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A Dose of Brexit Reality: How Pharma Marketing Can Embrace Digital Disruption

So June 23, 2016, is the day that many of us thought we’d never see. The United Kingdom is again looking to plough our own furrow as we drive commerce and business in the 21st century. What is interesting is that European pharma will soon be split geographically in two—those inside an EU-wide trading block and those outside. This post is not about Brexit right and wrong or who voted what as, frankly, it does not matter now. The decision has been made. As our world adjusts to these momentous actions, we have a time when we are presented with magnificent challenges and opportunities from within the digital pharma industry.

When speaking with a friend this past weekend, we found out that we voted in exactly the same way. However, our outlook for the future was very different. He has nothing to do with life sciences, health and/or pharma but is in finance, and his words may have been sprinkled with some Friday stock market jitters.

I am confident though, that once market uncertainty clears, we now have a world-changing, once in a lifetime opportunity to shape our businesses for the future. It wasn’t until I watched Clay Christensen’s You Tube video on Disruptive Behaviour that I could put my finger on why I felt this way.

Brexit means that all digital evangelists have an opportunity to be ‘disruptive’.  As change is thrust upon us, we will need a different world view, to define new curves and products which are unique and deliver real value for clients. With market uncertainty, we must resist the unnecessary ‘race for the bottom’ to do things cheaper. Our driver should now be the ‘innovators dilemma’…developing truly world class offerings which enhance real-world benefits and value. As Guy Kawasaki puts it, “Value is not price; value is anything but price.”

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Credit: Guy Kawasaki

Reimaging the patient digital journey, envisaging what makes HCPs interact with our brand and advocate and choose medicine A over medicine B, will help us work towards our own ‘uniqueness’. Digital media lets us identify who we are speaking to (data), make suggestions on what is important to them (predictive digital), and allow them to continue the conversation where they feel comfortable at a time to suit them (demand 24/7). We all, in the digital pharma industry, have a responsibility to do away with the need to ‘just get a website online, quickly’ with little thought around who needs this and why. Brexit allows us to retrace our previous steps but draw a different future, a credible alternative for colleagues and customers alike.

Cadient’s philosophy has always been to keep challenging by crafting meaningful experiences for our clients. Our competitors located within the newly drawn (ink-still-wet) EU borders may offer cheaper solutions due to lack of levies. Our challenge now is to continue to offer a valuable ‘alternative view’ where we put the patient and HCP at the centre of the pharma digi-ecosystem. I am proud we can offer a product portfolio based on true value, built upon by years of Cadient experience delivering a personal digital experience every time. It is our responsibility as guardians of the digital future to deliver on time, personalised content which is valuable, meaningful, and relevant. Remember that the patients and HCPs will always view online what’s relevant to them.

Disruptive behaviour is about finding new markets for your new product. Our challenge will be to define who wants to procure value rather than work to the ‘I have a budget’ mentality of the past. We’ve all had those conversations where ‘we’d like to work with you but agency x is cheaper’. The race to the bottom is the key driver and often seen as the biggest bang. Our role is to work with customers to articulate why the ‘pile it cheap’ mentality will never work. Brexit means the UK pharma digital sector now needs to embrace digital disruption like never before—not only to survive, but to thrive.

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Richard Long is an account director for Cadient’s London office, covering clients throughout the European Union. With more than 15 years’ experience in digital marketing, he has recently been awarded national recognition for health campaigning in social media and work with pharma clients throughout the world.

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