You would have to be living under a rock not to have seen the news about Google and flu tracking. Google looked for and "found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. " The way it works is that they aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in each state. This makes the surveillance information available up to two weeks faster than traditional means. It is an incredible public service. It is also a mighty flex of research muscle, and should be lighting up the minds of those who do marketing for pharmaceutical companies.
Yesterday I had the privilege of returning to Google to attend their third annual Health Think. I would say it is probably the most important meeting for anyone involved in communications and marketing vis a vis medical products that I can think of (and not just because I was a speaker, but of course, that factors in there).
While there I not only spoke and provided my insights, but I learned as well. I learned A LOT about Google analytics and the enormous degree to which those analytics can do amazing things, such as the flu tracking mechanism so much the news of yesterday.
Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of Occam’s Razor as well as Web Analytics – An Hour a Day was the speaker before me. Some of his slides were an epiphany when it comes to the amazing things you can accomplish with tools that are already on the Internet and are free for use, to see who is using a site, coming from where, to accomplish what and what it all means.
It was an important start for my own presentation, which centered on the fact that the policy environment is about to change the way pharmaceutical and biotech products are marketed in the U.S. The new Congress is going to substantially change DTC and outreach to physicians by curbing DTC and intervening in the relationships companies have with doctors through medical societies and CME sponsored credits. Coincident with that prediction is the fact that more and more people are using digital to make healthcare decisions and take actions – a communications revolution, frankly. The increasing inability of newspapers to make a profit and attract advertisers serves as evidence of the diminishing role of print and broadcast in favor of digital.
That makes it vital that now, more than ever, the kind of analytics that Google applied to the Google Flu tracking be utilized in market research so that companies can plan now for the changes that are going to occur and that will greatly change the vast array of marketing tools now at the disposal of marketers – tools that should not be taken for granted and that are going to need the advantages that digital analytics can provide.
I had a lot of fun at Google. I got a Google pen! Next time, I am aiming for a T-Shirt.