Online Innovation Is Beginning To Take Hold

By September 21, 2008Uncategorized

Pharma and biotech online marketing is probably 2-4 years behind consumer online marketing, and for a lot of good, rational reasons. The category lends itself less well to online because it's so heavily regulated, and because the subject matter is so complex, and frequently very serious. However, as consumer online marketing grows increasingly sophisticated and widely adopted, the online gap between pharma and everyone else keeps widening.

Thankfully, some pharma marketers are finding new rationales for embracing more engaging Web experiences, more equal to what consumers experience in the mass market e-commerce and information surfing they do.  Not being my clients, I cannot tell you why they chose to innovate, but at least let’s give praise where it is due, and learn what we can.

The most important word that I used that pharma needs to embrace, as have the  mutli-billion dollar consumer brands, is “Engagement.” The dictionary definition of "engaged" is "busy, employed or occupied." For a website, this means that it gets visitors to do something — the move around inside the site, try things, respond. These visitors are not passive readers of online brochures — they use the site, which vastly strengthens their connection to the brand. For a website to accomplish this, it needs to be super-relevant, fun, easy to use, and rewarding.

As an example, two truly innovative consumer sites recently were done by our agency for two different clients: Lufthansa Airlines, the flag carrier of Germany and the largest airline in Europe, and Callaway Golf, one of the world's most widely-known brands of golf equipment.

Both of these sites make extensive use of short interactive videos. Each video is shot and edited to reflect the attributes of the particular brand — the Lufthansa videos have a cool, clean, professoinal feel, designed to appeal to international business travelers. The Callaway Golf series, which features real golfers playing and talking about their real games, has a more intimate, up-close-and-personal quality.

Mead Fivestar Notebooks: This is another Ryan iDirect site. I include this one because the target audience is the one group hardest to engage with – teens – and this site makes a notebook fun. Great insight, engagement and use of tools, rewards and video.

Next, check out My Postit Secret.  The use of green-screen video shot with 3D animation tools created a highly interactive “real” environment for the site visitor to move within. It's video game technology applied to business. The characters represent key marketing segments and this site allows you to self-select and interact in an amazing way. Remember, we’re talking about POST-IT NOTES! They made them engaging. This site is a year old and has surpassed all metrics and helped build the client database dramatically: 

The ast site is not a Ryan creation, but just a great e-commerce site built by Virgin America Airlines. You have to click on the "See our Difference". The site is tremendously interactive, but also fast, useful, and fun.

After visitng such rich Web experiences,  their pharma equivalents can be a bit disappointing. Well, even the Web experiences have recently culled from pharma are mid-range quality in a broader consumer universe, but they stand out and differentiate the brand through the experience they create in the world of pharma.

Diabetes devices companies occupy that strange land between pharma and consumer goods. The One Touch Diabetes site is great for its "experience", its use of patients stories for credibility, and a cause related link…all lined up to associate with their colorful products. Very smart.

Novartis deserves kudos for starting to figure out how to use video to engage without being imposing and too controlling. The company does so with its new drug for osteoporosis, Reclast, and its unbranded site. To get the full marketing experience, you have to go to, register for the free book and then go to 

This site has excellent parallel branding. Also, their use of  experts touches on findings from our very own Patient Power Study. The site taps into real experts, a doctor for advice, and Rhonda, your sire organizer, is a great value-add – she should have more real estate on the home page. This may be the best unbranded site today. But I am always looking for more.

Has the corner turned? Is "Engagement" seeping its way into the pharma/biotech list of metrics? The potential is amazing, and it's just beginning to be tapped. Now this is a topic worth more discussion!


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