What I Heard at Digital Pharma East 2023

It’s always good to step away from the endless Zoom meetings and emails to spend time with other pharma marketers and discuss what’s happening in pharmaceutical marketing. The in-person session for Digital Pharma East was held September 11-14 in Philadelphia, PA. Attendance was significantly higher than in 2022, and the discussions were much more robust. There were 4 main content themes for Digital Pharma East this year, but none were new to healthcare marketing conversations: (1) omnichannel engagement, (2) HCP engagement, (3) patient solutions, and (4) media.

Truthfully, I went to the conference with high expectations for networking with my peers but low expectations about hearing any new angles on these topics that we discuss over and over again.

But there’s a reason we continue to revisit these themes.

With so much disruption and technological evolution in healthcare, many marketing organizations are still trying to figure out how to evolve. It’s easy to have a theoretical discussion about these concepts, but implementing them takes a lot of work. From the big ballroom stage, they sound straightforward and intuitive. Yet, the effort involved in convincing organizations to push for change is often complex and time-consuming.

Last year, most of the conversation centered around defining “omnichannel.” This year, the focus was on building an omnichannel experience. But to do that takes expertise in healthcare, marketing, and technology and an ability to motivate pharma companies to make critical investments in people, resources, and technology.

Here are five important take-aways from Digital Pharma East that mirror both how we think and how we strategically approach marketing opportunities at Luckie Health:

  • Omnichannel has reached the big stage. Where the term “omnichannel” was discussed last year as if it were a new buzzword, this year, omnichannel strategy was presented as the foundation of any pharma organization’s brand and portfolio strategy. As Robert Allen from Bristol-Myers Squibb explained on Day 1, Digital is no longer “at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving,” meaning it’s no longer an afterthought when developing brand strategy. Omnichannel and digital strategy has been part of our philosophy at Luckie for over a decade. From the beginning, we have used data-driven insights to help our clients form valuable relationships with consumers, patients, and healthcare professionals.
  • The biggest technology disruptor discussed was artificial intelligence (AI). There were many theoretical discussions on AI’s pros and cons, but only a few explained practical ways to use AI to increase engagement. Most described it as a method to make data-driven solutions smarter or more efficient. But after three days of presentations, no one could share any best practices about how to obtain approval for AI-driven initiatives through a Medical/Legal/Regulatory (MLR) committee. Integrating data insights to create a 360-degree view of the customer will only change the sales trajectory if there is a compliant way to execute it. At Luckie, our team of experienced medical editors participate early in the brainstorming process to implement disruptive new technologies in a way that complies with regulatory guidelines. They sit at the big table – not the kids’ table.
  • Understanding the intersection of brand strategy and customer experience was discussed as more than sending the same email to every customer. Most industries are rapidly moving past using customer journeys to customizing the messages they send to healthcare professionals. At Luckie, early on we defined this concept as intercepting demand at the right time, in the right place, from the early days of CRM. And we have helped pharmaceutical, CPG, and Travel clients build programs to do this. It’s in our DNA.
  • Many speakers discussed how data strategy has moved from measuring and optimizing campaigns based on past results to creating a data ecosystem that incorporates paid and unpaid media to establish a single view of the customer. Connecting the dots is critical to having the intelligence to make better decisions and ensure the delivery of personalized messages at the right time and place. Without this intel, there will be gaps in customer insights that may lead to poor decisions or marketing efforts misaligned with customers’ beliefs and behaviors. At Luckie, we’ve brought insight to several pharma companies looking to create a single view of the customer, and we’ve shown them how to use it to deliver targeted, relevant, creative campaigns that motivate customers to act.
  • One of the more compelling sessions wasn’t about pharmaceutical digital marketing. Instead, the speaker shared tips from industries outside of healthcare. Three companies to benchmark are American Express, Nordstrom, and Marriott Bonvoy. AMEX and Marriott have used AI to upgrade their chatbots to mimic a live customer service operator more closely. At the same time, Nordstrom moved from customization to personalization with their data strategy to increase sales velocity. Now, although we have better tools to decipher what actions are happening at an individual level, we have a long way to go to create seamless, meaningful experiences at every touchpoint for every customer. It’s easier said than done, but we can’t be complacent. No one has it figured out just yet. It’s great that we can personalize messages to HCPs, but today, consumers are more invested than ever in their own health and are driving healthcare decisions. They are hungry for relevant, reliable information to make better health decisions. We need HIPAA-compliant solutions for consumers to truly improve health outcomes. We are tracking this evolution at Luckie and pioneering ways to bring consumers more appropriate, actionable, and accurate information at a one-to-one level.

It was a packed three days of discussion, debate, and information-sharing at Digital Pharma East, and I returned to the office energized for what’s next.

If you need help removing the luck from leveraging customer insights to create personalized, seamless experiences, call us. Contact John.Petersen@Luckie.com to learn more about Luckie Health.