NEW YORK: Pharmaceutical brands must embrace the full potential of multichannel marketing, a leading executive has argued.

Jeff Conklin, svp/global commercial operations at Bristol-Myers Squibb, told delegates at the ePharma Summit – an event organised by the Institute for International Research – that inaction was simply not an option on this issue.

"We have talked about multichannel marketing and digital … for quite some time," Conklin said. (For more, including why pharma companies are "drowning in innovation", read Warc's exclusive report: Pharma brands and the multichannel marketing imperative.)

"And it's been something you can begin to take part in, and begin to build some capability around, but you didn't have to immerse yourself in it."

As consumers become used to researching medical conditions and product using everything from sites like WebMD to social media and mobile apps, it is clear pharma brands can either respond or risk being left behind.

These "not-so-new channels", Conklin continued, are "the cornerstones of most of our lives". And companies in other industries are positively encouraging consumers to engage with them through such channels.

"The rest of the world focuses on those interactions, and trains our patients – on a daily basis – on how to interact with data; how to interact with questions; how to interact with each other on social media," Conklin said.

Physicians, too, are able to access an increasingly sophisticated range of digital tools and information, making the imperative to enhance multichannel marketing capabilities more pressing still.

"We're at a point now where you're going to have to get very good at that if you want to continue to participate [and] even begin to dream about leading in this space," Conklin said.

Attitudes towards innovation and market research are similarly in need of radical updating in the wake of the digital revolution, he suggested.

Data sourced from Warc