Since the Web was won, the pharmaceutical industry has been grappling with the digital handling of fair balance, adverse event reporting, and reputation management. The rapid rise of social and earned media—and now the exponential growth of mobile—have compounded the challenges facing pharma marketers, continuously forced to message through channels devoid of formal guidance.
Preferring to enter the fray as a close second, most companies wait for one of their competitors to take the lead, and of course incur all the risks. But one bold firm has stepped forward to drive the digital health charge, spearheaded by a maverick eMarketing expert eager to do whatever it takes to engage healthcare constituents on their own terms, in a manner they’ve come to expect from other verticals.
“I feel that my strong background in Flash animation and children’s books makes me uniquely qualified as a healthcare marketer,” insists Rustam “Rusty” Yunus, a Ukrainian émigré poised to transform US pharmaceutical marketing. Newly anointed as Global Marketing Officer of Phearless Pharmaceuticals located in Lake Forest, California, Mr. Yunus takes an unabashed approach to engagement.
Starting with ideas digital health communicators have been incessantly blogging, tweeting, consulting, strategizing, conference breakout sessioning, and generally racking up endless billable hours about, Rusty takes the chatter to a whole new level, and actually implements these recommendations into a fully baked product launch scenario. “Charlie Sheen is my hero, and as we both say ‘Bring it!’”
Rustam Yunus of Phearless Pharma ordering a cheeseburger while planning the future of healthcare marketing.
So in lieu of formal FDA social media or mobile health guidance, Rusty has embraced real time two-way communication, user-generated content, and the seamless response to unsolicited, off-label requests for truthful, non-misleading, and scientifically accurate information. “You think I’m crazy, don’t you? But why must this be so, when all this is technically legal and in the best interests of public health?”
Going beyond mere ideation, he has redesigned the company’s infrastructure at Phearless Pharma to take on all the necessary social media messaging, monitoring, and management responsibilities. “I come from a nation of Five-Year-Plans and shuddering bureaucracy,” smiles Rusty, “so I know what it takes to cut through the corporate clutter, and sometimes get things done in the real world.”
The Global Marketing Officer of Phearless Pharma engineers his launch strategy, which coincidentally looks a lot like the blueprints for a house in Siberia.
With these new systems in place, at least on paper, Rusty beams with the confidence to do what no pharma marketer has ever done before: To actually engage patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, advocacy organizations, and other relevant constituents with a genuine opportunity to transparently discover, discuss, and share treatment options in a manner that could lead to optimal patient outcomes.
“America is a fascinating place,” insists Rusty. “Potato chip and soda pop companies are encouraged to crowdsource new flavors and speak directly to their customers, but the producer of a substance that could save a person’s life or help alleviate their suffering cannot so openly communicate with either the person receiving these amazing solutions, or the professional trained to prescribe them. Weird!”
Mr. Yunus conducts pharmacological research on the patio of his 2-bedroom apartment in Lake Forest, CA, hoping to develop his own treatment solutions.
Under his leadership, Phearless Pharma now sponsors branded Facebook Timelines with open fields, mobile apps with patient-to-HCP and even patient-to-patient interactivity, live mentor programs, a corporate Twitter profile that actually interacts with other users, and pay-per-click ads containing both drug names and their respective indications. “That last move might have taken us over the edge…” admits Rusty.
Now a fugitive somewhere in New Mexico, Rusty nonetheless stubbornly clings to the extreme notion that the manufacturers and distributors of chemicals, devices, and services that help save and improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people worldwide will some day be able to meaningfully communicate with those who need such benefits the most. “I’m still a dreamer,” he says from an undisclosed location.
Happy April Fools’ Day from Pixels & Pills! But in all seriousness, when will these idealistic thoughts become reality? (Hopefully before our friend Rusty gets deported…)