What Women Want from Pharma

Deirdre Coleman speaks to Pelin Icil, Marketing Manager, Bayer Healthcare (Women’s Health) about what women want and expect from pharma companies and Bayer’s newly launched Women’s Health TV.



Deirdre Coleman: Tell me a little bit about yourself, your experience and how you came to work in pharma with Bayer?

Pelin Icil: My degree was in Industrial Engineering with a focus on marketing – I actually did my thesis on “Digital Marketing Effectiveness in Pharma” and I went on to work for GlaxoSmithKline after graduating. But I wanted to broaden my marketing experience, so I worked for Henkel (an FMCG company) but I wanted to go back to pharma as I always feel you have to be a lot more creative in your marketing and find alternative ways to engage with your target group.  I’ve worked for Bayer since 2010 in women’s health which is really interesting especially working on awareness campaigns that bring about positive behavioral change.

Deirdre Coleman: Women’s healthcare is a subject that is close to your heart and you have obviously observed changes in the last few years. What are women looking for from pharma companies like yours in terms of health information and education?

Other consumer companies like Coca Cola really get this and you can see that from their content, so if you go to their website you get useful information such as “How to Get the Perfect Job”. They really grasp that, in order to engage women, you have to meet their information needs even if that’s not related to your product".

Pelin Icil: In recent years, women’s role in society has changed drastically and they feel more valued and they recognize that it is important for them to look after themselves and take control of their own health and wellbeing. They are empowered, they know they deserve the best in terms of healthcare and they expect instant access to information that addresses their individual needs. They are looking for objective health information that is concise, trustworthy and easy to understand and because of time constraints, they want companies to filter that information for them to meet their needs and objectives to benefit them and make their lives easier and improve their wellbeing. Other consumer companies like Coca Cola really get this and you can see that from their content, so if you go to their website you get useful information such as “How to Get the Perfect Job”. They really grasp that, in order to engage women, you have to meet their information needs even if that’s not related to your product; your company’s objectives are secondary to that. You really have to give something to engage with them.

Women are also more inclined to share information and their experiences and seek advice and they like that sense of community the internet provides and knowing that other women are going through the same things.

Deirdre Coleman: What do you see as crucial aspects to engaging the female patient, particularly the younger, digitally-savvy patient?

Pelin Icil: It’s very important to listen actively online to what they are discussing and identify their needs and priorities. Take this as a starting point to what you are planning – step away from the company’s objectives and get into their shoes, it’s easy to do and then supply that in the most convenient way for them. Also, you have to think in terms of their user experience, not the channels and you have to respond quickly.

Deirdre Coleman: Tell me about your recent initiative with Women's Health TV, what was the background to this and what has been the feedback since the launch?

Pelin Icil: We found from our research that women are unwilling to go to the gynecologist unless it’s absolutely necessary for them (i.e. they are pregnant or are ill) as it’s not, they feel, a pleasant experience yet they still have a lot of questions and information needs in this area. So, our objective was to find a creative means of connecting women with their gynecologists in order to increase routine visits. We thought we could use our sales force as we have 50 reps already calling in on the gynecologists. So, we designed a dedicated website and an ipad app that allowed the rep to record a live webcast with the gynecologist and we asked the gynecologists to reserve one hour per month to these dedicated chats. Patients can look at the website and see what topics are going to be dealt with in upcoming webcasts (50 different topics, for example, how to prepare for pregnancy, post-delivery depression, birth control methods etc.) and if they are interested they can participate and ask questions in real time. Topic areas include sexual health, pregnancy, contraception, period management and IVF.  We’re only 2 and a half months into it as it was launched mid-September, but the feedback has been very positive. Top gynecology associations in Turkey are all involved in Women’s Health TV – participation is purely voluntary but they are highly motivated as for them it increases their professional profile, increases their visits and provides benefit for the women.

We also saw great interest from women. In 2 and a half months, we achieved around 80, 000 visits with around 3200 web cast participations and over 2500 questions.

Deirdre Coleman: What direction do you see things moving in the future, in terms of patients' expectations from pharma?

Pelin Icil: In the future, I think all personal health information will be under one format, and each person will be able to share their details with whom they want through this interface. This would enable healthcare / service or information providers to customize this information and make it very accessible, with no time spent filtering out information, from the patients’s side.

Deirdre Coleman:  As a recent eyeforpharma Barcelona awards recipient for your Don't Leave Love to Luck app, you have demonstrated how pharma can make a significant societal contribution to healthcare, moving well beyond the pill. Are you particularly proud of this initiative?

Pelin Icil: Yes, we were delighted to have our efforts recognized. After this award, there was huge publicity from all around the world and it was a great opportunity to share best practices with other companies who got in touch and it was great to share other pharma marketers’ experiences and learn from them. People sometimes don’t believe that certain marketing initiatives are achievable in pharma; in fact social platforms are completely compliant if they are correctly monitored. So you have to be open to pushing the boundaries.


This year's finalists for the Barcelona awards 2015 will be announced Monday, 15th December. For more information on the Barcelona Awards, click here.


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