Fierce Pharma Marketing tees up trends for 2021—and big news, they're not all COVID-19-related

After 2020, can we ever count on the past to predict trends again? Think about it. Just one year ago, we forecast the rising tide of politics and drug pricing, podcasts as an emerging marketing channel and targeting through artificial intelligence.

While some of those things did happen, did anyone notice? The entire year was overshadowed by the pandemic—as middle sister Jan from "The Brady Bunch" might have said, 2020 was just “COVID, COVID, COVID.”

That’s true, but the shutdowns and complications also inspired new ideas. Pharma marketers are advancing and rethinking digital strategies, reworking relationships with healthcare providers and patient influencers, and advancing digital videos and one-to-one targeting. And, to top it off, the whole industry got a reputation upgrade.

True, the pandemic brought some serious hurdles for pharma marketers—such as drug-launch delays and an absolute kibosh on in-person contact that may not resolve quickly even when the pandemic begins to fade.

Whatever 2021 may hold, public interest in the industry is at an all-time high. From baby boomers debating vaccine attributes to Generation Z teens talking about mRNA on TikTok, the pandemic put pharma in the mainstream.

“It really is a pivot point. Pharma organizations [should] stand forward as the innovators they’ve always been. Creating change for people, creating longer lives and opportunities for better health,” Leigh Householder, managing director of omnichannel strategy at Syneos Health, said.

This is the traditional year-end issue where Fierce Pharma Marketing looks back at emerging trends with an eye to what’s next, and you can read about four of them in the following stories. However, we’ll also add one smaller, hopeful trend for 2021—getting back to a “better normal.”