Time for Indian Pharma to Digest “RICE”?
Years ago, David Ogilvy said,“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.” This parade has turned into a crowd walking and running in different directions with multiple distractions. Unlike soldiers in the parade with uni-focus directions in marching, consumers are staring at different directions today. Many aimlessly coupled with tons of content to consume, talking or surfing on gadgets with multiple things running in their heads. Healthcare professionals (HCP) are no different. From the days where textbooks and physical journals were the primary sources of learning, HCPs now have ample resources like emails, newsletters, videos, e-journals, medical education sites, short news updates, scientific advancements, physician networking platforms, and so on. So, why have pharmaceuticals remained the same with negligible technological augmentation in marketing and promotions?
For once, where field force was appreciated for >12 doctor visits per day & call averages, apparently got accolades for getting more number of doctors to their webinars during lockdown. Many in Indian pharma forcefully turned to digital with sporadic understanding giving rise to phone calls, Zoom calls, WhatsApp forwards, and webinars that irritated the doctors more than engaging them. For marketing, process slowed but ignited the need to change with few starting to adopt to it. The metrics of outlook changed in few weeks.
Does everyone measure the metrics on spends as it should have been done?
My question was, “How did we measure ‘Please Prescribe, Please Prescribe’ the so-called “4 P’s for pharma marketing” practiced over decades?”to a friend in a top pharmaceutical company who asked me how to measure the digital activities. Also, if brand managers send around 50 literatures (aka LBLs) per medical representative for a brand/month at Rs.10/print for 300 representatives, they spent Rs.1.5L. What metrics do we had to measure the returns of each of literatures sent out to our field teams?
Even more, let’s ask ourselves how many of them got distributed to “right” doctors with “right and impactful” detailing? Or how many we made had insight“apt/right messaging” to address that “one” pressing problem of a customer (doctor)?
We know how doctors treat our literatures (LBLs) for the sheer reason ofnot having any interesting insight, nor they are of any value addition to theirpractice. Why did we accept when most of the earlier practices went with no impact?
Coming out of “dogma”
Our “dogma” is that for decades, we are programmed to see what is asked. Practically in every company’s meeting today, we discuss targets, sales, and achievements. It’s necessary. However, mind-set develops only in those areas of what is asked for. There are ways one can excel in digital and ensure the attention of doctors on the online medium. The basic principle of media in whatever form is to reach and ensure good communication. My author friend Gauri Chaudhary on a one to one discussion with me highlighted a few points very crisply. Traditional media/promotion (Prints, LBLs) has/had its own limitations in terms of evaluation of the efforts & digital has evaluation metrics in place.
A 2015 study conducted by Elsevierwas on doctors online behaviour in Asia Pacific region. It said, 90% of doctors relied on online searches to aid clinical decisions. They seek instant access to stay abreast of the latest developments. The most used keywords by doctors in searches were “most trusted” and “most updated”. These and many such keywords if can be linked to a therapy’s or brand’s online content, doctors will get to see those brand names when they search.
Visual aids came duringthe 1975s, evolved over time but seldom went beyond paper except for some shapes and sizes. In 2000s, we saw prelaunch-teasers & loads of audio visual films. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean it should abruptly change nowbut can augment with technology. Here in digital space,the advantage is of having HCPs segmented sections like various “doctors only” platform. One can reach out to them andcan measure the reach & if communication has happened or not.
RICE: Adopt or be gone soon.
By saying “RICE”, I mean it as digital metrics (other than prescriptions and sales), we in pharma need to embrace. Reach, Impressions, Clicks, and Engagement now will be integrated along with traditional metrics “prescriptions and sales”. You like it or not, you can’t escape RICE in coming years.
RICE is going to hit quite a similar way as the Sales Force Automation (SFA) made an advent. Few started, many rejected and later accepted as norm. Let another lockdown not become the enzyme for Indian pharma to digest this RICE. Till now, the most common metrics for pharma are sales and prescriptions. Everything revolved around these two metrics. As marketers in the digital world, pharma marketers need to cultivate “RICE” in marketing. Relatively, “likes”, “shares”, and “comments” which are buying signals can apparently be converted into engagement and sales if planned well.
RICE is the qualitative subconscious implication of the quantitative approach.
In the simplest terms, Reach is the number of people who saw your content (ads, articles, callouts, videos, podcast gifs etc.) whereas an impression is the number of times your content gets noticed and “Click” in this is a great turning point. It’s the click rate that shows how engage provoking is your ad or any content for that matter. Engagement is the number of interactions/responses your content received from users (likes, downloads, comments, shares, saves, etc.). All these are buying signals.
Where “Reach” is simply how many unique individuals saw your ad or any form of content, “Impression” is how many times they saw. If 900 people saw your ad 1500 times, 900 is the reach and 1500 is the impression. On clicking, if you are not having an engagement or experience journey route(traffic diversion) like taking HCP to an interesting site, microsite, landing page or product pop-up or any other way to divert their click traffic, you are losing out big time.
It’s like you enter a shop; you expect some salesman in the shop to talk to you or ask. If no one approaches you in the first 30 seconds, you will walk out. It meant you clicked, but no one engaged you and thereby, the shop lost you as a customer. Same happens in digital.
How to co-relate?
If reminding a brand or communication is the objective, digital mediums can reach out much faster, sharper, and at 1/10th of the cost of the physical call. Though digital may advent to 20-30 percent of total marketing efforts, the physical promotion through medical representatives will be mainstay.
Today, go to any e-pharmacy sites to buy, you are asked to give personal details, phone number, ailments, and even the doctor’s prescription. No wonder big corporate houses are investing in e-pharmacies. Here, your physical health record (PHR) is converted to an electronic health record (EHR).
In the coming years, even gene mapping and checks to predict your future ailments will be as common as CBC, blood sugar or other checks at pathology labs. The EHR data collected from millions of prescriptions are collated to brands, ailments, molecules, patients, and doctors.We can draw insightful marketable conclusions though such data. For instance, a clear observation can be made from this big data that a set of doctors are prescribing a particular brand XYZ after they were exposed to 8 to 10 views of your XYZ ad on a particular online platform. So for a marketer, RICE by virtue will become a long-term investment in establishing therapy, owning the therapy, and building brand or the therapy ecosystem with different or targeted specialties. Unlike prescriptions and sales are relatively short-term metrics, RICE needs to be taken more deep and wide to digest and see how as marketers one can communicate and engage their consumers even when they are not aware of it.“Doctors are silently shouting for good content. Give them good content & not go-down of content.”. Think how to engage. Think how to digest RICE for better future.