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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Data Takes Centre Stage

Like other highly regulated global sectors such as medical devices, chemicals and tobacco, the pharma industry is faced with the enormous challenge of developing marketing strategies that are as successful on digital platforms as they are in print – and in an increasingly monitored environment. The internet and other digital delivery mechanisms have pushed businesses towards creating on-target messaging that can be closely tracked, adding to the pressure many companies feel as they struggle to accelerate time-to-market and reduce expenses.

However, there is no need for panic. Far from it, in fact – as all things digital also bring, along with the need for data, enormous opportunities to reach a far wider audience, and in much more compressed timeframes than of old.

The use of measurable metrics and other analytical data – increasingly in real-time – enables companies to look closely at the success of campaigns against spend. That is because in a rapidly changing industry landscape, the need to measure has become paramount as evidence of marketing success. Senior management are no longer satisfied with flow charts and presentations; they need to see the impact of activities – worldwide and in depth – demanding metrics that will enable them to view the bigger picture.

Marketing Operations

Step forward a whole new style of data-driven marketing – an era of ‘marketing operations’, created out of this desire for a more transparent and accountable view of marketing, and one inspired by technology. Suddenly we have job titles – from ‘digital strategist’ to ‘online marketing director’ – that did not exist just a couple of years ago. These professionals are utilising a slew of new digital analytic tools to make their processes increasingly efficient and provide greater transparency within the marketing department’s actions. The end result is that marketing has become much more accountable and measurable.

The rise of data-driven marketing has not, however, killed creativity; but it is now all about creativity wedded to consistent, repeatable processes and measurement through the supply chain, as a way to provide companies with a granular, highly detailed overview of what strategy is working where and why. Data is crucial to this shift in focus, fuelled by the consumer’s increasingly savvy use of digital tools and services to access information online.

But all this does not come without pitfalls. As we struggle to be more data-driven, it is easy to get lost and fall through some of the cracks between, for example, what one part of the business is doing in a particular geographical market, and what other areas are promoting. And it is this that provides the bond between the new style of marketing and all it entails, and the work that has been going on for some time in many pharma companies’ quality assurance (QA) and regulatory affairs teams. In fact, it turns out there is a strong link between the desire to achieve consistency through branding, design and labelling, and what central marketing now wants to do company-wide as part of its customer-facing endeavours.

Drive for Consistency

Consistency is becoming a major driver in highly regulated industries. After all, when you know that customers are likely to be paying greater attention to the labelling on your product, it is paramount that a cohesive approach is reflected in all your customer-facing communications, whether print or digital.

In parallel, alongside the aforementioned changes in marketing, global legislation reforms are also radically affecting the sector. Within the pharma industry, regulation is increasingly imposing restrictions on businesses, with hefty financial penalties for even minor breaches. As a result, avoiding inconsistency in messaging across all of a company’s different communication channels is becoming more and more of an issue.

Furthermore, the types of pharma professionals – especially in QA and regulatory affairs teams – which keep close tabs on compliance, are now looking at marketing operations. It is time for a new synthesis of their activities to achieve the twin aims of ‘scientific’ marketing and truly consistent, compliance-friendly packaging and labelling.

Save Time and Avoid Duplication

Experience is revealing that the most efficient way of bringing marketing and regulatory affairs departments together is through better use of product data. Consistency and efficiency can, in fact, only be achieved by commitment and focus to this area. Packaging and labelling specialists, after all, continually strive to save time, avoid duplication, share reliable data for localised product, compile and maintain full audit trails of changes to aid transparency, consistency and auditability, while locking down the approvals process to ensure accountability and security. There is no reason why marketing cannot follow the same pathway.

To translate this into day-to-day business terms, take the following example: any product claims you make in your marketing collateral will, from now on, have to be defended to any external third party – from the pharmaceutical products you market, to the ‘free-from’ statement in cosmetics, to medical devices.

In order to do this, look to cuttingedge artwork management software, which will take you nearer to that operational marketing paradigm. Multinationals have been looking to obtain this level of control for some time. The big problem is that they have opted for so-called ‘point’ solutions – a combination of an Asset database, Excel spreadsheet and, perhaps, SharePoint. Unfortunately, this mixture has proven inadequate to the challenge, as it does not integrate well, and lacks the depth and trust a dedicated labelling and artwork management (LAM) solution offers.

A better tactic is to search out powerful, responsive software that uses a data-centric approach to label creation and management, as this technique is far better in terms of saving time and cost, as well as increasing accuracy, transparency and compliance. That is because it works from a single ‘master’ database housing all of the latest labelling assets, enabling the business to automatically track all related translations so that approved labelling components can be confidently reused as required.

Transparency and Efficiency

To explore how a content-centric approach can be applied in practice, we turn to a case study that demonstrates the strategies outlined above. A mid-range global medical devices organisation recently sought help for its internal marketing teams to achieve control of organisational content. It reported that: “Our initial need for a LAM solution stemmed from a desire to improve efficiency; we knew we needed to become much more efficient in terms of the management of our marketing resources. This was especially so around the development and approval of our labelling.

“Like many organisations in our sector, we had been relying on increasingly antiquated, often paper-based systems to fulfil this need. But this was becoming less and less appropriate as the business grew, and management had identified the need for better processes allied to as much automation of those processes as possible – right across the group, ideally.

“‘Across the group’ signifies the fact that we are a global organisation, with multiple sites and more than one content creation studio and marketing function. We wanted to set up a system where content, as well as labelling, creation was done in a much more transparent and auditable way. We are very pleased to say that the LAM solution has allowed us to meet many of these goals.

“If I had to sum up the biggest impact of using a LAM system though, I’d say it was helping us get to a much better consistency of execution in our marketing. We can break that down a bit further into benefits in terms of process and compliance. The benefits of using the LAM solution in marketing have been improved process efficiency, reduced resources needed to deal with this work – which has freed up time to take on more value-added activities – as well as much smoother content creation for marketing needs. We still have some work to do, but we know that it is a powerful tool that can, and will, help us a lot in getting to where we need to go.”


This case study goes some way towards indicating the crucial role that data can play in every company’s marketing. If regulated industry organisations were to start using a content-centric approach to support the introduction of a marketing operations-oriented, data-driven regime, the same quantifiable benefits that their colleagues in QA or regulatory affairs have been seeing will soon follow.

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Neil Gleghorn is a successful computer industry pioneer, entrepreneur and thoughtleader. Founder of the UK technology company he still leads, Kallik, where he sits on the main board, Neil also chairs the firm’s strategic product development committee. He is a familiar figure at conferences and exhibitions, and is also a speaker on pharmaceutical, medical device and cosmetics industry-related issues and developments. Neil has been recognised as one of the 100 most influential people in the global life sciences sector by being named in the latest PharmaVOICE 100 list in 2014.
Neil Gleghorn
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