The Changing Pharmaceutical Customer and Business

Introduction to the Pharmaceutical Customer

Today, the U.S. consumer has made adjustments to the faltering economy by altering their spending habits, while many of the nation’s largest companies and brands struggle as a result.

Many are receiving federal bailout money, others are declaring bankruptcy – and only a few are looking for ways to win and grow market share.

The Pharmaceutical customer has different expectations

The Changing Pharmaceutical Customer

Those aiming higher than the rest understand that, no matter the economic situation or the category, a few always emerge as the victors by taking market share from competitor brands.

For that reason, Stealing Share commissioned a national research study of U.S. consumers to get a snapshot of what consumers were thinking in this new economy and how it affects their actions now and in the future.

The survey asked consumers about their habits, decision-making processes and beliefs about themselves and the world at large.

It also asked questions about many specific industries, such as pharmaceuticals and ethical drugs.

Pharmaceutical brands

Pharmaceutical brands are in trouble, judging by the results of the research concerning the pharmaceutical industry. A lot of this trouble is because the pharmaceutical customer has changed.

Only 20.8% of Americans believe generic drugs are less effective than branded pharmaceutical drugs, which points to the greatest threat to pharmaceutical companies: Their own science.

small-shark-with-fishThis has been the battle for some years as generic drugs sported double digit growth the early part of this decade, forcing pharmaceuticals find ways to create preference even though the science in generic form is often just as effective – and cheaper.

A tough road

It’s been a tough road. In 2006, generics crossed the 50% mark in percentage of total prescriptions in the U.S. and now have reached a 64% share.

By 2017, it is expected that the value of the total global generics sector will have risen to $358 billion, representing more than 18% of all pharmaceuticals, a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.7% between 2011 and 2016. (Source GenericPharma)

Plainly, consumers have gotten the message: Generics work.

So how do branded prescription drugs compete?

Tactical approaches to the pharmaceutical customer

One tactic is for pharmaceutical companies to work on the ground, so to speak. They sell to physicians to create preference by giving them free samples and developing a sort of “habit” for both the physician and the patient.

However, pharmaceutical companies also prefer to put a finger in the dam and stop the water from completely overwhelming them by spending nearly $30 billion each year on advertising time in the U.S., often highlighting blockbuster products such as Zyrtec and Cialis. (Pharma market leader GlaxoSmithKline spends nearly $3 billion by itself for both prescription drugs and OTC – over the counter – drugs.)


In most cases, that means highlighting the “better lifestyle” the product creates as if that is all there is to tell of the pharmaceutical customer.


Here is a news commercial from 2013


That’s all well and good, as the marketing is at least about the consumer and not the product. But look at this one.

While the pharmaceutical brand in each is explained so you can understand the symptoms they treat, the approach, tone and personality in pharmaceutical marketing and branding is the same.

What has happened, in effect, is that pharmaceutical companies have taught us emotionally and perceptively that everything is the same by looking and feeling the same.

Consumers must pay close attention to see themselves in the brand and many of us just glaze past them or think, “It’s not for me.”

The pharmaceutical customer is influenced by marketing from every category

Everything effects everything else

Opportunity in the Pharmaceutical Market

The kicker is that there is opportunity, and companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer don’t have to spend as much if they were committed to marketing differently (and better).

Total prescription sales for the 12 months ending September 2013 were approximately $326 billion, 0.7% lower than sales during the previous 12 months; pharmaceutical spending by clinics and nonfederal hospitals grew by 4.5% and 1.8%, respectively. (source GT SCHUMOCK)

That means we have more than 160 million Americans using at least one prescription drug per day.

That’s a big pie to cut between the manufacturers and even for retailers such as Walgreens and CVS, who do very little to create preference other than in location.

Now if pharmaceutical brands can just differentiate from their competitors, they will have a more effective way of stemming the generic tide.

 Read about opportunity in the pharma market here

Read more about pharmaceutical branding here

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