I’ve (not that) recently started working in the health / pharma space. Over the last several months, I’ve learned a massive amount about the landscape, regulatory limitations, client mindset, and challenges that working in health brings, and I have to say it’s been very eye opening on several levels.
I thought it might be beneficial to others for me to outline WHY I’ve been enjoying working in health, and what I feel separates it from other types of marketing.
The Use Case:
Working in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), the use case and/or unique selling proposition is a constant struggle to define, justify, and prove. While each product (hopefully) has something that makes it unique and desirable, often this is more surface level, or trivial, than either the consumer or the marketer would like it to be. Most of the time in health, the use case is clear: you have a problem (serious or minor) and this treatment is aimed at fixing it. While this isn’t always the case, I find it intensely refreshing to KNOW (rather than assume) who our target is, and the know that there is a GOOD reason for them to be using the product in question.
Every form of marketing has rules, but health has more, and they often come with a bigger stick if you cross the line. While this can be limiting, I find it helps me be creative in terms of strategy - I need to think INSIDE a box, and solve a defined problem, rather than thinking outside the box, and coming up with anything that interests me. Rules can be irritating, especially in the case of FDA guidelines that leave a lot to interpretation, but they, for me, result in better thinking than having no rules at all.
Not to get preachy, but it’s nice to know that, in the best case, I’m working on helping someone become aware of something that could improve their life. Obviously, not every project is going to be saving lives, but being able to address the quality of life of someone with a chronic condition, or introduce an individual to a treatment that could significantly extend their life, counteracts the fairly common feeling that other people think marketing is evil. (That said, a significant number of people think pharma companies are evil, but that’s a conversation for a longer debate).
Pharma spends money. Because a very successful drug can be worth billions, campaigns can be massive, international, and truly integrated - generally, if the data supports a suggestion, and you can make a compelling argument it will move the needle, clients are interested in making it happen. While the health space is still somewhat hesitant when it comes to digital marketing and emerging channels, being able to think and execute at the scale of a leading pharma company is exciting, as a strategist.
That said, I don’t think that pharma is BETTER than other industries to work as a digital strategist, it’s just very different. And ‘different’ is often great criteria for a good learning experience.