As we approach 2021, it’s worth taking another look at the major trends that are defining pharma marketing in this new decade. It’s become clear that digital spending is finally starting to catch up to the levels of other industries, and so we can expect that some of the more cutting-edge trends in digital marketing and advertising as a whole will apply to the pharma and healthcare space as well. 

Here are what we consider to be the most significant pharma trends for this year and beyond:

1. Artificial Intelligence & Marketing Automation.

Each one of these deserves its own lengthy discussion, but I’m grouping them because of how, in this particular space, AI can play a crucial role in correctly qualifying market leads in a way that will help you better serve them in the future, even if it’s just by showing them more relevant informative content to help them better understand the particular condition or disease state they’re researching.

By using a progressive sequence of questions in automated chat conversations, marketers can identify visitors’ needs to a very high degree of detail if needed. This allows them to be sorted, in an automated way, into individual personas, each with their own custom workflows, such as email sequences that tailors the customer journey you create through content to their unique needs.

Using workflows like this can massively improve your marketing automation strategy’s effectiveness by freeing up valuable time and resources that might otherwise be spent manually qualifying leads. 

2. Advanced, Curated Content Marketing.

Especially as more and more healthcare happens online, it’s in healthcare providers’ interest to play a bigger role in patients’ search for information. One method increasingly adopted by HCP’s and healthcare marketers is to create apps or websites with curated, custom “content centers,” using interactive widgets, personalized videos, and other forms of content to inform patients directly, rather than leaving them to find the information purely through searches.

3. Telemedicine & Online Care.

On a related note, anyone paying attention to the modern healthcare industry in the last few years knows that a substantial amount of care now happens remotely, whether by phone, website portal, or an app. While there are fewer ways to market outright when offering telemedicine or other remote care – and of course, marketing should always be second to providing the best possible care – there are nonetheless some new opportunities for pharma advertisers to take advantage of the growing trend in remote technology in the healthcare space, and develop non-intrusive methods that can educate patients about conditions and treatment options while their health is top-of-mind.

Since there is a significant amount of misinformation about health and medicine on the web, this is an important opportunity for pharma brands to provide a more authoritative, research-backed voice on the conditions that affect people most.

4. Zero-Click Search & The Takeover of Featured Snippets. 

Google continues to favor featured snippet results, to the degree that now more than half of all searches performed end without a click. This change in Google search results has significant implications for pharma brands: now they, like everyone else, must compete for real estate on the first page of search results (and at the top, no less) to even be seen at all, let alone earn clicks through. This can be a challenge when it comes to educating patients and consumers about products and conditions that may affect them, as Google uses machine learning technology to drive these results, and it may be more likely to pull from a competitor or third-party source. 

To stay competitive in this area, pharma marketers can work hard to earn the featured snippet in search results for their key terms, and also optimize their Google Ads campaigns to be as relevant as possible in order to have the best chance of earning the top spot.

5. Digital Video.

Online engagement with digital video is increasing across all industries, but this medium is particularly important for healthcare marketers, because individuals who engage with a health-related video online are more likely to take an action after watching a video – with one study showing 39% of patients called to make an appointment after viewing a relevant video on a healthcare topic. And as streaming bandwidth increases, especially with the rise of 5G, video will only become more commonplace – so investing in this area of digital content will be key. Here are some ideas on how healthcare brands can use video to grow from Practice Builders 

Looking forward, digital will only continue to grow as a share of pharmaceutical and healthcare spend, and as new technology and methods develop, we may eventually see the industry catch up to the far higher adoption rates in other verticals. Not every feature available to digital marketers today will be relevant for pharma brands, but the more comfortable leadership becomes with these new tactics – especially when the FDA inevitably updates its guidance to take into account the advertising realities of the new decade, and provide much more precise guidelines to the industry – the more we should expect them to grow at the rates we see nearly everywhere else.

Any other trends in pharma advertising you’ve observed, or think we’ve missed here? Feel free to share in the comments.