A couple of weeks ago, QD3 (Quincy D. Jones III) and I were invited to New York to speak at the “Pioneers in Digital Health” event. As industry newcomers, we were honored and humbled to be included with a list of speakers who are really trying to help Pharma and Healthcare step into the 21st Century. The room seemed a little uptight and stuffy, but coming from hip hop and tech, rock concerts sometimes seem uptight to me. The coordinators asked us to share our experiences with conference attendees and explain how in just five short months, Feel Rich grew into a fully-fledged health movement simply by using social media.
Our talk focused mainly on how you need to be a part of a community to lead a community, and we explained our belief that celebrity content doesn’t drive engagement nearly as well as heart-felt, authentic messages. Every major decision we’ve made so far was a direct result of the feedback we were getting from the people who truly mattered—our community. Overall, the presentation went well, but we definitely had moments where the blank stares we received made us wonder if we were unknowingly channeling Miss Teen South Carolina 2007.
Before we got to the conference, Q and I sent out a tweet to the community that asked, “What do you wish pharmaceuticals did more of?” The response we got was overwhelming. The topic was clearly something that spoke to the community, and they reached out to express their opinions. We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the question and growing conversation went viral, but more surprising to us was the word that appeared the most: Education. Education? Really? We didn’t see that one coming. After all, the pharmaceuticals industry is required to disclose ever possible side effect that could result from taking any given medicine, often to the point of information overwhelm. We were even more surprised—and even a little confused—when we learned at the conference of the vast amount of information and resources that companies provide to help educate their consumers. And it’s not just drug information; these companies actually provide tools, resources and information about preventive care and lifestyle choices.
But somehow, it’s not hitting home. It’s not meeting the needs of the people the content was designed for.
We walked away from the conference feeling the frustration of executives whose industry has not been able to keep up with consumers. But it’s not that far behind. The industry is providing education, yet consumers are still screaming for it. So where is the breakdown?
The vast Feel Rich community is multicultural, and we were surprised to learn from a study that of 240 branded pharma websites, only about one fifth have any sort of African American imagery on their pages, and bilingual sections of pharma sites are often missing important elements like “Questions to ask your doctor” and tools to track symptoms. In addition, big pharma is advertising in the wrong areas. They are still relying on big search engines to reach consumers, but our demographic is increasingly using channels such as YouTube, Twitter, and mobile apps to get information at the expense of traditional search options. African American cell phone owners are more likely than other groups to download health apps: 15% do so, compared with 7% of white and 11% of Latino cell phone users.
As the Tanning of America becomes more relevant each day, marketers should not just focus on tailoring a message to fit each culture. Rather, the entire healthcare industry needs to seize the opportunity to truly develop a deep, organic understanding of their patients—their culture as well as their wants and needs. Healthcare has to embrace digital media and digital outreach if it wants to make significant headway with these historically underserved markets. Social media is not a trend. It’s here to stay. It’s how young people interact with the world. The platforms might change and many outlets will come and go, but social media is now at the core of the consumer’s health. So let’s switch chairs. Big pharma, it’s time to “Ask your CMO if digital is right for you.”