How can pharma create positive brand bias? 'Prime and prompt,' agency says

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Pharma marketers can use digital strategies to condition consumers to remember products and attributes, CMI/Compas says. (CC0)

Pharma marketers should add bias to their digital strategies—brand bias, that is. The technique can be an effective way to encourage patients and physicians to seek out specific products, according to CMI/Compas.

Its preferred methodology? “Prime and prompt” marketing strategies outlined by CMI Media President Susan Dorfman and CMI/Compas' executive VP of growth and innovation Justin Freid, speaking recently at Digital Pharma East.

Dorfman explained priming by asking session attendees to recall walking by a bakery and the smells wafting out. People link the bakery smells with tasty treats, conditioned over years to make that connection. That's priming. In a similar way, pharma marketers can create primes with product messages that condition people to recall their product when they need medicine or are diagnosed with a condition.


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The priming then prompts the action—buying the pastry at the bakery, or going to a doctor to ask about a product. Hence, the persuasion technique term “prime and prompt.”

RELATED: Tipping point? Digital communications from pharma finally get their due with doctors

But just how do you do that in pharma? Reach and frequency, consistent messaging and omnichannel media are some of the measures needed for effective priming, Freid said.

“If you’re really going to get to the back of somebody’s brain, a combination of print, digital, social, search, display, TV in some cases, is needed to make sure you’re consistently surrounding those individuals who you’re trying to prime,” he said in explaining an omnichannel media strategy.

And it works. The two executives shared a few data points from CMI/Compas' yet-to-be-released Media Vitals annual survey, including the fact that 64% of healthcare professionals (HCPs) and 69% of consumers believe pharma ads prime them toward a brand bias, aka a preference for that product. Even more notable is that more than half of both groups (53% of HCPs and 54% of consumers) believe pharma ads prime them “to have better shared dialogue.”

The most highly rated priming spots for pharma ads for physicians were medical journals, conferences and TV, in that order, according to the forthcoming research. For patients, the best places were TV, magazines and doctors’ offices.

RELATED: Do male and female doctors prefer different communications? New study has some ideas

With all that strategy and technique talk, Dorfman did stress the importance of using prime and prompt in a purposeful way with good intent.

“We as healthcare professionals have a commitment to do no harm,” she said, stressing the power to help people with information and “the belief that what we have can change a person’s life whether the flu, diabetes or cancer.”

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