This week Manhattan Research released results from a new survey that showed that 26% of U.S. adults have used their mobile telephones to access health information on the Internet in the past 12 months. The release of such a statistic was a nice frame around the picture for Ex:Pharma’s 5th Annual Digital Pharma East Conference held this week in Philadelphia.
The turnout at the conference was quite large. More importantly, at this conference – more than any other I’ve attended – it appeared that there were more stakeholders who had a firmer grasp of what they need to be aiming for when it comes to digital communications.
In the past, conferences involved many discussions on whether Pharma can engage in digital, and more particularly, social media with patients. There was some of that in this conference, including one “unconference” session about whether or not the nature of the pharma industry is irreconcilable with the communications characteristics of social media – slow, closed, deliberate when faced with quick, open and spontaneous.
But much of the discussion went beyond whether the pharma industry should participate and appeared even to move beyond the discussion after “whether” which was often “how” to get started, though there was some of that as well. Rather, it appeared that the focus was more generally aimed at the “how” part – with a clear recognition that health care consumers have changed the game. In other words, if everyone has stopped listening to radio and is watching TV, what should we be putting on TV that they will like. Only in this case, they have stopped watching TV, and are now talking amongst themselves.
In short, the balance of power has clearly shifted from the communicator to the audience and industry – whatever industry – can only remain relevant to that consumer by moving with it. Failure to remain relevant means failure as exemplified most recently by Borders.
Not that the pharma industry is going to end up like Borders, but some within it are going to become more relevant to their audiences by providing the information and resources that audiences want, in the form that they want them – not by giving them DTC ads, but by giving them DTCR – direct to consumer resources.
This was perhaps best exemplified in an afternoon key note on October 19 at the conference from Ceci Zak and Joan Mikardos at Sanofi-Aventis. They introduced the concept that communications today must take a “SoLoMo” approach to be relevant. SoLoMo = Social – Local – Mobile.
Companies are no longer talking about “if” and “should” – from the appearances at the 5th Annual Digital Pharma East conference they are focused on the “how” – how to follow the healthcare consumer – not lead the healthcare consumer – to the water.
To that end, research such as was released this week by Manhattan Research sheds some light on that journey – sites must be mobile friendly. Those that aren’t – will lose. Those that are – will gain.