How can pharma avoid HCP 'promo fatigue'? With synchronized campaigns and storytelling

Market research reports in the last few months have shined a light on “promo fatigue”—that feeling among doctors that pharma has been spamming them with digital marketing overkill during the pandemic.

A recent survey by Indegene found 62% of HCPs felt “overwhelmed” by product-related promotional content they receive from drugmakers. In a separate Accenture survey, 64% of HCPs said they’re getting too much digital content from pharma, and 65% said at least one pharma company had “spammed” them since the pandemic began.  

So how can pharma engage doctors in this new marketing landscape without adding to the deluge of clutter? It’s about synchronization and storytelling, said Jason Bernstein, head of medical communications strategy at epocrates.

“The number one thing you need to do is to consider what the needs of your doctors are, the best way to reach them, and the story you want to tell,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be 50 platforms. It could just be a select few. But consider exactly what their needs are.”

For sales reps, for instance, that may mean straying from their promotional scripts and arming themselves with more information that can help doctors help their patients, he said.

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“If I’m a [high prescriber], great, remind me about efficacy. But I also want to know who’s the right patient for this drug against competitors. I want to know what access is like. What type of patient savings programs are available? How can I support my patient so they stay on the drug—because I believe in it,” he added. “If I’m a nonwriter, I want to know how the mechanism of action is different? How does this drug show up in the guidelines? Is there head-to-head data versus another drug?” 

With so much information coming at doctors from multiple directions, it's also crucial the messaging is synchronized, he said. One way is through omnichannel marketing strategies that tell a seamless story across platforms.

But coordination between marketing personnel and field force is also important—as is making sure that DTC campaigns are paired up with relevant communications to doctors, he said. When companies pitch their drugs on TV or social media with instructions to “ask your doctor,” those doctors need to be ready with detailed information so they can adequately respond to patients' questions.

He pointed to Biohaven’s migraine drug Nurtec as an example of a brand that did this successfully. He said data from epocrates’ mobile medical reference platform show doctor look-ups of Nurtec surged after Biohaven launched its DTC push featuring celebrities like Khloe Kardashian and Whoopi Goldberg, and Biohaven was ready to seize the opportunity.

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“What Nurtec did right is they were really trying to sync those TV ads with communication to doctors,” he said. “If we provide information to the doctor right when they’re looking it up, that’s a value add. That’s a success story.” 

His advice echoes suggestions from Accenture’s Suzy Jackson, managing director for life sciences, who told Fierce Pharma Marketing in January that pharma should emphasize quality over quantity in their HCP engagement strategies.

“HCPs have more time, and they will reward you if you engage them appropriately,” she said. “But that certainly is quick to turn if there’s too much content coming their way in a disorganized fashion.”