The rapid evolution of digital has enhanced several industries, improving communication and fostering innovation across the board—and the pharma industry is no exception.
But, enhanced marketing communications and streamlined internal processes aside, brands and organizations cannot exist without adhering to regulations and focusing on delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX). In the pharma industry, especially, one entity cannot exist without the other.
To thrive and indeed survive in the pharma industry, brands must place ethics at the heart of every activity, promotional or otherwise. There’s simply no room for complacency.
Here we explore the vital importance of transparency in the pharma industry and its tangible link to CX, industrial ethics, and regulation.
CX in the Pharma Industry: Why it Counts
Consumers want to interact with brands or businesses that offer them a positive customer experience. While this common knowledge across industries, CX is sometimes overlooked within the pharma industry.
A quantitative study from McKinsey quantitatively shows that customer experience in pharma has a notable impact on the bottom line. Essentially, by placing more focus on customer experience, pharma brands stand to increase consumer satisfaction while earning more sales and boosting their market share.
In our hyper-connected digital age, the expectations of pharma customers are changing. In today's world, consumers command comprehensive access to information as well as greater transparency from pharmaceutical companies—and customer experience is the vessel for meeting these expectations. It's the front line of communication.
For instance, a pharma brand that recently launched a new product for rheumatoid arthritis enhanced its prescription journey by making it simple for patients to schedule calls with medics and join a patient-support program simply by scanning the barcode on the product’s packaging. To further broaden its CX offerings, the company also developed a dynamic mobile app that serves as a personalized patient companion, addressing specific issues or pain points throughout every stage of the patient journey.
To evolve your CX offerings while delivering content or information tailored to the needs of your consumers, drilling down into the data, metrics, and insights is essential. That said, data fragmentation is one of the pharma industry’s biggest roadblocks.
Fragmented data fosters inefficiency, breaking down chains of communication that could result in a poor customer experience or even worse, informational inaccuracies—the kind that can prove detrimental in the pharma industry.
But, by adopting more cohesive, centralized, and communicative internal frameworks while producing comprehensive buyer personas, pharma businesses can utilize the data that matters, improving every element of customer experience including vital marketing communications.
While investing in CX is critical to success in the pharma industry, your strategies and initiatives will prove redundant without adhering to regulation.
The Importance of Pharma Industry Regulation
To some extent, every industry has a regulatory blueprint for maintaining standards, creating consistency, and upholding ethics. The life or death nature of pharma requires stringent rules and regulations, particularly when trading in healthcare and consumer products.
There have been a number of well-documented scandals affecting the pharmaceutical industry over recent years.
Given the fact that consumers value trust and transparency as much as product price, these scandals only serve to tarnish the reputation of the pharma industry as a whole.
That said, to build consumer trust, it’s important to embrace industry regulation, using it as a blueprint or clearcut code of ethics relating to product development and marketing.
Concerning trust, transparency, and ethical messaging, regulation is key—as outlined in the essay, 'Role of regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry' by Jony Mallik:
“The success of a regulatory strategy is less dependent on the regulations than on how they are interpreted, applied, and communicated within companies and to outside constituents. Regulatory Affairs plays a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry and is involved in all stages of drug development and also after drug approval and marketing.”
To forge meaningful relationships with your target consumers, understanding all forms of relevant regulation is essential. Using these guidelines to steer your marketing activities, it’s important to spread awareness through your marketing communications while focusing on specific customer pain points without sharing any information that could prove inaccurate.
In the pharma industry especially, keeping an open line of communication with your customers across touchpoints is essential, sticking to reality and building an engaging narrative around stats, facts, figures, and evidence to inspire trust and offer value.
There’s ample room for creativity in terms of pharmaceutical marketing, but it is important to develop campaigns and strategies that fit within the rules—if you don’t, the consequences could prove disastrous to your brand reputation.
Ethical Marketing in the Pharmaceutical Industry
When developing any customer-facing marketing communication in the pharma industry, it’s worth remembering: while unethical (those that bend or omit the truth) sales-boosting tactics might build brand awareness and increase profits in the short term, they’re simply unsustainable.
We live in a time where consumers are more empowered than ever before. The digital age has given people the power to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions while gaining access to critical information at the swipe of a screen or the click of a button. As such, it doesn’t take long before brands devoid of all ethics are found out and subsequently, boycotted.
To boost brand awareness while providing an exceptional level of CX and keep within regulatory guidelines, ethical marketing is the way forward.
At its core, ethical marketing is the application of ethics to the promotional process. Ethical marketing means approaching your consumer-facing communications from a moral standpoint, committing to transparency, trust, and truth.
At present, the UK ethical market alone is worth over $83 billion and rising. Millennials and those from the Gen Z cohort are more tuned into the issues surrounding their world, using digital technology as their vessel of communication.
Brands like Dr Bronner’s use internal codes of ethics to steer the success of their marketing campaigns. Remaining within regulatory goalposts while sticking to its ‘Moral ABCs’ manifesto, the eccentric organic soap brand promotes its products in a way that’s fair and honest.
In a little over a decade, Br Bronner’s commitment to ethics has seen its annual sales increase by 1,300%.
While they’re not related to the pharma industry, brands like TOMs and Warby Parker are worth noting. These brands are winning in their fields with ethical market strategies that put a strong focus on brand storytelling. Placing their customers at the heart of their mission, these brands empower people to become agents of change.
Warby Parker, in particular, invites its audience to glimpse behind the scenes of the company, using emotive storytelling as a two-way vessel of communication between corporation and customer. This level of trust and transparency has transformed the ambitious startup into a $1.2 billion sustainable eCommerce empire in a mere five years—a testament to the power of ethical marketing.
"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters." – Albert Einstein
By taking note of the likes of Warby Parker and Dr Bronner, pharmaceutical brands can enhance their CX offerings while developing marketing strategies founded on truth, morality, and proven data.
When you’re talking about human health & wellbeing, there really is no room for complacency—it can destroy lives and reputations. To succeed in the pharma biz, honesty is indeed the best policy: stick to regulation, focus on the needs of your customers, and the rest will follow.
For creative inspiration, explore our guide to the best digital marketing strategies for the pharma industry.