The promise of the application of behavioral economics to Pharmaceuticals dominated the conversation at this year’s Pharma Market Research Conference in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Be it location (New Jersey), time of year (February) or just a great opportunity to connect with peers, PMRC continues to draw a robust audience of both supplier and client side attendees for two full days of learning, conversations and networking. Below are a few of the key topics and takeaways from this year’s conference.
The Allure of What People Can’t or Won’t Say
This year, a major theme of the conference focused on what could be done (and in a few cases, what IS being done) to understand what people can’t or won’t say about what they do by applying principles of behavioral economics and implementing new non-conscious measurement tools in the pharmaceutical market research space. In one session, a supplier-side expert shared the results of a recent study where they successfully measured consumers’ emotional response to print advertising concepts for a new pharmaceutical product. The speaker explained how adding non-conscious measurement tools (facial coding and eye tracking) to traditional qualitative interviews helped them evaluate the emotional connections with the ad and refine the concepts to maximize the ad’s effectiveness.
Other sessions on this topic focused more on what we should (or could) consider vs. what we are actually doing. While not as powerful as real ROI, these messages were useful and gave attendees solid ideas and strategies to consider and think about. For example, one speaker shared her belief that “Non-rational exploration in market research should be a lifestyle change, not a diet.” It is a great reminder that, even with physician research, it is important to consider how we can triangulate inputs to build more holistic insight. Specifically, this speaker highlighted the different inputs we should consider when designing research:
- Implicit association – uncover subconscious associations with new and old treatments
- What people “think, feel, and do”. – utilize more emotional projection techniques to assess beliefs around drugs
- It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear – uncover and understand gut reactions to messages and flow
The Importance of Linking Value and Price
Clive Meanwell, CEO of The Medicines Company, gave a stimulating keynote speech. Meanwell inspired and encouraged attendees to have an “undertaker spirit,” where we strive to think about how things can be done not only differently, but also better. In addition, he challenged attendees to look for new pricing strategies outside of pricing relative to competitors. Rather than view innovation and price as separate elements (or as elements at odds), Meanwell shared strategies for strengthening the value link through the involvement of paying customers in product development (focus on them as much as the using customer), defining value early (so that competitors don’t set the rules), and building and leading innovator teams that reflect customers’ teams.
We’re Still Working on Telling Stories with Insights
As in years past, several presentations focused on the role and importance of storytelling. In one presentation, speakers shared a real-world example of how they used core story tenants – character, plot, conflict, resolution, and theme – to design and execute market research to aid development of a behavior change program. The immersive research experience included observation of HCP-to-patient and patient-to-patient interactions, direct questioning of respondents, and evaluation of education approaches, messages, resulting behaviors, and of course, a lot of video footage! While not all projects are suited for this type of approach, it is certainly a challenge to consider what we can learn from YouTube, Netflix, and Instagram to better inform, engage, and enlighten our market research audiences when disseminating insights.
A provocative presentation titled “10 Things that Must be Retired from MR” identified several “tired” conventions that need to retire from the industry. One audience favorite was the call to eliminate and replace top-line deliverables with research listening tools and headline download sessions. Although top-line reports will probably not retire, it is evident that researchers need to consider more judiciously, whether a topline is necessary, or whether our teams will be better served by more engaged listening and collaboration.
Report read-outs also came under attack, and something we are all striving to improve as an industry. Today, there is a consistent challenge for market research to deliver output that creates empathy for the customer, stirs participation and debate, and inspires the team to align swiftly and boldly.
In a world where the data does not always sell itself, researchers are still tasked with helping marketers change customer behavior. It is important to clarify internal tension, highlight solutions, and create permission and occasion along with the concept of engagement – extending trust, sharing common values, and validating customer ideas. By holistically capturing motivations, behaviors, emotions, relationships, and context, researchers can provide truer insights that facilitate the process of changing customer beliefs.
The Need for Message Optimization and The Challenges it Brings
Message optimization can help marketing teams refresh brand stories and messages for an existing brand. A presenter highlighted the role of message optimization, filling the space between message development research and ongoing message effectiveness tracking (evaluating existing messages). In addition to sharing the approach and analytic tools used in the research, he provided three key reasons why companies should leverage message optimization:
- Longevity – a simulator deliverable can be created for exploration and revisions as messages plateau/mature
- Simple yet effective – does not require ‘going back to the drawing board’
- Leverages what you have – your current brand development and brand tracking work
Still present is the challenge of measuring total promotional effectiveness in a world where multiple modes of promotion (e.g., digital, conferences, journal articles, dinner programs, etc.) are used to expand and augment foundational efforts of pharmaceutical sales representatives. As the role of non-salesforce promotion continues to grow, the speakers advocate for a new framework of holistic measurement that includes evaluation of the source of information, as well as the information itself.