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How empathy will drive the cultural shift in how pharma delivers meaningful experiences

16 Jul 2021

Over the past 20 years, I have played many different roles primarily on the creative agency side. While heading up digital strategy and production, I have had a lot of exposure to clients and client engagement. Telling a story in a different and compelling way, while also combining it with strategy and creative concepting is where my soul lives.

When I first met with Vivek Ghai (SVP of Enterprise Marketing and Customer Experience), he said "Tell me what your strengths are. How do you think you can help the most?" I had a hard time accepting this to some degree! Most companies hire for a specific role or put a square peg in a square hole. But here this was about finding talent that would add value, shaping the role around the talent, and letting it evolve into how best one can complement the team. We continued to discuss growth opportunities. While we were doing modular content well, the bigger challenge was that, as an industry, pharma has traditionally moved at a slower pace. The real transformation happening in other industries, with more programmatic, personalized, and dynamic content, has not yet happened here.

Why is this? The regulatory nature of what we do brings exponentially more complexities, which certainly contributes to the lag. Combining technology, willingness, and appetite, while taking the blinders off and doing personalized messaging in order to create a lot of content is completely a new and different way of thinking. It is a paradigm shift. Historically, pharma brands have talked “at” people. Now, we are asking them to talk “with” people. Talking with people means having empathy for the consumer and/or end-user and giving them what they need. It's more about them than it is about us. That is the shift in the industry.

Content is a huge part of this transformation. The model has always been one message to everyone. The opportunity is delivering personalized experiences that recognize individuals, a patient, an HCP, a caregiver, or whomever it is that needs to help. The end goal is to understand where they are at so that we can give them relevant information based on their experience(s). In the end, it is showing sensitivity to people and giving them a natural, intuitive, and informative choice. What does the consumer need? That is the “shift”.

The challenge is that this is a “very” different way of working. The transformation is not about everyone doing the same thing or a higher volume of content. This is about a real change in how the business, brands, and agencies work and work together. Yes, there is far more content to create. The opportunity is leveraging technology to help reduce the burden in the content creation and review process. Implementing technology and automation leads to greater consistency on a global scale. So, while the audience messaging is personalized and tailored, it is going to be less disjointed allowing brands to present themselves in a consistent manner.

The real question is, now that a brand has moved to a new way of working, how can they stand out above everyone else? How do you create a compelling level of engagement? Part of what is important is answering the “what.” What message do we send to who? What is the next best action? We cannot forget that we are in the “how” business as well. How do we produce content at scale? How do we know what to send to who? How do we send it? How do we differentiate the message? When a doctor engages with a sales rep, it leaves a lasting impression in the way they understand new or existing information. It is not just what we say, it is how we say it.

A couple of days ago, Michelle, from the Indegene HR team, sent me an email just to check-in, asking if I had settled in, and set up a meeting to discuss anything I needed. We tell brands to be empathetic and seeing that in action within the company, is unique for me. It is important to help nurture and breed. So, I am challenging myself to think and behave that way, because when we engage our clients in that same manner, we will also influence their marketing focus with empathy.

Traditional ad agencies have not been structured to develop content and content strategy at scale. They shine with all the above-the-line tactics—planning, strategy, and developing the big idea. The value they bring is in positioning the brand, developing the key messaging, and understanding the audience. That is their piece. We are starting to fill in the gaps. Brands need us to dig deeper into the content instead of just producing it. If brands and agencies can work in sync to recognize this, ultimately, brands will benefit by getting more value from each partner.

As a business, what we want to do at Indegene is to reduce the brand’s burdens. It is not just reducing the brand manager’s burdens. It is not just about our provided services, but it is also about the leadership we extend to help everyone make the best use of time and focus on doing what they do best.

This proposition is the same one Vivek brought to me when I joined Indegene. What do you do best? How can you add the greatest value to what you contribute? Our proposition is the same for everyone we work with as well. It is the same opportunity. How can we complement and support you so that you can spend your time doing what you do best? We can cover the rest with the right solutions.


Todd Lilly
Todd Lilly