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To Refresh or Not Refresh: The Value of Monitoring Campaign Wear Out


It is well-known within the pharmaceutical industry that one of the key elements in a company’s competitive strategy is the ability to effectively manage the promotional mix. The promotional mix is most often comprised of a combination of personal selling, digital marketing, direct marketing, events and meetings, and professional journal advertising among various physician segments.

In fact, the idea of integrated marketing communications (IMC) is now being adopted by many companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. This framework implies that companies must take a cohesive marketing approach for all communications touchpoints so that the physician is exposed to a consistent story about the brand or company. HCD Research has extensive experience in testing new campaign concepts having tested more than 150 concepts in the last several years.

Despite the proliferation of DTC advertising and digital marketing, results consistently demonstrate that detailing and journal advertising have a positive and significant effect on the number of prescriptions written. However, closer examination of the effectiveness of these media has shown that among various physician segments, there is a “wear out” effect, or better stated, diminishing returns on responsiveness to a specific campaign. Generally speaking, campaigns that take advantage of an IMC approach are more impactful at delivering key selling messages. However, as physicians become more and more familiar with a product, they have less of an incentive to thoroughly review ads or other promotional material.

Strategic marketing research programs can help pharmaceutical companies understand how to best balance the effectiveness of an IMC campaign, post and pre launch, and determine at what point there is message wear out, or even potential carry over effects. When diminishing returns have been identified, it may be time to implement a creative refresh as long as it is aligned with the overall branding strategy. Marketing researchers should avoid treating promotions or advertisements as strictly new individual materials. They should think about how materials can fit into the overall integrated marketing communications framework to provide incremental benefits from previous efforts.

Rather than implementing comprehensive campaign changes, which may or may not produce short-term gains — the long-term branding strategy should be reinforced. The plan may consist of logos, headlines, taglines, graphics, personas, icons, etc. that continues to strengthen the brand’s unique positioning. Marketing professionals should consider campaigns as long-term investments with quantifiable metrics that are correlated to the brand’s equity over time in order to make a lasting impression on a target audience.

This does not suggest that pharmaceutical marketers should invest in executing the same campaign without any changes. However, it does suggest that a continuity plan, one that builds the brand over time as a unique entity, without huge radical changes, may have longer-term effects on the bottom line. Until there are significant diminishing returns, and it has been proven using quantifiable marketing research that an ad or promotional element has lost its effectiveness in communicating the intended messages, should changes be implemented in the promotional plan.

In summary, strategic marketing research can be used to effectively make decisions on diminishing returns of promotional materials while the campaign is in-market. When a campaign is exhibiting wear out, using a research tool such as HCD AdverTrak for campaign management and monitoring can help marketers ensure that the overall branding strategy is supported and equity will continue to incrementally build over time.

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