Direct to Persona: The New DTC

The Old Model

When I think of DTC a few things come to mind – Spray and Pray or Shotgun approach. When DTC first started it was amazing and we all got pretty good at it. The messages got better, the media buys got more targeted and the process would rapidly move to release and repeat until the budget was consumed. Over time the results got better, and predictable – for a certain investment in DTC presence there would be a surge in visits to physicians, prescription sales went up etc.

The traditional DTC that marketers have been familiar was a simple four-step process.
1. Broadcast your message as content (either in print, digital or TV)
2. Your message would be received by a small percentage of that universe and an outcome would result (whether a purchase decision or some other desired outcome).
3. You would then analyze the results and measure your KPI’s
4. And finally, you would adjust and repeat the process, over and over again.

This model is no longer as effective or relevant in the digital era. Think about it, when do you actively watch TV ads? You don’t. In fact, most of us actively avoid them. We have tuned out from traditional media. But we are really dialed in on digital and social. If that’s where we are then the DTC model of marketing and advertising to the consumer has to change.

The healthcare industry is responding. Of the $4.3B Pharma spent annually, more and more of that budget is being redirected away from traditional DTC. In 2012 the amount allocated to digital was reported as $1.1B and this is expected to grow. As yet though, no breakaway mousetrap has emerged that truly returns the necessary return on investment.

The New Model

There has been an explosion of new technology options that are encouraging and enabling consumers to become more engaged and empowered with healthcare information. This has resulted in power shifting to long passive consumers through an ever-flowing fire hose of health-related information and the rise of peer-to-peer healthcare. Consumers have been empowered by information technology. Knowledge is power, and patients have smartened up and they are talking about it openly. All of this is encouraging new consumer behaviors, to search and share more about their health online. These behaviors further strengthen the need for health marketers to evolve and adapt to the new patient-centric era, away from the traditional DTC models.

So what is a Persona?

Persona (noun) is the part of yourself you present to the world, the image you want to present. Understanding the wider personas of online social communities allows us to communicate and deliver content to larger groups of people with similar characteristics. In this context, Direct to Persona™ marketing is central to redefining the way healthcare industry interacts with the consumer. This paradigm shift unveils never before seen healthcare marketing solutions for brands to grow valuable personal connections with consumers. Let’s define a couple of personas by way of example. In the field of orthopedics, a major source of revenue is joint replacement e.g. knee, hip shoulder etc. The sweet spot for this market is arguably the baby boomer and older. There are those that are older and need surgery but put it off for as long as possible for a variety of reasons. And then, there are those are younger who either care for the first group or may simply not want to wait given the advances in the surgery and replacement joints (now reported to last for up to 30 years). In our orthopedics disease grid, we further define the subgroups that fit these personas and determine the stage of their need. What topics specifically are they discussing?

Joint pain or joint stiffness? Immobility due to arthritis? Do they mention previous procedures? Is a procedure imminent? Are they discussing themselves or those that they care for? What are the descriptive topics they use that point to the urgency or severity of disease? Is this linked to another facet of their health profile e.g. being overweight? All of these insights layered on top of one another shape the specific personas we desire to interact with. This example is by no means exhaustive but it paints the picture for the next step: development of messaging and content that is specific to the persona. This is a vitally important process because it allows a range of outbound messaging that appeals and draws these consumers attention.

This very market that has a mind of its own, makes its own diagnosis, decides on treatments and whether their condition necessitates a visit to the physician. The Pew Research Center reports that 43% of U.S. adults have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. A full third never visited a professional as a result and nearly a fifth had their initial diagnosis invalidated by a clinician. Grabbing their attention by delivering to them highly contextual and credible information is the key next step.

In the past, DTC in particular television adverts projected a message into our living rooms. If done at the right time, during popular shows, and done enough, the right individuals became empowered to ask their doctor for more information. Today this is a very expensive endeavor with questionable returns. Overall we are seeing less spent on traditional DTC and more being pushed into digital media, including social media. For more details refer to 2012 US Pharma Insights report.

Social media channels offer the perfect bridge to consumers. Social networks effectively level the playing field and institute an area for patients to connect and engage at will, on the subject of their choice, with the brands of their choice.

Direct to Persona™ (DTP) marketing in social media is the new driving force behind the improvements that can make healthcare brands benefit from creating a consumer healthcare experience that’s much more personal, informative, and empowering than it ever was and that consumers are today demanding. In effect, DTP is the new DTC.

What “Engaging” Means

Over the past few years, the metrics for success in social media engagement has been measured by the increases in Likes, Followers, Subscribers etc. In reality, while these certainly point to accruing a slightly expanded brand following there has been no real conversion metric to increased sales. The jumps in numbers are just too small to be meaningful. To jump from zero to 10,000 Likes on Facebook is great but it’s a mere drop in the ocean as compared to the Billion people active on that network.

What is really needed to ignite the opportunity of people in dialogue about their health online is a highly measurable call to action: A mechanism that draws the specific consumer personas to another destination full of relevant and immersive content. This content reflects their persona and the message to draw their attention does the same. By doing this a brand can better control the destination, the interaction, the material and the call to action that directly correlates to a return on investment.

Liquid Grids, with its partners, has developed a proprietary, comprehensive and dynamic array of marketing capabilities that link target persona intelligence to an interactive and agile, multimedia content marketing platform called the Content Capsule. The Content Capsule comprehensively packages videos, photos, interactive images, press releases, and presentations, with interconnected links to targeted social media network users, websites, and transaction sites; all comprised in one highly sharable and measurable unit.

DTP takes the traditional DTC model that marketers have been familiar and flips it on its head. Under DTP:

1. You analyze all the public data across social and the web, map that data to meaningful models and develop specific personas

2. You then Deliver hyper-targeted content to those personas at their specific stage in their journey

3. The messages are received by the persona resulting in a guaranteed impression, while at the same time, relevant content is consumed

4. Leveraging retargeting within the content, you are able to provide that persona with specific messaging wherever they travel to on the web or in social.