By Dentsu
Newsroom Editor

26 Apr 21

The blog was co-authored by Kent Groves, PhD, Global Head of Strategy, dentsu health and Olympia Mantsios, Director of Analytics

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we live, the way we think about the world around us and the way we market and communicate our brand message. Across the portfolio of health-related industries we have seen varying degrees of change, but among pharmaceutical manufacturers, marketers have had to dramatically rethink their communication strategies, particularly with Healthcare Professionals (HCPs), and accelerate the adoption of and migration to digital engagement strategy.  What was once considered Non-Personal Promotion (NPP) and was used to supplement to Personal Promotion (Pharmaceutical Representatives) or extend reach, is becoming the most prominent channel in the shadow of the pandemic.

Historically, NPP was considered a complementary tool used to reinforce the face to face or “personal” efforts of the sales force.  NPP communication, despite the non-personal nomenclature, was often targeted and addressed to an individual either via email, direct mail, fax or specialty delivery. This always seemed counter-intuitive to direct marketers, who considered NPP as a personal message that was customized based on historical brand engagement.  These definitions and interpretations have come full circle, as traditional and evolving methods of “NPP” are anything but non-personal.

 NPP in 2021

It was not long ago that all HCPs would receive the same communications, regardless of their stage in the brand journey. Although most marketers would use a channel mix of paid media, the underlying problem was that these communications typically did not include a personal level of interaction and engagement. Trialists, early adopters, loyalists and switchers (those who lost interest and stopped writing a brand) would all get the same message, frequency, content and channel mix. Recently, however, as more and more marketers move towards a customer centric approach, leveraging targeted segmentation and algorithms predicting what is the most appropriate communication to send to an HCP, NPP has truly become personal. Particularly as we think about it in the context of receiving the right message, about the right product at the right time, each HCP receives a message directed and relevant to them.

This approach, often referred to as trigger based marketing or next best action, is based on an open engagement or click through, a request for more information, delivery of patient material or the actual writing of a prescription. Additionally, we now need to recognize the inclusion of an e-detail or tele-engagement in the mix. As in person details continue to remain well below the baseline established pre-COVID, with oncology the lowest at 20%, primary care in the middle at 37%, and cardiologists the highest at 62%[1], alternative forms of engagement and detailing will continue to evolve, and be assigned an NPP label.  

With the disruption of the traditional sales rep call plan cycle and model, we need to acknowledge the that new mix of channels and tactics may be closer to personal communication than anything else we are likely to experience. It is also important to recognize that the COVID experience of 2020 is unlikely to be finite, and that its impact on HCP communications will not only endure, but may simply be a  pave the way for a new approach to HCP communications.

To this end, perhaps the time has come to re-assess personal and non-personal promotion, and to dive deeper into the engagement attribution of next best actions. Specifically, considering an individual’s stage in the adoption cycle, combined with channel propensity, engagement metrics, and key clinical personnel, and digital and real call plan activities, we suddenly find ourselves redefining “personal”, as we watch the sun go down on the golden age of NPP.   

[1] IQVIA, Monitoring The Impact of COVID 19 on the Pharmaceutical Market, March 12, 2021.

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