Channel Optimization in Pharma Marketing: 60 Seconds

The following is an interview conducted by Channel Optimization in Pharma Marketing and Hanson Wade with BK Digital Founder Bryan Kaye.

Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking to Bryan Kaye, CEO & Founder at BK Digital, who is passionate about helping pharma and healthcare industry to understand, embrace and implement a variety of digital and social tactics to increase customer engagements.

Recognizing the challenges of integrating digital and social innovation in a highly regulated pharma sector, Bryan launched BK Digital as a catalyst to foster progressive disruption within the industry. He’s been helping multi-national organizations including Eli Lilly, Janssen, Merck, Mylan, Novartis and many others to transform their best practice.

HW: You’ve been in the industry for 12 years now, how would you describe your journey so far? And can you tell us more about BK Digital?

BK: Working in healthcare has offered an amazing opportunity to help those who need it most, bringing unique insights, innovative ideas and most importantly, a practical approach to a crowded, challenging landscape. Digital and social media keeps us on our toes. It can be like riding a rollercoaster with a constantly changing track ahead. We feel on solid ground today and we know twists, loops, and barrel rolls are coming, but we don’t know when or where. There’s always a way things can work, and if we stick to what we can control – content – it can work very well, regardless of the changes in store. We’ve learned we can’t rely on platforms like Facebook to remain the same.

What we do is fast-moving, dynamic, complex and very personal. In social, what we say and how we say it is key to audience-centricity, and understanding technology is critical to getting that message out.

Over the last dozen years, we’ve seen platforms and technology come and go, with the most successful channels continuing to evolve. While the industry continues to search for the next big thing, before moving on, we must solidify our foundations – prove our approach is showing success, optimize our core channels and move to new channels only when we’re ready. In digital, it’s so important that we let experts play their roles and work together as a team. BK Digital has specialists in each of the many fields of digital, and what makes us unique is the freedom we have to fully apply our expertise. We are coordinated against a strategy to ensure what we are doing is functionally possible and establishes a roadmap to be set up for success both now, and with the flexibility to adapt to twists and turns to come.

Social is a behavior and our health is inherently social. We discuss our health with friends, family and even those with similar experiences online. As digital and social become more streamlined in our everyday lives, the devices and the information communicated to doctors and patients must be navigated with precision to offer the best experience for your target audience…Understanding technology is critical to getting that message out.

HW: Digital disruption has been huge – we’ve been hearing buzzwords such as digital patient engagement, virtual reality, chat box and omnichannel in pharma marketing. That said, pharma has a lot more constraints and limitations compared to other sectors such as FMCG and retail. What are the barriers to implement these? And how can we turn these technologies into advantages to drive patient/ HCP engagements?

BK: There are tremendous strides being made in technology and the complexity often leads to constraints based in fear vs. actual risk, presenting unnecessary barriers to success. Further, we continue to see aspects of digital silo’d within agencies and organizations, representing the very foundation of those barriers. Often, even if regulatory approves, the operations or strategy simply aren’t there for adequate support.

It is critical that we work hand in hand with web, mobile, social, ad and regulatory teams with the common understanding that digital is necessary, all-inclusive and the limitations created by culture, structure or fear – especially those without rationale – may not only result in wasted money but abandonment of digital/social efforts, setting us further back in time.

It’s important to get the basics right before we think about buzzwords, yet so often, buzzwords dominate the conversation. Buzzwords can mean change, but change is always occurring, and we must remain steady. When we begin to treat buzzwords as a true path forward, we overlook what’s right under our nose, often further complicating an already confusing set of options.

HW: When we think about ‘marketing channel optimization’ – most people immediately relate that to social media, websites. Is the face-to-face sales rep approach coming to an end? And how important is it to tie ‘digital’ with physical marketing channels?

BK: While nothing replaces human to human interaction, “sales” brings with it a certain perception. At the least, we can complement the sales rep with tools we literally have at our fingertips. Mobile devices and non-personal communications like email can bridge the gap while proving more efficient, less intrusive and more easily adaptable.This question touches on a larger point that our industry is not only stymied by regulatory fears and internal structure, but the basic communications mindset is stuck in old ways.

It’s typically one-way, ramping up at a time during which we finally see platforms settling into roles, but with uncertainty ahead. Not only have we seen a decline in the effectiveness of the sales force due to corresponding fatigue in healthcare professionals, but we’re now experiencing digital fatigue across email, social media and more. More than ever, we are unsubscribing, opting-out, fast-forwarding, quickly frustrated and hyper-aware of our privacy.

Over the last decade, a groundswell of efforts from companies and brands trying to get into the game with sub-par content has laid the groundwork this fatigue, and by the time those companies or brands finally adapt, the game will have already changed.

This is why it’s not in-person or digital – it can be one or the other, it can be both – but what remains consistent through it all? Content.

HW: What would be your best advice to companies who’re planning to roll out digital channel engagement?

BK: Do your homework and think through your approach. Health is personal, be personal. Find real insights in social listening, surveys, and interviews to make informed decisions. Create a strategy and content rooted in those insights. Understand the technology in front of you and don’t just use it for the sake of using it. Tailor campaigns and tactics to work within a flexible strategy, do not rely on ever-changing platforms for consistency. Look for opportunities in platform functionality to work to your advantage. Plan long-term and understand the true meaning of channel optimization – adjusting your approach to fit the reality of the channel, rather than attempting to make a channel fit your approach. Finally, things take time. It takes time to see results, those results tell us how to adapt and that adaptation keeps us relevant. Nothing is set in stone and we must allow breathing room to see success.

BK Digital is the Exhibition Partner at the 2nd annual Channel Optimization in Pharma Marketing Summit on Feb 28 – Mar 2 in Princeton, NJ. Bryan will be joining us and sharing his experiences with you and 20 other industry pioneers in this field, helping you to optimize your omnichannel strategy through insights from analytics.For more information, you can also visit

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