Pinterest: Another Tool or Another Headache?


By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

You know a new technology has reached the tipping point when clients start including it on their RFPs. As a digital veteran, I’ve seen it happen with social media like Facebook and Twitter, watched the emergence of app culture, and seen the ever growing demand for mobile support and responsive web design amongst our customers. Now the digital darling of the moment, Pinterest, has joined the (sometimes lengthy) list of platfoms brands want supported by their digital presence.

It makes sense. With a community of 12 million users and 1.36 million visits a day, the traffic alone would be enough to make marketers stand up and take notice. In fact, Pinterest is now the 16th most popular website in the United States. Combine that with attractive demographics (68.2% of site visitors are women and 44.7% of site visitors are between 18) and it’s easy to see why brands are coming calling.

But the very nature of Pinterest’s functionality makes it problematic for Pharma. If you haven’t used the site (I know a lot of folks who are still waiting for their invitation) let me give you a quick overview of how Pinterest works. Users are able to take graphics and “pin” them to various boards (usually based around an event or theme). Users can pin photographs of products they want, recipes they want to cook, or inspirational quotes, to give you just a few examples. Of course, this content is being taken out of it’s original context and placed with other material who’s only relation is the theme or subject identified by the “pinner”. Clicking on the graphic usually links back to the original site.

The problem for Pharma should be glaringly obvious. Forget the copyright issues that Pinterest has been addressing on a daily basis. It’s all about COMPLIANCE, COMPLIANCE, COMPLIANCE. The inherent functionality of the site is completely at odds with fair balance regulation and those of us who’ve been involved in the endless “one click” discussions surrounding digital know that this is the kind of use that gives the FDA conniption fits. It’s also the ultimate surrender of control to the consumer as there is very little a brand can do to control the way users repurpose their content.

That’s not to say that Pinterest is a total “No Man’s Land” for Pharma. I could see smart marketers creating really compelling boards featuring patient’s cancer recovery stories or healthy foods that would help control Type 2 diabetes. But it requires a lot of thought and planning, as well as someone who can walk it through JRC and calm down a roomful of marketers.

So, if you’re the person authoring your company’s next digital brief, I’d suggest thinking it through thoroughly before adding this latest digital hot ticket to your marketing plans.

Has anyone taken the plunge yet? Does anyone know of Pharma or healthcare marketers who have taken the plunge?

If you’re wondering if you should give it a try, the infographic below is a good guideline for deciding if Pinterest is right for you:





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