Comment: Five Digital Marketing Trends that will Shape the OTC Industry in 2018

Published on: 8 March 2018


Guest blog from Hayden Allen-Vercoe, COO at PAGB Associate Member, Orbital Media

The area of technologies that enhance the marketing function is an incredibly exciting place to be right now. Although, the searing pace of change makes it incredibly challenging to interpret!

Here is a quick guide to five key trends that we predict will shape the OTC industry this year.

Orbital Media

Immersive Realities to educate

The opportunities for training healthcare professionals (HCPs) and consumers via virtual reality (VR) are literally mind blowing! However, cost, accessibility and the need for skilled operation of premium hardware, is hindering growth right now. Conversely, mobile accessible augmented reality (AR) is really starting to gain traction, growing in importance within the promotional and educational spheres of the OTC industry.

AR is defined as a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, through a mobile device, thus providing a composite view. The most well-known use of AR to date, has been Pokemon Go, which subliminally encouraged millions of kids into exercise, via their search for elusive Pikachoose!

As an OTC brand marketer, one of the biggest challenges is inspiring trade buyers and educating HCPs, in a memorable way. AR and VR will help you achieve this, differentiating from competitors, whilst presenting your brand as contemporary and providing added value. Underpinning this is a growing body of research suggesting these technologies promote far superior levels of engagement and product recall.

Artificial intelligence (AI) SPY

Predictions of an AI revolution have abounded for years, and whilst some of us shudder at the thought of an army of terminator style robots taking our jobs and wiping the entire human race out of existence, others see the advent of industry disrupting opportunities for marketers.

Expect far more concrete ‘prediction data’ around markets, which will allow for better planning and promote more focused marketing spend. A raft of premium AI platforms is predicted to gradually remove some of the guesswork around media and marketing planning.

Another key aspect of AI is the emergence of chatbots, which can already be utilised via generic offerings from the likes of Facebook (with limitations). Used and developed in the right way, bespoke chatbots can be programmed to understand specific market conditions and help sell your product whilst you sleep! Further to this, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp are developing as customer service channels, while brands start to steer customer communications away from costly call centres.

A further aspect to consider is that the rapidly growing market for interactive speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home will offer significant, patient connectivity opportunities. Further to this, there are already some interesting predictions for the potential of contextual advertising within both Alexa and Home, which could create unique marketing opportunities, precisely at the exact point of need!

There’s more to social marketing than Facebook

Whilst Facebook may be the largest social network and one of the easiest to manage in terms of brand promotions, Mark Zuckerberg’s recent commitment to throttle back the barrage of ‘fake news’ and take the platform back to its ‘family roots’ is an important one to note.

No doubt many of us will shudder at the thought of seeing what our friends had for breakfast once again. Nonetheless, there are some key takeaways to build into future social marketing strategies;

  1. Primarily the growing importance of Facebook Live video in generating organic or free reach to target users
  2. The quality of content will be key moving forward. This starts with the creation of original / high value adding contributions and a marked increase in journalistic quality
  3. Other social networks will receive greater attention and emphasis – it was interesting to note Twitter’s share price rose on Zuckerberg’s announcement!
  4. Brands that currently use ‘click bait’ content and incentivised competitions will probably suffer some reductions in user reach and engagement
  5. Facebook remains the dominant social network by some way, but the tectonic plates are moving, with Instagram in particular, benefiting from a demographic shift. Other social networks will certainly try to capitalise on any changes in brand activity.

GDPR is here

GDPR come into full force on 25th May 2018, with fines up to €20m or 4% of a company’s global income, for failing to adhere. The repercussions are serious, with compliance likely to fall squarely within the marketing department’s area of responsibility.

Marketers live and die by the quality of customer data held; from names, addresses, posts on social media sites, even IP addresses etc. GDPR is perceived as potentially good news for the consumer, regulating how our personal data is shared. However, for the marketer, there are a variety of added complications to factor into any activity.
Key points to consider are (please note that this is not an exhaustive list):

Our advice for marketers is audit existing data/systems and prepare in good time for the advent of the GDPR regulations. Get your opt-in statements right, secure your data and have a record of how you obtained it. Be ready to share data if requested by the consumer and remember that the data subject has the right to be forgotten, so, be ready to erase data if requested.

Embracing the Blockchain

At its heart, Blockchain allows information to be stored and distributed, but not copied. It is the ultimate peer-to-peer network.

With stringent consumer healthcare regulations in place here in the UK, the potential for quality and safety issues occurring have been high enough to put many brands off investing in marketing strategies, which obviously reduces opportunity for profits.

However, distributed Ledger Technology, otherwise known as the Blockchain, is likely to solve this issue and will start to gain further traction in 2018 as marketers wake up to the cost saving opportunities.

A Blockchain is essentially a ledger of data that can’t be deleted, modified or tampered with, in any way. A company or organisation implementing Blockchain will always be able to see the provenance of their products, from source to consumer. By implementing this technology, which can easily be integrated into most current enterprise systems, the cost savings can be significant.

Brands are already saving small fortunes in legal fees by being able to prove immutably, that goods are counterfeit and that their internal compliance and safety checks were in place and conducted with correct and proper diligence. It is hard to see why any business anywhere in the world would not integrate this technology into their everyday business practices and processes.

Blockchain technology can also be used to hold creditors and debtors to account by the use of Smart Contracts. A Smart Contract is an immutable agreement between two or more parties, in which funds are only released when predetermined milestones are hit. This ensures that payment is only released for example when goods are received or terms of an agreement are met. This is all done without the need for an escrow provider, saving companies millions of pounds and removing human error from the transaction process.

Our prediction is that the Blockchain will start to gain wide adoption in 2018 and will be deemed Web 3.0, transforming the way that we do business forever.

About the company and author:

Hayden Allen-Vercoe is the COO of Orbital Media, a digital marketing and technology business embracing new technologies that benefit the marketing function. Orbital Media operates extensively within the consumer healthcare market. Orbital Media is an Associate Member of PAGB.

This blog post first appeared in the March edition of PAGB’s member e-newsletter Spotlight.