Pharmaceutical Marketing: Outlook and Strategies

Pharmaceutical marketing has been on an upward incline as the overall pharma industry continues to grow. 

Statistics project an annual industry growth of 7.41% between 2021 and 2026, with U.S. medicine spending projected to hit between $605-$635 billion in 2025. According to a report on PubMed Central, the growth is majorly due to increased drug demand brought about by the need to treat chronic and aging-related diseases. 

As a major player, holding almost half of the global pharmaceutical market, the U.S. pharma industry has also witnessed a steep growth in advertising spending over the years.

For instance, direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising costs rose to $6.46 billion in 2018 from $3.9 billion in 2012. Subsequent years also witnessed a gradual increase in the money pumped into DTC advertising. The industry reported a $6.56 billion spending in 2019 and $6.58 billion in 2020. 

In this post, we delve deeper into pharma marketing to help you understand how it is done. Plus, we’ll provide tips for running effective pharmaceutical advertising.

How Is Marketing Done in Pharma? 

Pharma marketing usually takes one of two forms—direct-to-provider or healthcare professionals or direct-to-consumer. 

Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising

Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) involves a pharmaceutical company promoting its prescription products directly to the patients. 

Only a few countries allow DTCPA—for example, the United States and New Zealand. For those that allow DTC, there are strict regulations that pharma companies and marketers must observe. 

The main types of DTC ad formats include: 

  • Product claim ad – Mentions the product and its indication and makes claims about its safety and efficacy. 
  • Help-seeking ad – It does not mention the product. Instead, it highlights information about a condition and urges patients to contact their doctor.
  • Reminder ad – It does not make any product claims. It includes product name, strength, price, and dosage form information.

Surveys on the impact of DTC advertising report that most physicians appreciate the effectiveness of DTC. For instance, they say that patients ask more thoughtful questions during the visit and get more involved in their healthcare after viewing a DTC ad.

Pharma Marketing to Healthcare Providers and Professionals

In this case, a pharmaceutical company promotes its products directly to healthcare providers and professionals. There are several challenges when marketing to this segment. 

  • Doctors and healthcare professionals are hard to reach. They may not spend a ton of time watching TV or scrolling through social media, so you have to get smart and creative to reach them. 
  • You need to speak their language. Doctors are professionals in their fields, so you aren’t going to sell to them with fluffy marketing language. You need cold, hard facts and you need to be able to answer their questions on patient outcomes, costs, risks, and efficiency.

Overall, differentiation is one of the biggest challenges for pharmaceutical marketing. 

Marketing efforts need to create brand awareness and communicate patient outcomes. Marketing together with product quality influences buying decisions.

In a nutshell, marketing provides pharma companies with an avenue to inform physicians of their products. Common marketing techniques include mainstream advertisement, online marketing (search engines, social media, website, etc.), sponsorships, and more.

Taking a one-size fits all approach to your pharma marketing is not effective. Pharma marketing today needs to consider personalization, patient outcomes and values, omnichannel marketing, and much more.  

Pharma Marketing Tips and Outlook 

Successful pharma marketing requires a well-laid down strategy. With stiff competition in the market, differentiation is quite challenging. Every year, the FDA approves dozens of new drugs, and many pharma companies bank on the first-to-market advantage to carve a larger market share. This requires a solid strategy to outrun the competition while adhering to the industry’s rules and regulations.

Below, we share some tips and an outlook on pharmaceutical marketing to help you hone your strategy.

Personalized Marketing  

Personalized marketing involves using customer data to tailor the marketing experience for your prospects and existing customers. Customization allows you to optimize your marketing and increase its effectiveness. Common personalization marketing trends include personalized emails and personalized product recommendations.

In other words, taking a one-size-fits-all approach in marketing limits your potential to connect with your audience. Personalization allows you to focus on the specific needs of your audience. 

Whether your approach is direct-to-customer or direct-to-healthcare provider, establishing one-on-one communication is a crucial factor in effective marketing. 

Pharma companies that have rolled out personalized marketing enjoy numerous benefits, including increased customer loyalty, a more satisfying customer experience, and increased return on investment (ROI). The ripple effect of personalized marketing translates to better lead nurturing, more conversions, increased revenue, and ultimately better customer retention.

Highlight the Value  

Your marketing message should also outline your value proposition clearly. As we mentioned earlier, differentiation is one of the most significant hurdles in pharma marketing. However, customers, whether patients or physicians, need to know why they should buy from your brand and not your competitors. 

  • What is your value proposition? 
  • Is it better for patient outcomes? 
  • Do you provide better cost efficiency for providers?

You should describe your product accurately, highlighting what distinguishes it from competing brands. 

Besides defining your unique proposition, you should highlight the product features clearly in order of priority and discuss the outcomes of using the product. 

Shifting Views and Social Marketing  

Increased consumer knowledge is shifting views on the implications of using a drug. The focus is no longer on the drug’s positive and negative effects. Instead, people are adopting a more holistic view by evaluating the drug’s social, economic, cultural, and ethical impacts.   

One way to approach it is to conduct social listening and then align your marketing messages to the findings. Social listening, in this case, refers to tracking conversations and analyzing your audience to find out what issues they care about.

On the same note, you should focus more on social marketing. The power of social not just in pharmaceutical marketing but in marketing across all industries is indescribable. 

Most of your customers use social media. Social media platforms continually leverage their channels’ power by providing advanced marketing tools to enable brands to connect with their target market. 

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn are some of the most used marketing platforms by pharma companies, with most having established social presence across the first three. 

However, you may also leverage the power of TikTok and influencers to reach more customers. Generally, marketing on social channels is an excellent strategy, no matter which channel hosts your target audience. 

Remember, that you still need to abide by healthcare regulations and each platform’s specific regulations to avoid violating terms of use.

Video Ads Beyond TV 

Everyone in the US has seen a pharmaceutical ad on television. Video content is still powerful, but traditional television alone cannot help you reach the right audiences. With more and more entertainment available on digital channels, people are watching less ad-supported TV by the day. Even with the audience who watches television, it’s not uncommon to find viewers running to accomplish tasks between programs (during a commercial break), which further takes more eyes away from your TV adverts. 

Fortunately, you can now run ads on YouTube, TikTok, and other social platforms. Video remains a powerful content format. Universally, 86% of marketers use video as a marketing tool, and for a good reason. It’s the most preferred content type, especially on social media. As a result, video marketing gives them 66% more qualified leads annually. 

However, the length of your video and messaging should be adjusted depending on the platform. It should also follow the guidelines of that platform. Generally, before publishing, you should note what is prohibited, restricted, and allowed to remain compliant.  

Omnichannel Marketing  

More patients are taking an active part in their care, which has seen increased consumption of online resources on healthcare. As such, the healthcare industry needs to find more ways of engaging the audience, e.g., using chat widgets, telehealth, social media, etc. 

Omnichannel marketing refers to executing integrated marketing campaigns across different channels to provide customers with a unified and consistent brand experience. 

Pharma companies that have adopted a patient-centric approach to marketing boost patient engagement, optimize budgets, and more.

By creating an omnichannel experience for your audience, your brand caters to their needs, solidifying your brand authority. Ensure you manage your communications across your active channels (website, industry forums, social networks, etc.) to leverage the benefits of each platform.  

Search Ads  

A study by revealed that 89% of people google their symptoms before seeing their doctor. 

Paid search ads have been around for some time, and their popularity has only grown. While the pharmaceutical industry has strict advertising regulations, search ads are still valuable to marketing.

You can use search ads to reach your audience by leveraging target keywords. For instance, when someone searches a particular symptom using the terms you have included in a relevant ad, the search engine might display your ad, increasing your visibility and the possibility of a click-through.  

However, Google restricts advertising prescription drugs in most countries. In addition, you’ll need to apply for Google’s healthcare products and services certification

Besides optimizing keywords, here are additional tips to keep in mind when rolling out a paid search marketing campaign.

Get Certified

Google has restrictions for advertising specific products and conditions. 

Leverage approved claims

There are many restrictions on the information you can include in the advertisements, e.g., product, its indication, and making claims about its efficacy and safety. If you’re approved to make a claim, it’s essential to list it in the ad description to target customers who search for that specific information.  

Know which ads to run

When choosing the ad to run, understand the regulations of each type of ad and include the legal components where applicable. To avoid violating the restrictions, ensure the ads undergo a legal review before publishing them. 

Get HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare Marketing

Due to HIPAA and patient privacy concerns, targeting prospects and their caregivers is tricky. You have to target generally, and can’t go after specific ailments or conditions.    

But savvy audience targeting and marketing tactics can still help you reach your audience. Staying up on the latest pharmaceutical best practices, tools, and trends can be daunting. But if you connect with us, we can help you keep on top of it all. Goodway is an experienced healthcare marketing agency. We have the digital expertise, industry knowledge, and pharmaceutical digital strategies you need to get on the fast track, accelerate results, and stay well ahead of the competition.