The eyes may have it, but pharma still needs convincing on branded visual comms

Visual and video content is surging online, already making up more than half of all consumer web traffic. While pharma marketers in general have lagged behind in adopting traditional consumer strategies, one digital agency is lobbying its drugmakers to consider visual content.

Intouch Solutions senior director of social media Doug Weinbrenner

"When it comes to video use for our pharma clients, we want them to put their budgets behind behavior," said Doug Weinbrenner, senior director of social media at Intouch Solutions. "Stop putting money behind what people don't do and create strategies around what people are actually doing."

In other words, pharma needs to follow its potential consumers' behavior. Today that means watching videos or looking at visual content online and in social media. Online video will account for 69% of all consumer web traffic by 2017, according to Cisco, up from 57% in 2012.

"Video is a multi-sensory experience with many layers and levels from a human experience viewpoint, and whether you're pharma or Colgate, that means getting attention more quickly, better engagement and (people) watching longer," Weinbrenner said.

He admitted some pharma clients are hesitant; they agree to consider the idea but likely won't make any aggressive moves to visual content soon. But at least a handful of others are eager to try something new. Part of what's driving the new willingness is an influx of marketing managers from consumer brands, and as Weinbrenner said, "They're asking 'why not?'"

Intouch client Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen created a well-received Tumblr blog in 2013 with photos and visual postings meant to target people living with HIV. More recently, the agency created a branded Instagram channel for a treatment for a rare disease that affects young adults. Patients with the condition must take medication to avoid becoming ill.

Instagram is where young adults live, they concluded, so why not, Weinbrenner said. He believes it is the first branded Instagram channel for a pharma drug. The agency also has created half a dozen YouTube channels for clients and will have 10 by year's end. YouTube is, in fact, where many pharma companies already have corporate channels, posting videos around corporate missions, community services and disease awareness programs. But pharma still has a long way to go in using visual content to reach out to consumers, he admits.

Drugmakers will likely need to do so. A study by the CMO Council earlier this year found that 65% of a general mix of senior marketers said visual assets are core to how their brand is communicated, with 79% naming video in particular as the visual content that will grow most in importance in the near future.

"Visual content is where it's at and I don't see that changing much," Weinbrenner said. "… The human psychology of what video, or just pictures, can do is so strong."

- read the CMO Council release

Special Report: The top 10 pharma companies in social media

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