’re losing about 80% of people that you’ve probably spent 70% of your marketing budget on.”

Instead, he suggested funnelling content through existing gated communities to access AHPRA-approved audiences. As well as Australian Doctor, Medical Observer, 6minutes and Specialist Updates, which are owned by ADG, others included the relatively new Medical Republic and the limbic.

“You’re already advertising on these sites, why not explore content marketing where you can educate GPs about your therapy area, and it’s content they want to consume?”

Deep-linking was another opportunity for pharma to overcome high bounce rates, he said. By partnering with an existing gated website, a seamless link could be created for GPs to move from one site to the other without additional sign on, therefore minimising site bounce.

“It also gives your content credibility by aligning with brands that readers already trust.”

2. Education beyond CPD

Beyond advertising and traditional education, marketers were realising the power of content marketing and how it could create noise around a therapeutic area and, in turn, shift prescriber behaviour.

It was about creating content that’s educational by nature but was delivered in the way we – and doctors – consume content every day, he said. Think news-style articles, videos, animations and infographics which are distributed across digital platforms.

Under the MA code, the same rules apply to content marketing as traditional education; the code’s section 9.11 allows clients to fund a content campaign with an independent grant in the same way they do with education.

Willoughby provided an example where a pharma client had achieved a 25% increase in sales on the back of a content strategy that featured a mix of online articles, resources as well as a 3-part mini documentary.

Partnering with key organisations / industry groups also brings credibility to a platform or campaign and helps to boost engagement. Provided the relationship is not “exclusive”, the MA code allows partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and industry groups, he said.

3. Think about the 10%

Referencing Coke’s 70:20:10 innovation strategy, Willoughby urged marketers to recognise the power of blue-sky strategies.

By way of example, he referred to Airbnb, the online accommodation directory, which has achieved phenomenal growth, in part by creative and well-considered use of content to drive emotional connection with customers as well as brand awareness.

Beyond the directory itself, the online giant optimises digital platforms to deliver interactive destination maps, city guides with insider knowledge from locals, long-form articles and magazines, as well as emotive campaigns that speak to and connect with their audiences.

Pharma’s products and messages might be different, but the principles are the same: “The key is to educate and connect before you promote,” said Willoughby. It’s the power of content marketing.

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