Mind the generation gap in pharma marketing and market research

Image of four people communicating via different mediums to depict mind the Generation Gap in pharma marketing

Industry came together to explore the impact of the generation gap in pharma marketing and market research at BHBIA’s summer event.

Different generations have always had preferences in the way they communicate but in the world of marketing, what does this mean for speaking with our customers? The BHBIA’s flagship summer event convened to gain leading-edge insight on business intelligence activities which drive generational adaptive marketing. Perspectives were offered from market researchers, digital agencies and manufacturers who explored the dos and don’ts of interacting with customers across generations.

The aim was to offer different perspectives of how engage customers in pharma, marketing and data/intelligence, exploring in a variety of ways and discussing new technologies, media and the differences across generations.

Communication across the generations

Andres Escobar, Business Development Director and Rachel Richardson, Project Director at M3 explored their research on healthcare market research for millennials and generation Z. As telemedicine revolutionises the doctor-patient interface, millennial and generation Z medics are quietly transforming the way the NHS needs to work. Andres and Rachel explored how lifecycle and age can impact on people’s view of work, and how environment can also affect many people at particular stages of life. When applied to market research they shared a wealth of insights concluding that all groups want research to be kept short and simple.

Generation gap research strategies

Laura McDonald and Bors Hulesch of Brains and Cheek described their challenges and successful techniques for adapting market research methodologies to cope with generational differences. They explained that there are differences between the generations and market researchers don’t tend to talk to all groups, adding that technology is key in differentiating generations.

Laura and Bors were clear that when is comes to market research, one size does not fit all, instructions need to be clear and start with the basics. It’s important not to assume that everyone knows how to use technology, navigate a website or complete the research. They concluded that mixed methodologies that are adapted for different audiences are ideal.

Think content not channel

Neil Osmond of earthware presented a digital agency perspective on bridging the generation gap. Neil was clear that industry should build solutions that any generation can access and benefit from. This involves not making assumptions on generations, from the devices they use to the way they engage. He added that it’s important to not ‘think channel’ but to ‘think content’ instead, because if the content isn’t up to scratch, the channel will make no difference at all.

Multi-channel approach

Paul Dixey, multi-channel lead for Novartis UK asked delegates whether it should be multi-channel, multi-content or multi-customer. Reiterating Neil’s point, Paul explained that there’s no point thinking about the channel if you’re not thinking about what to do with it. Adding, whatever the channel, organisations are successful because of the content in those channels, and that is content which works across the generations. He declared that: “Content is king whatever channel it is in.”

In order for content to be good, it’s essential to really understand the customer. To do so, industry must look beyond the statistics and data, to consider what really matters to the customer. Ultimately, people want a solution and to deliver that it’s important to understand what they’re trying to achieve.

When sharing content through digital channels, Paul advised that pharma still has work to do to understand it, be open to it and be flexible. He added that multi-channel strategies need to be strategies not just information piled on top. He explained that healthcare professionals are working digitally, meaning they need clear, concise access to relevant information on a particular disease or drug quickly.

Top tips

Other top tips from the event include:

  • Content needs to be relevant, timely, impactful and trusted as well as simple.
  • Industry needs to concentrate on the spot between what they want to say and what customers want to hear.
  • Marketing is about the content and stories you tell, not what you make anymore.
  • Compliance is an issue. It can be hard to put into practice, takes tough decisions and tenacity, but can be done.
  • Avoid generational generalisations.
  • Don’t dismiss other ways of doing things because you don’t understand them, take the time to learn what you don’t know in order to move forward.
  • Social listening needs to be a key part of the process.

The final session of the day explored ethics and compliance, with particular focus on legal and ethical guidelines, data protection, market research and GDPR, Brexit and more.

The BHBIA event opened up a wide range of discussions around engaging with different generations and the channels and content necessary to do that effectively.


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