Welcome to the adherence party, Sears. And The Gap. And Target. And …

By November 28, 2008Current Affairs

When it comes to marketing, the pharmaceutical category is usually more conservative than typical retail marketers. Not anymore. A story in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal seems to prove that when it comes to adherence, it's the retailers, not the pharma people, who are late to the party. But, at least they're here.

The piece, which is behind a WSJ password, is about how the current economic downturn is affecting big retailers like Target, Sears, The Gap, etc. Here's the heart of the story:

It's number-crunching time. Marketers, their ad budgets under
increased scrutiny amid the economic downturn, are mining their
customer databases and reaching out to loyal consumers with targeted
ads, instead of relying on the traditional yuletide blitz.

Rather than create one TV commercial or send out a single, shotgun email promotion, uneasy retailers such as Sears Holdings, J.C. Penney, Target and Gap
are tapping statistical models and other technologies to send specific
consumers promotions based on what is potentially on their shopping

This is adherence, dressed up in a Gap sweater and khakis instead of scrubs. The first point here is that the retailers have discovered, according to the Journal, that:

Acquiring a new customer costs about five to seven times as much as
maintaining a profitable relationship with an existing customer, says
Marc Fleishhacker, managing director at WPP's Ogilvy Consulting, which
designed the campaign for Sears.

No kidding. Really?

In pharma, we don't market new products to old customers. We try to sustain and enrich the relationship we already have with patients. We do this, at least here at Ryan, by getting a 360-degree view of our patients, and based on what we learn (and we learn a LOT) we can tailor our message and our medium around who they are, what they need, and what they really care about.

Just as the retailers have learned that simply flooding the airwaves with untargeted brand ads during the holiday season isn't the best use of marketing money, pharma learned long ago that just dumping money into DTC advertising, especially television, wasn't such a hot idea. So, we work to understand who our patients are and what they need, and then we deliver it to them.

A key difference, however, is that keeping patients on their therapies is, over the long haul, vastly more important to the patient than selling him a sweater. What we want is for that 46 year-old patient with a high risk of heart problems to begin taking statins, and to stay on them. The most advanced drug in the world will not make a difference unless you can keep the patient using it, which means understanding them, which means doing research, which means making sure that your communications are targeted and structured according to data, not guesswork or dollars.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the party, folks. Just leave your coats in the spare bedroom.