Today's Brand Planning Puts Customer Experiences at Risk in Pharma

Executive Summary

Marketers at large pharmaceutical companies can’t determine if their brand plans fulfill their digital potential with customers, as most disregard the basic planning exercises needed to produce a comprehensive digital brand plan. This negligence has several causes, including confusion about compliance requirements, available resources, and strategic intent. While digital and marketing leaders have an arsenal of tactics they can deploy to change marketers’ behavior, they must ultimately take responsibility for simplifying digital marketing. Making digital marketing execution less complex will motivate marketers to improve their brand plans, eventually contributing to the creation of better customer experiences.

Companies mentioned in this report: AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Ferring, Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, ViiV Healthcare.

Digital Brand Plan Excellence Remains Elusive

As digital technology transforms customers and channels, pharmaceutical firms’ internal processes, especially brand planning, need to keep pace. Modern marketing teams must adapt and evolve their traditional methods if they hope to future-proof these processes. One way for firms to succeed at digitally optimizing processes such as brand planning is to follow best practices. To understand how well pharma firms are maximizing the digital marketing potential with customers, we surveyed thirty-one marketers about their brand plans and the process behind it. We found that:

  • Marketers disregard digital brand planning. While nearly all of the marketers we surveyed found it very important to know if their brand plan maximizes the digital marketing opportunity, less than half actually know how well they’re doing (see Figure 1). When we asked marketers ten specific questions about how well their brand planning process applies to the digital opportunity—like “Does your budget take the
    post-launch optimization of digital assets into account?”—very few could answer more than one (see Figure 2). Marketers seemed most confident that their brand plan clearly represents the customer opportunities in the digital space. However, just six of the thirty-one marketers review the quality of their interactions with customers—a strong sign of complacency in their efforts to optimize their brand in a digital world (see
    Figure 3).
  • Negligence threatens customer experiences. Very few of the twenty marketers who were convinced that their brand plans clearly reflect the digital opportunities actually implement any best practices to exploit those opportunities. For example, few could identify channel preferences or list their competitors’ digital offerings (see Figure 4). Challenges exist not only in brand plan creation, but also in its execution. The vast majority of marketers felt that the process to improve their current digital assets was unnecessarily elaborate; just six had sufficient resources to do so. Until these brand planning process and organizational flaws are fixed, marketers will jeopardize the digital opportunity and keep poor customer experiences alive.
  • CDOs and CMOs must help marketers want to go digital There are plenty of tactics to persuade marketers to optimize digital marketing. Adding customer journey mapping and touchpoint optimization to brand planning, creating incentives and reward schemes for well-executed digital plans, and instituting training programs haveall shown good results. While these methods shift marketers’ behavior, CDOs and CMOs should also make the simplification of digital marketing execution a priority. One global oncology team found that technical and regulatory procedures hindered brand managers’ efforts to update portal content, so it analyzed every step and eliminated any that were not essential. This kind of simple analysis is a good place for any pharma firm to start.


DT Consulting fielded its Q2 2016 Brand Planning survey to thirty-one marketing and brand team members selected based on two criteria. Respondents demonstrated interest in and familiarity with digital capabilities as part of their role in a pharmaceutical organization and had direct or indirect ties to their firm’s brand planning and marketing departments. We fielded the survey from April 2016 to June 2016. Respondent incentives included a copy of a report containing the collected survey data prior to publication.

Our sample is not guaranteed to be representative of the population. Unless otherwise noted, data is intended for descriptive purposes. DT Consulting fielded its survey using an online survey tool following a personal invitation by email.


Tim van Tongeren crc

Tim van Tongeren

Managing Partner

Tim has worked for more than fifteen years with commercial leaders to navigate their strategic and organizational transformations required to thrive on digital technology change. In his current role as Managing Partner, he leads DT’s Solutions and Consulting offerings to advise the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms on how to best achieve customer experience success through digital transformation.

Dennis van Rooij

Managing Partner

Dennis is a recognized expert on how pharmaceutical executives can take full advantage of new digital technologies to bolster their business objectives. He brings a strategic yet pragmatic perspective on digital transformation for the pharmaceutical industry…
Dennis van Rooij crc

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