Multichannel Marketing Business Case Report 2014

Understand how to keep up your multichannel marketing strategy with the dynamic stakeholders.

Right content, right channel, right approach

A combination of deep customer insight, proper segmentation and an integrated approach drives multichannel success, BI’s Albert van Eijk tells Nick de Cent.

Success in a fast-changing business world may involve doing things differently but, most importantly, it depends on doing things right. This is particularly true within the context of multichannel marketing in the pharma industry – the key to engaging your audience is to hold a conversation on their own terms and preferably about something they are interested in.

Albert van Eijk, Corporate Director Oncology & Hematology at Boehringer Ingelheim has been doing just that. Since arriving at BI five years ago, having been asked to set up a digital strategy, he has been doing things differently – pursuing a quiet revolution. The result has been awards for the oncology program (PME Awards, Digital Communication Awards) and success for the team that has now expanded to cover seven regions and currently markets to 192 countries worldwide.

Starting from scratch was perhaps an advantage because it enabled van Eijk to build the right foundations. “I had to set up a team,” he explains. The oncology group comprised marketing and brand specialists, the medical and scientific relations functions and the communications team. He espouses a philosophy – “Let’s Work Together – that is designed to help colleagues “work well with each other”.

The multidisciplinary approach was key to facilitating an “umbrella strategy” that enabled the integration that led to future success. “We wanted to align internally before creating our external presence.” This allowed the team to create a single unifying vision for BI in oncology that delivered specific assets (especially websites) aimed at oncologists, patients and media professionals – three different but interrelated audiences.

These assets included a disease awareness site for healthcare professionals and, in 2011, an award-winning website for journalists featuring infographics. “Market segmentation is important,” van Eijk stresses. “It’s not one-size-fits-all.”

Patient insights

Patient centricity has played a fundamental role in the process; accordingly, the group set up a special website for patients ( that helped them cope with their disease, in the context of a 12-15-month life expectancy for lung cancer, for example. Significantly, the site was based around things that the patients themselves want to know, rather than assumptions about what they are looking for.

“We set up a website for patients that was designed to help them cope with their disease,” van Eijk explains. Among the primary concerns for patients were issues such as how to tell relatives about what was happening, taking away the stigmatization – for instance, patients can still contract lung cancer even if they don’t smoke – and airing topics such as “your last wish”.

Following extensive market research and engagement with patient advocacy groups (PAGs), BI found that lifestyle considerations actually tended to be “front of mind” for patients rather than their medical care and treatment options. “Our approach was a little bit different,” van Eijk tells eyeforpharma.

So what insights sparked this initiative? Input from PAGs was vital: back in 2011, treatment options and issues such as adherence were on the agenda for pharma, so the more patient-centric approach was highly innovative.

What we are doing is unique in the market".

The new segmented strategy, following extensive market research, has seen the creation of new communications materials to help patients cope with their disease, including a trusted website. BI has also set up advisory boards and med panels. “What we are doing is unique in the market,” van Eijk enthuses, a statement confirmed by BI’s advisory boards, he adds. 


The same principles of the right content and the right channel also apply when it comes to engaging key opinion leaders. The team has been working on engaging senior HCPs via digital strategies that promote discussion around thought-leadership. One recent initiative set out to capitalize on the “big bang” discussion around phase 3 data relating to a BI product at ASCO, a major US congress for the American Society for Clinical Oncology, van Eijk explained in a presentation at eyeforpharma’s Multichannel Marketing EU Summit held in London on 17-18 September 2014.

This approach targeted oncologists around key conference topics using MedDigital’s “Social Conferencing” tool. It offered delegates a unique type of private, online scientific chat with two conference speakers via a restricted website, following ASCO: German medical oncologist Professor Martin Schuler and Professor James Chih-Hsin Yang, from the College of Medicine at the National Taiwan University.

Approved participants were able to chat about the data live with the experts, with the top professors talking to each other and answering questions. Because it was a closed environment, the organizers were able to ensure that those taking part were both identified and verified HCPs.

The success of these initiatives means that van Eijk and colleagues have “full buy-in from senior management” and the innovations have been rolled out to other therapeutic areas. This has been helped by feedback from peers and journalists. He acknowledges, too, that winning some awards has also contributed. “I have to admit that if you win prestigious prizes it is a good endorsement for what we are doing.”

Senior management fully understands and supports that the way forward is to reach out to customers, albeit that this is a “very untraditional way for pharma”. He confirms: “They’re very open to doing marketing differently.”

Future trends

In conclusion, van Eijk sets out three trends that will build over the coming five to ten years:

  1. More doctors will be going online and also using social media. He acknowledges that not many HCPs are blogging or tweeting at the moment and that there are concerns around compliance – “a lot of physicians don’t know how to do this” – but there is an increasing trend in the United States. “This may change going forward in Europe.”
  2. Tailor-made marketing that involves “listening to your customer” and creating tailor-made information for that customer will increasingly become the norm. This follows the general trend away from traditional marketing and an acknowledgement that the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t working. Examples of this approach could be tailor-made e-books for HCPs or customized information for patients.
  3. Similarly, the move beyond the pill supports an approach that goes beyond simply “pushing the compound”. It will provide better services that  address the needs of stakeholders to improve health outcomes.

Albert van Eijk will be speaking at eyeforpharma Latin America 2015, in Miami, 7-8 May 2015. For more information, click here.

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