This week marks the first-ever Cannes Lions Health festival -- signaling that creative in the highly regulated industries of health and pharmaceuticals is now competitive with creative in non-regulated markets. As we've seen with other regulated industries over the past year -- such as finance and alcohol -- innovation is exploding despite inherent challenges.
Here are some of the challenges marketers in these industries face: Compliance with government regulations limits opportunities for a brand to deliver its message and correct misinformation; internal governance often prevents participation in social media and the adoption of new technology; and institutions often lack the experience to better manage risk. Marketers in regulated industries experience this pain more acutely than those in non-regulated industries, because they are inherently constrained in how they can market from the onset.
While it may seem counterintuitive, innovation has exploded in the regulated fields of finance and other regulated markets due to two complementary factors. First, consumers are taking more control of their decisions around life's most important issues, such as money and health, through mobile and social media. This has shifted control from the brand to the consumer for the first time. And marketers in regulated industries -- who had largely been on the sidelines of digital and social innovation due to compliance issues -- have been able to watch and learn from the mistakes of their colleagues in less-regulated industries.
The following four changes have conspired to liberate marketing in regulated markets:
Data reveals consumer intent
This week alone, there is more than $1.8 billion in expressed intent about diabetes drugs. Over the past decade, one of the biggest breakthroughs in marketing has emerged: Marketers are now able to understand the intent behind conversations online -- where consumers are in their relationship to the brand, product or medical condition – and even where consumers are in their purchase decisions. These are the conversations that matter most, because they reveal when, where and how consumers are emotionally engaging with products online. In markets with high average order values, single conversations -- if they are the right ones -- carry enormous value. These insights also unlock the ability to meaningfully engage a consumer with the right message at the right time on the right channel beyond just social media.
Technology and compliance work together
Compliance and technology make fine bedfellows, particularly when technology is co-created by attorneys and chief risk officers in concert with marketers and technologists. Specific compliance requirements created by regulatory bodies for industries such as pharmaceuticals (FDA), financial services (FINRA) and toys (COPPA) give internal governance officers a system of checks and balances so they can partner more effectively with marketing on innovations. Important tasks such as incident reporting, data capture and financial disclosure can be solved through technology, allowing marketers to reach consumers with more accurate messaging.
Marketers get more experienced
Having cracked age-gating in the alcohol industry, adverse event reporting in pharma, and social lead generation in finance, marketers now have the experience to manage the entire social enterprise. Social playbooks by industry sector and geography exist. Enterprise assessments are more turnkey. Employee and customer training manuals are tightly articulated. In the right hands, and with this experience, we can even correlate social actions to the trial of new products.
Mapping the customer journey
Marketers increasingly recognize the shortcomings of advertising in today's elongated and less-linear customer journey. Decisions today are dominated by search, social and email, the holy trio of intent. Savvy marketers are now able to map the consumer or patient journey reactively and predictively, despite increasingly non-linear journeys. They can then create specific content within compliance standards to connect this journey with no dead ends. While it seems obvious, is there any reason an ad does not always drive to a URL or social domain?
Change arises out of necessity. Innovation in regulated markets has emerged because consumers rely more on online word-of-mouth, and less on traditional advertising. Already constrained by compliance, the island of marketing opportunities is shrinking. The emergence of social media carries the promise of a new social contract between brands and consumers -- a contract based on more reciprocal one-to-one communications.