Global vs local: how to navigate tough challenges in pharma marketing


Mar 25 2019

One of the most difficult challenges for pharmaceutical marketers is understanding how to communicate a brand identity and new products successfully – both globally and locally.

In collaboration with pharmaphorum

For this industry, this challenge is even more complex. A highly regulated environment combined with a diverse set of customers means that delivering real brand engagement across geographical regions is a tough nut to crack.

Industry growth and emerging markets

There is no question that the pharmaceutical industry must broaden its understanding of emerging markets, such as Brazil, India, and of course China, as these are very different to the established major markets of the US, Europe’s top 5 (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK) and Japan.

Data from Kantar Media shows pharmaceutical advertising in the US has grown more in the past four years than any other leading advertising category. And BMI research says that Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) will remain a key emerging region for the expansion of multinational pharmaceutical firms’ revenue pools. In 2017 and beyond, the region will grow by 11.1% year-on-year, from USD67.95bn to USD75.50bn.

Over their five-year forecast period (2017-2021), the CEE pharmaceutical market will post an 8.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in US dollar terms to USD102.92bn, outperforming all other regions globally.

Whether it is this high-profile US DTC market, or more focused digital channels for physicians in specialist therapy areas, there are ways to maximize impact and success, regardless of how complicated the marketing ecosystem is.

Here are tips to enable global campaigns to be used most effectively at a local level.

1. Think global, act local

Most companies can’t justify the time and resources needed to conduct grass-roots level research every time a brand wants to launch a product in a new country. As a result, defining a global strategy and refining it to local audiences is vital to its success – not only for the customers it is targeting but also for the supply chain that will support it.

Research into digital multi-channel marketing shows huge variation in uptake and attitudes among physicians in different parts of the world.

An IQVIA report from March 2017 found that 94% of Japan’s specialist physicians felt their preferred amount of digital communication was being achieved, as it is the most digitally advanced country in this respect. This figure was just 50% in the US and 17% in the UK. In Italy and Germany, all doctors surveyed were dissatisfied, saying they wanted more digital activity, and a faster move away from the traditional modes of communication.

Source: IQVIA: Channel preference versus promotional reality: The core challenge of multichannel marketing

“Localising” to fit in with local regulations can be a tricky business, but fortunately there are marketing communication specialists who can help marketers and procurement teams to easily integrate campaigns across print and digital.

The benefits of listening and responding to this kind of feedback can be significant. Delivering campaigns more strategically can help break down silos and give back control of a brand. Companies can leverage from a global network of sourcing providers whilst still focusing on what matters, which is the customer and growth.

Compliance with national laws and pharmaceutical industry marketing codes is of course of utmost importance. While there is increasing convergence in standards globally, there remains considerable difference about what is permissible in different territories.

Keeping up to date with local codes is therefore essential. Check out this handyGuide to Pharma Marketing Codes and stay in the know.

2. Think Cultural…think transcreation

Research carried out by the Common Sense Advisory shows that 72% of customers in all industries spend most or all their time on websites in their own language. The same proportion said they would rather buy a product that is offered in their own language, while 57% say that information in their own language is more important than price.

With that in mind, translation is simply not enough when launching a campaign in multiple markets – really knowing the local market and cultural nuances is vital. Understanding and adhering to regulatory environments can be a headache – but ‘transcreation’ without the latest market insight and translation can be enough to stop any launch from succeeding.

But what is Transcreation? It is the adaption of a message from one language to another, whilst still maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. Once successfully transcreated it can evoke the same emotions and same meaning in the target language as it does in the original language. Transcreating campaigns brands can build trust amongst specific markets and is key for any company looking to build its reputation globally.

One very instructive case study of what can otherwise go wrong involved consumer healthcare product giant Procter & Gamble, and its first foray into selling its Pampers nappies in Japan.

The brand packaging featured an image of a stork delivering a baby – however the marketers had overlooked the fact that the folklore linking storks and babies was completely alien to Japanese culture. Whilst this imagery had been effective in the United States, sales were poor in Japan until the company discovered Japanese parents were concerned and confused by the stork branding, and changed it to something more culturally appropriate.

Keep this stork in mind when delivering your own messages. When localising your global to local campaign ask yourself:

  • How will my brand and product be perceived in the local market?
  • Have I researched my local target audience enough or do I need more local
  • Can I execute local adaptations from my global master campaign assets?
  • Are my brand guidelines and global toolkits fit for purpose for local execution?

3. Adapt multichannel strategies

As the industry’s multichannel marketing (MCM) strategies mature, it is vital to examine what marketers must do today and tomorrow to drive growth, in an ever evolving ‘digital first’ world.

And the upshot of having to market to different regions, customers and cultures is the adaptation of MCM becomes paramount. The different preferences and values for different stakeholders also mean that marketing strategies need to be properly coordinated across all channels.

For pharma, there is an evolution of multichannel marketing into touchpoints, with a real need for companies to remember that multichannel only works when you think customer first – rather than channel first.

When looking at your strategy questions to ask are:

  • How personalized is your customer communication?
  • How do they prefer to be communicated to?
  • What is their preferred channel of purchase or engagement with your brand?
  • How digitally mature are they?
  • How local can you be with that customer touch point?
  • How do you measure the effectiveness of one touch point versus another?

Answering these questions helps build customer personas which can then be specifically targeted using tailored marketing strategies.

4. Avoid ‘shouting louder’

But a coordinated multichannel approach doesn’t mean you can simply amplify the same message: bombarding customers with repetitive and sometimes unsuitable information only increases the chances of them becoming annoyed and disengaged.

Instead, communication preferences should be taken into consideration and engagement, language and focus should be tailored via those channels.

For example, a physician may be active on a certain digital media, say Twitter, but might nevertheless be unlikely to engage with the industry on that platform. Changing the channel and the message to focus on other metrics of success such as ‘brand building’ may complement direct communications rather than become another direct channel – but still support your global strategy.

In an age of exponential technological and regulatory evolution, pharma marketing is becoming an increasingly demanding discipline. For marketers, this process is magnified between regions, as healthcare and customer ecosystems vary hugely.

Despite the fresh challenges each region presents, following these rules for engagement will set any pharma marketer on the right path to greater impact and customer responsiveness.

Pharma industry case study

Read about how one leading global pharmaceutical company worked strategically with Williams Lea Tag to invest in a dedicated global creative production and print sourcing team to connect tactics across all regions. This provided brand control, speed to market, a 20% saving in sourced materials and a $35 million saving in creative production costs over time.

Schedule a call today to find out how Tag can support your brand’s creative production and sourcing needs.

Get in touch

Interested in working with us?

Contact us