Can We Fix Pharma’s Trust Issues?

Catch My Fall

By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

Who do you trust?

That’s always been a big question when it comes to healthcare. And it’s a big question in the world of social media (heck, Chris Brogan even entitled his book, Trust Agents). So it makes sense that Pharma would be focussed on social media as a means to build consumer trust.

But are we focussing on the right things? While there are numerous examples of individual drugs being marketed or promoted via social media, trust in these products does not necessarily build consumer confidence in companies or the Pharma industry as a whole.

Let’s pull back a second an look at who consumers really trust in this country. Advertising Age’s list of the top 10 most trusted brands reads as follows:

  1. Google
  2. Johnson & Johnson
  3. Intel Corporation
  4. General Mills
  5. Kraft Foods
  6. Berkshire Hathaway
  7. 3M Company
  8. Coca-Cola Company
  9. Honda Motors
  10. Microsoft

Only one Pharma company makes the top 10? People trust the makers of search engine software, Post It notes and sugar water more than the people who are manufacturing drugs that save their lives? Does anyone else see the disconnect here?

Ultimately, there’s a lot we can learn by looking at this list. Berkshire Hathaway is on that list largely to the tireless media efforts of Warren Buffett. he has made himself the public face of his company and created personal brand equity that creates a “halo effect’ for the BH brand.

I would argue that J&J is second to none in their community outreach efforts. They not only “walk the walk” but they are smart enough to “talk the talk” through efforts like the JNJBTW blog. But J & J is not just a Pharma company and they do get a lot of their brand equity through non-Pharma brands.

J & J is smart enough to provide a lot of value for consumers but they fall a distant second to Google, who literally give their fast, simple and reliable product away to millions of consumers. How’s that for creating value?

Most of these companies take a very different approach to consumer marketing than Pharma traditionally has. When was the last time a company like Pfizer or Merck pointed out the reliability and high quality of the products it manufactures? Or talked about how those products have changed the world? Why can’t innovations in drug research be seen as positively as breakthroughs in industrial chemistry or computer technology? Why can’t we move away from the current DTC model of improving quality of life with specific treatment to a more general approach to healt and well being with Pharma companies as trusted partners?

With more and more drugs coming out of patent protection and the growing availability of cheap foreign imports, it’s more imperative than ever that Pharma companies form bonds and create brand loyalty with their consumers.

This isn’t meant to be a rant because I believe that this is an easily achievable goal. All of the content needed to achieve this change in perception is already available. it simply requires us to take a different approach to communicating with consumers. And it requires someone to step up and be first.

Will your company be the pioneer? What value or services can you provide consumers to get that trusting relationship started?

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