The buzzword “Multichannel” has been thrown around in pharma marketing circles for a few years now and it has always irked me a little. What marketing isn’t multichannel? Exactly who are these brand managers that choose their one channel for the year and stick with it?
“This year it’s just print ads for us!”
“Nothing but direct mail in next year’s marketing plan”.
Even Masterlock®, notorious in the ‘80s and ‘90s for allegedly blowing their entire marketing budget on a single 30 second advertising slot in the Super Bowl, presumably followed up with PR initiatives and print materials for the sales force.

Marketing is and always has been multichannel: that’s what the “marketing communications mix”, that traditional marketing text books talk about, is.

Of course the point that all of those white papers, reports, blogs and summits devoted to the subject are really driving at is that in the digital age there are more options. That’s it really. Consumers, patients, healthcare professional- all of us- are consuming content in an ever-expanding variety of ways and the communications mix of today needs to reflect that. Having said that, the sheer diversity of media we now have to contend with, and the speed with which platforms and media change, have thrown up some challenges.

With so many options now available, integration has become crucially important. Again, there is nothing new about planning a co-ordinated campaign with a consistent message to a clearly-defined audience across a range of media . It would be a dis-service to the brand managers of the eighties, nineties and noughties to suggest that print advertising, direct mail, sales support, conference promotion and the like weren’t always executed synergistically,. But the plethora of tools now available mean that today’s marketers need to think even more carefully about co-ordinating their approach.

Perhaps part of the problem with definitions is that many healthcare companies have maintained “digital marketing” departments and roles; in some companies the Digital Marketing Manager has mutated into a Multichannel Marketing Manager. Digital marketing can no longer be seen as something apart from “traditional marketing”. It is incumbent on all modern brand managers to understand the digital landscape. Use of social media, m-health, websites, CLM etc etc should simply be an integral part of the marketing plan. There should be no longer be such thing as a digital marketing plan that stands outside of the brand plan; even “traditional” tools have a digital element to them now. As Millennials, (for whom digital is just the norm) start to take over key brand and marketing management roles in the industry, we can probably dispense with terms like digital marketing and multi-channel marketing altogether and go back to just … marketing!