Kantar Health Blog

Digital Down Under: Exploiting online channels to engage key Australian stakeholders

by Vince Grillo | Aug 20, 2012
Vince Grillo

In the words of Douglas Engelbart, the inventor of the computer mouse, “The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.” In the last 10 years alone, the introduction of social networks and the growth of smartphones and tablets have caused the digital world to change in new and unpredictable ways. As pharma starts to take bolder steps into the world of digital, we need to understand how stakeholders, from physicians to patients, use this channel in order to leverage it appropriately. The big challenge for pharmaceutical companies is not only to make appropriate use of digital channels  to communicate with multiple stakeholder groups but to do this appropriately according to level of adoption per geography.

For example, in Australia, although over three-quarters of our population has access to the Internet and most go online on a daily basis, whether it be on a mobile device (33%), tablet (9%) or via a desktop computer (the vast majority). Social networking is also growing in popularity; we now spend an average of 4.6 hours per week on social networking vs. 3.7 hours per week on email. And whilst communication is the most frequent type of activity, followed by entertainment and shopping, significant time is also spent on obtaining information (4.9 hours) and life management (2.4 hours). However, for a culture that is relatively vocal offline, we seem to be more reluctant to voice our opinions online. Whilst the vast majority of us regularly research brands online (90%), under half are brand fans on Facebook (45%) or have written about brands online (42%). And as marketers, we need to bear in mind the high proportion of ‘Functionals’ amongst the Australian population (26% vs. the global average of 14%) – those who only use the Internet as a functional tool and are not interested in expressing themselves online.  ‘Communicators,’ who like to express themselves online in the same way as they do offline, are relatively few and far between in Australia (10% vs. global average of 20%), but evidence suggests that we are social creatures with high proportions of ‘Networkers’ (20% vs. global average of 12%) who use the Internet to establish and maintain relationships but don’t voice their opinion online.

Whilst engagement with health-related brands online is relatively low compared to other categories, significant numbers of Australians are still reading and writing about pharmaceutical products. One in five Australians had read comments about prescription medicines online in the last 12 months, with 7.5% having written comments themselves. Similar figures apply to OTC medicines, with 20% reading comments and 7% writing comments online.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the places we tend to read and write differ according to the type of product. For prescription medicines comments are typically written and read on review sites, online retailer sites and brand websites/blogs/forums. However, for OTC medicines the comments are also written and read on their social network and other non- brand-specific blogs/forums. And the reasons for writing differ too – for prescription medicines the most common reason is to receive customer service directly from a brand (40%) followed by sharing experiences with a community of common interest (39%), whereas for OTC medicine the most common reason is to ask advice from other people (53%). With over half of us (54%) agreeing that the weight of a single negative review can impact what we buy and younger consumers (aged 16-20) claiming to trust the comments made by strangers just as much as those made by friends (41% vas. 42%), this represents both an opportunity and a threat to pharma.

To find out how to get the best out of local and global digital and traditional stakeholder engagement programmes around the globe (including those in Australia), download our Reactions Q&A, Maximizing the power of global stakeholder interactions through appropriate use of online and offline channels, which highlights the cultural and other differences that can make or break the success of your campaigns.
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