Thinking Globally About Pharma

By DJ Edgerton

Parag Khanna has nothing to do with this blog.

He’s a political scientist – writer, think-tanker, media pundit. He’s been to half the countries on the planet, speaks six languages, ends up on a laundry list of “impressive people to watch” lists, and is generally a thoroughly impressive individual. So, yeah, so far, nothing at all in common with this blog. But, kidding aside, his short talk at TED made me think.

(If you don’t know, TED is a 25-year-old nonprofit that “brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes” – definitely worth watching.)

Khanna’s talk discussed the increasing irrelevance of international borders. He explains that national sovereignty is, today, more often being compromised by trade imbalances than by overt violence. And he argues that the lines that the global community needs to focus on are not the boundary lines themselves, but infrastructure lines like oil pipelines and railways that cross national boundaries.

This advice shouldn’t just be for sociologists and politicians – it needs to be taken by all of us in the pharmaceutical industry too. Because it’s what’s happening.

If you look at lists of the biggest pharma companies, the US has many more spots than any other country. But it’s definitely not a monopoly.

Even more telling, check out this WHO list of the biggest pharmaceutical markets. The top 10 include North America, Asia, Europe and South America – and that data is nine years old.

This is nothing new to any of us. We operate globally.

However, are we too locked into our world-map mindset? I’d argue that we are, especially given Khanna’s convincing points. We have to start thinking think more comprehensively about the people we’re trying to reach, defining them beyond the one country they must select in a drop-down box.

What can you do to think more about cultural mindsets and less about nationalities? How can you address your customers’ self-selected personal interests, not just their check-one-box ethnicities?

This is where digital media – home of the niche market – can be most fluent. You can measure by geographic location all you want, based on ISP, but you can also offer as many personalized experiences, as many re-prioritized lists – as many fluid personalizations as you and your patients need or want.

Can you think of three new ways to think about your end users today?



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