CBI Scene Blog

Why Pharma Marketers Need to Focus on Smart Data Rather Than Big Data

Posted by Joe G on Jan 24, 2014 3:51:00 PM

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The difference between big data and intelligent data is the difference between skimming and digging, between speaking to a crowd and speaking to an individual. Both have their purposes, both serve a function in every industry's marketing, but those that neglect intelligent data stand to suffer as we move into the next era of digital marketing.

People are not demographics. Demographics are a handy way to organize how we think about a market, but when you put your assumptions based on demographics before getting to know your market as a group of individuals that just happen to be shopping for similar products, you're missing the point. Nowhere is this more true than in pharma marketing, where the difference between one individual and the other isn't just a matter of personal preference, but a matter of health and well-being.

To put it one way: pushing big data over smart data, you're going to be wasting a lot of time, money and effort trying to sell a product to somebody who has an allergic, religious, or personal aversion to it.

Many reading this might not be entirely clear on the difference between big data and smart data. If we can take a moment to break it down:

  • Individual optimization. With smart data, you're able to optimize your content down to the demands of the individual user rather than making guesses based on big, broad pieces of data.
  • Smart data gathers more details in order to produce more specific numbers. To put this one way: big data can tell you where your best customers shop. Smart data tells you what they buy.
  • Smart data provides greater context. This means social signals, real-time behavior, and regional optimization.

Predictive vs. Situational

Although big data can still be useful in a very broad sense, its time as the reigning means of understanding your market has ultimately passed. It's simply too big, too broad and too impersonal. One solution that has been proposed in the pharma industry and elsewhere is predictive analytics, but the market can surprise you. Customers are people, and people are unpredictable.

A more sophisticated approach would be situational analytics, an aspect of smart data which means taking your ideal customer and looking at how they might react given a variety of different situational factors.

In layman's terms, we're not just taking wild guesses at how the market is going to behave, rather, we're looking at how their behavior is affected by a given situation. It's still predictive to an extent, but like all aspects of smart data, it's specific, pointed and targeted, rather than simply being broad guesswork.

The benefits of smart data and situational analytics are self-evident in many ways, but if we may list some of the advantages that this approach has over traditional analytics:

  • Less bad marketing. How many customers have you lost because they found your advertising offensive, insensitive, or just plain boring? With the more specific approach that smart data provides, it's harder to put the wrong image forth.
  • Less wasted money. Your marketing budget is probably finite, and every penny you spend pushing irrelevant ad content is money not spent finding the people who need what you're selling.
  • More data. Big data gets you the big, broad strokes. Smart data gets you more data, more specific data and more useful data, building up a large backlog of information that you can continue to put to use and learn from in the future.

The ideal solution to marketing pharmaceuticals would be to speak with every potential customer's doctor, to talk to them directly, to find out what their needs are and to market the product that works for them. Engaging people on this level simply isn't practical, of course, but smart data gets us closer to that than we've ever been before by making deeply-personalized ad content a possibility.

Join us at iPharma 2014- Inspiring Innovation, Intelligence & Insight in a Marketer's World, taking place May 8-9, 2014 in NYC where Matthew Fanelli (VP, Digital, MNI & Targeted Media) and John Kenyon (VP, Managing Director) at TIME, Inc. will be hosting a session titled Digital, Big Data and the Point of Care - What You Need to Know to Improve Patient Communication. For more information on this event, please click the button below. We hope to see you there!

iPharma Conference

(Image courtesy of aNto via Flickr)

Topics: Brand & Digital Strategy