From Grazy Parrots, via speed dating to Dr.Trombino

How a business-like networking meeting in pharma turned out to be a social media adventure exploring the digital unkowns…. As a marketing veteran, one who frequently attended, spoke at and set up marketing conferences, last week’s DigiPharm Conference at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London was expected to be one like many. But it wasn’t. It turned out to be a rich experience with many many learnings and examples. Who says the pharmaceutical industry is boring, non experimental and suffocated by regulation? The many social media experiments and cool presentations proved the critic wrong. Here’s what I learned:
Big Pharma has dipped its toe in the social media waters. They are ready for mass adoption.
Boeringher Ingelheim (BI), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Janssen (presented by Alex Butler, @Alex__Butler) are leading the pack. In particular BI who showcased many successful pilots. First of all their head of media & PR, Judith von Gordon, had an impressive presentation about how BI tracks off AND online media in a comprehensive dashboard. It did not only track live conversation which allowed for immediate action, but also gave insights into the nature of the discussions. Despite this ultra-modern tracking and a dedicated response team, the way they ‘manage conversations’ is still very traditional; using press releases, media conferences and selective reactive replies to patients/consumers. I might send them Steven’s book.
I also listened to Emily Baier (Manager PR), John Pugh (Director Digital + social media) and Mark Petersen from the same company. Baier impressed with her enthusiasm, speed (of mouth) and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) campaign details in the US. Did you know that with more than 100 cigarettes per lifetime you already are in the significant risk category (according to their health screener). Their target was to reach 1 million subscribers – their status as of last week: more than 2 million! Who says social media is not relevant for pharma?

Even more interesting was John Pugh (@JohnPugh), who started explaining how BI’s digital journey started 3 years ago in Iceland with a high powered brainstorm with selected experts. The 12 future forces they identified then are still very relevant! That journey is currently resulting into a social media strategy which included their own version of Farmville. Check out their game teaser and sign up for Beta testing. And finally, Mark Petersen, their Nordic CRD Center Manager introduced us to their first mobile app: Dr. Trombino. I tried it on my iPhone. It works, but to claim that I was excited is a bit overstated. No, I liked their YouTube viral spoof ‘grazyparrot’ better (officially not approved by BI), although I am not sure about the impact.

Clearly, this big pharma company showcases a very enterpreneurial spirit. Perhaps this is because they are still family owned and have a senior Marketer in the Board who pushed this? There were some more interesting presentations (Andrew Widger, Director of Communications from Pfizer, spoke about their Man MOT campaign and the Can You feel My Pain viral one to increase awareness of chronic pain (@CYFMP) ), but the most fun I had speed dating at one of the coffee brakes.
Yes, speed dating. It was my first experience too! We worked with red and green cards (red cards stayed, green cards moved) and you got only 5 minutes to make an impression. Great way to meet people, great to make it more interactive and spice up a traditional conference, great to use social principles to make this event an great experience overall.
Now back to work… advising pharma companies how to capitalize on all these great social media developments – and how they can connect and understand their patients and healthcare providers better.

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