Matthew Dickinson

Stand-out Marketing: How to Stay One Step Ahead in Pharma

Insights category icon Insights

by Matthew | 04 Mar Read Time7 min

Matthew Dickinson, Managing Director of Dice, is an Economics graduate of Melbourne University, and entered the world of consumer advertising in Australia - working for global agencies DDB and Ogilvy. His experience drives Dice to deliver the best possible work for clients.


Pharma marketers are forced to be more inventive than most. Our industry thrives on innovation. We’re creatively solving business problems to make brands stand out and remain memorable – with great results.

However, standing out by using gimmicks or creativity for creativity’s sake can backfire in Pharma, where your audience will see right through irrelevant or shallow tactics. It’s vital to focus on your target market and your knowledge of what they need and want to see.

This is especially true in the current fragmented media landscape, where you need to tailor strategies according to your audience’s habits and preferences across each channel. It’s all about striking the right balance between creativity, relevance and authority to earn the attention of your audience.

Overcoming the age-old challenge of differentiation

As an agency, it can be very difficult to stand out. Ultimately, we are all trying to do the same thing and, while our results may be exemplary, others also do a very good job. The way to differentiate, then, is in the way we do it. The unique characteristics, talents and knowledge within our team, a distinctive approach and of course what we’re like to work with as people. Much of our success comes down to the relationships we have with our clients and our in-depth understanding of their products and audience. 

However, our task is to help clients differentiate and stand out themselves. And this means identifying what makes their brand unique, the needs of their target market that are still unmet and the creative parameters expected in their particular field. Once we understand the lie of the land, we can see what opportunities are available to make a campaign stand out.

We’ll also be able to determine which promotional tactics and channels will be most effective. Today, this means considering the full spectrum of media open to us, and understanding how a select few, or maybe all, of them can be used effectively.

Making sense of our fragmented media landscape

The media landscape in Pharma obviously now incorporates many more channels than traditional advertising. Our communications need to reach people across a wide range of media, creating a danger that our messages can become fragmented, inconsistent or uncoordinated. 

In addition to conventional channels, we now also promote brands through social media (paid and organic), emails, online videos, Veeva CLMs/VAEs, treatment-specific websites and online resources, and of course SEO. It can be a challenge to ensure your brand shows up consistently, to a high quality, and in an integrated way, so that all your communications convey your brand accurately and move your target audience towards taking action.

Each channel also contains its own challenges. For example, you might be sending out emails, but where are they going? Are they reaching the right people and getting a response? Or is email even the best channel to use for this audience? With SEO, what search terms are people using to find your treatment? What content will chime with their issues? Or are they simply looking for a way to get in touch?

The answers to these questions will lie in research.

Still the most important factor: know your audience

The first question to ask when you want to find ways to stand out is, who is the audience? In our case, on behalf of our clients, we are looking to target HCPs.

In simplistic terms, we need to know our audience’s issues, fears, greatest hopes and immediate priorities, and also their habits when it comes to what they read, where they go online and how they will be most likely to encounter our marketing.

If we wanted to target the public we would want to know what patients are thinking at every stage of their journey from symptoms and diagnosis to treatment and good health. With HCPs, knowledge of their patients is still invaluable, but we are also considering their own issues to do with budgets, availability, efficacy and other benefits they can relay to those in their care.

This involves a lot of talking. Through focus groups, thought leadership forums, online or in-person meetings, surveys, white papers and more, we can truly understand your audience’s needs and how your treatment can make a real difference over existing solutions. We’ll also know what makes them tick as people, and which channels they will be most likely to respond to.

We can then tailor marketing messaging not only to meet their concerns and professional interests, but also their approaches and preferences for communication. Do they welcome phone or video calls, in-person meetings or emails? Will they need to see long-form content, clear imagery or succinct facts and bullet points? Do they prefer material they can slip into a bag or pocket, or something to keep on a shelf? What will or won’t they expect, and what will be effective?

Creating effective marketing assets in Pharma is often as much about reining yourself in as working creatively. As mentioned in the introduction, going too far either way can put people off. The real creative skill can lie in working with such a reduced palette and yet still providing marketing that stands out.

Ultimately, what will make most impact with your target audience?

Presence and positioning

Throughout our experience, we’ve found that two things have the most impact on a target market: presence and positioning. What might both mean to your brand?


In an important respect, presence will always trump positioning. If you show up everywhere – take out multiple ads across every channel, get your treatment in every magazine and on every billboard, show up constantly in search engines, on every coffee table, in every social media feed, in every online journal – you’ll flood the market with your presence. 

This ensures your brand will be familiar and at the forefront of people’s minds when they or their patents have the issue it solves. The more we see something, the more we like and trust it. There’s also something to be said for recency bias. The last solution you saw will be the first one you remember.


While the above is true, your positioning will play a vital role if you use your marketing in a strategic, targeted way. Great positioning will ensure you maximise every piece of communication. Being clear on your story, distinctive in where you sit in your sector, and using the right language, colour palette, imagery and channels will encourage your target market to feel a connection with your brand. They’ll feel like you already understand them and their values. 

Making your brand attractive to the right people – and placing communications where you know your ideal audience will see it – can double your impact. Coupling position with presence will ensure you are onto a winner.

Made you look! Creativity still works

While the above is true, exciting or unexpected ideas can obviously still be effective. As advertising legend Bill Bernbach said: “Creativity is the most powerful force in business.”

A creative headline, concept or image can create interest, drive greater curiosity and lead to more sales when used in the right context. When all’s said and done, it is your creative ideas and inspiration that will make you and your brand unique. Getting the creative side right is all about knowing exactly what your audience will appreciate (and more importantly, what they will not!) and pushing the envelope into something unexpected.

An interesting exercise is to consider what recent marketing in other sectors has stood out to you? And how could you translate those ideas – which could be around characters, juxtaposition, choices of colours, metaphors or just plain extreme scenarios – into a Pharma context?

How to inject interest into your marketing

Knowing what to do to make your marketing as strong, memorable and effective as possible can only come out of in-depth research into your product, your prospects and your market. 

In the course of creating sales assets, content, messaging and supporting material for our clients’ campaigns, our expert medical writers and designers and developers will follow our proven process of insights, strategy, execution and measurement. In this way, we can determine how best to reach, speak to and connect with your target audience’s needs and concerns. 

In placing this process within a Pharma context – and considering every aspect of the treatment’s journey from ideation to experimentation, finalisation, approval and promotion – we practise something called Pharmacohesion™.


Here’s a breakdown of our process:

INSIGHTS – For every brand, we use our network to explore and define your customers’ issues, mindsets and intent, generating insights that form the foundation of every campaign.

STRATEGY – We establish and create a precise, integrated print and digital medical communications strategy for your brand based on an in-depth understanding of the current market.

EXECUTION – We deploy strategically aligned tactical initiatives across all channels, both digitally and in print, capturing and conveying your key brand concept effectively.

MEASUREMENT – We undertake rigorous analysis throughout your campaign, helping us to gauge efficacy and impact, and refine our approaches to maximise the ROI of Pharmacohesion™.

Pharmacohesion™ helps your brands fulfil the ambitions of the scientists who developed them: to transform the lives of patients with an unmet medical need. 

Give your treatment the best chance of success

Let us help you to create material that will stand out and be a brand that HCPs remember. 
Please get in touch with the Dice team if you need help creating a strategy that gets your treatment in front of the people who need it most.