Does an Effective Corporate Website Really Matter?
In April this year, Bowens Craggs & Co released their 2012 6th annual ‘FT Bowen Craggs Index’. The index, which attempts to measure the effectiveness of corporate websites across the FT Global 500 organizations, is seen as a benchmark piece of analysis and covers everything from multi-lingual content to mobile accessibility. This year for the first time, pharmaceutical heavyweights such as AstraZeneca, P&G, Sanofi and GSK all appeared in the top 25, with Roche and Novartis appearing in the top 10.
On the surface, it seems as if the pharma industry has gotten its act together when it comes to digital communications.
But is this really true? Has the industry come to grips with digital, or is that just an illusion?
Well, yes and no.
The truth of the matter is that an effective corporate presence isn’t really a benchmark of effective digital marketing, and for one very simple reason: in pharma, marketing yourself is much easier than marketing your product. When dealing with corporate messaging, all the difficulties of digital marketing fade away. We no longer have to worry about the regulatory pressures of ensuring that products aren’t marketed direct to patients, since there’s no product being marketed. Social media goes from being a minefield to a playground, as companies can engage their audience with stories of corporate responsibility - from global health programs to protecting the environment - and their investors with information on stock prices and corporate performance. It’s all good, positive and safe fare, and it’s marketing the way that pharma companies want to market, using the same multi-channel approach as their consumer cousins in the field of fast-moving consumer goods.
Pharma organizations still face considerable challenges in making digital work for them when it comes to product marketing. High levels of regulation (in the UK even more than in the US) makes the industry nervous about taking risks and, ultimately, about innovating. As I discussed in the post ‘Pharma and Facebook - Gone for Good?,’ this regulation has effectively halted progress in using Facebook, even though companies would like to. Twitter involves the same challenges, as the potential consequences of dialogue with health care professionals and patients - a scenario in which the rules governing pharma marketing are easily broken - are not seen as worth the investment of time and personnel.
There's a light at the end of the tunnel, though, and it comes in the form of a closed digital platform rather than an open one. Tablets, especially the iPad, are providing the platform for innovation without the risks usually associated with digital. That's because access to the material is tightly controlled through reps, mitigating risk. As Sharon Florentine wrote in ‘iPads in Pharmaceutical Marketing’, these devices are becoming more and more important within the health care professional community, providing pharma with a remarkable opportunity. iPads are allowing pharmaceutical companies to flex their digital creativity and create engaging materials that provide real value to professionals.
The question now is, can the industry find a way to use this as the basis for effective digital marketing for patients, as well?