By Casey Ferrell,
Senior Research Analyst
Our recent survey of pharma companies revealed that 58 percent have dedicated digital marketing groups. I think it’s safe to assume at this point that the digital revolution is real and is only going to continue to wield enormous influence over the way in which companies conduct business, particularly marketing’s ability to communicate with physicians, patients and other stakeholders. In the coming decade, the percentage of companies formally codifying their e-Marketing efforts with dedicated teams will almost certainly grow as they realize the efficiencies to be had from such internal reorientation.
The structures of the groups we surveyed ran the gamut from globally centralized to support teams situated under brand managers. There are literally as many ways to internally organize digital marketing groups as there are companies. But what is the right way, or ways? Where should pharma companies house their social media and digital marketing groups? I admit the premise for this blog post would seem to be an answer without a question. Digital marketing lives in the marketing department. There is no housing dilemma. So what’s the problem?
Well, it turns out that only 66 percent of those surveyed companies with dedicated e-Marketing groups house them under marketing. The project team was surprised, as I’m guessing some of you may be. The other locations for e-Marketing included global commercial operations, eAnalytics, public affairs and most prominently, corporate communications. The fact that companies are housing e-Marketing in departments other than marketing could be an encouraging sign for the digital evangelists out there who believe that digital’s destiny is to revolutionize the way that pharma companies do business throughout drug lifecycles and from the bottom of company org charts all the way to the C-suite.
Some companies find advantages in locating these groups away from marketing. As the figure above shows, roughly a third of e-Marketing teams sit within corporate communications, commercial operations, or eAnalytics. These groups are often the ones sitting at the forefront of digital business, not only serving brand team needs, but also clinical groups’ needs and medical teams’ needs. Digital communication can play a role in many other ways — patient recruitment, general disease awareness and patient education, for example. For groups playing a larger role in overall digital corporate communications and working with other functions beyond marketing, non-traditional alignments particularly make sense. These alignments do not, however, prevent these teams from working with brand teams to develop and deliver digital marketing initiatives.
There are still advantages for digital marketing groups that do sit under the formal marketing umbrella. They have a much more direct line of influence on brand communication strategy and as a result, a more pronounced impact on overall brand marketing. Beyond that, brands with their own dedicated group don’t have to rely on a centralized (read: distant) group to develop or execute campaigns. Nor do they have to rely as heavily on outsourcing.
I would argue that virtually every company should formally dedicate resources to e-Marketing (rather than laying it at the feet of existing groups and/or FTEs). But each company ought to assess its understanding of — and expectations for — digital communications before choosing where to house this function so as to align those expectations with its parent department’s ability to deliver on those expectations.