The Multichannel Challenge: How Pfizer’s Cross Functional Regional Approach Creates a Richer Customer Experience

Deirdre Coleman speaks to John Gordon, Senior Regional Digital Marketeer and Seleen Ong, Digital Medicine Medical Director, Pfizer on mastering multichannel marketing and improving digital effectiveness.



Mastering multichannel marketing, improved use and effectiveness of digital marketing and using analytics to improve ROI regularly top the list of the most important strategic priorities for the sales and marketing executives when it comes to a new digitally connected age of customer interaction.

Today’s trend of democratising digital, and including it throughout every facet of customer engagement is requiring companies to rethink how they can reach patients, payers, providers and governments in both mature and emerging markets—at speed, at the right price and with the right information for each target audience.

Cross-Functional Collaboration

The challenge is to deliver an engaging, valuable holistic customer experience that is fast, responsive and personalised.

John Gordon, Senior Regional Digital Marketeer, Pfizer is at the coal-face of today’s multichannel environment and reiterates this message, stating the need for more nimble and efficient collaborations between pharmaceutical companies and physicians, payers, patients and caregivers in order to deliver the capabilities needed.

 “The challenge is to deliver an engaging, valuable holistic customer experience that is fast, responsive and personalised. The one concept, one message approach no longer works but this has to be balanced with delivery of a consistent message across the broad spectrum of media that meets the requirements of local regulations. For us, effective cross-functional collaboration is intrinsic to this process and provides the capabilities required to plan, execute and evaluate campaigns that ultimately deliver a richer, safer user experience”.

“As Senior Regional Digital Marketeer, I’m responsible for driving multichannel strategy for the Pfizer cardiovascular portfolio across Europe. I work in close collaboration with Seleen Ong, our Digital Medicine Medical Director, who provides the customer insights for our strategies and is responsible for providing advice on the medical and compliance aspects of our programmes. My focus is on the commercial perspective, ensuring the tactics employed meet the overall strategic business objectives in a manner that gives a return on investment and is measurable. This segmentation of responsibility allows us to specialize and maximize internal resources and to collaborate in a very effective and timely way to ensure we drive brand performance within clearly defined and aligned objectives”, states Gordon.

Barriers to Digital Adoption

While cross-functional collaboration allows for a more nimble, aligned focus there are still considerable challenges when it comes to the widespread adoption of digital strategies within the pharmaceutical industry.

According to Seleen Ong, “Executing digital tactics is much more challenging than using traditional channels. The key challenges centre on regulatory and legal issues, privacy and data protection and variation in the presence of the internet and adoption rates of technology across our region. Any execution of a digital activity is arduous and time consuming because of the wide range of stakeholders involved in the review, approval and execution.”

“In addition, as this is relatively new and uncharted territory, guidance and regulations around digital media within the pharmaceutical industry are scarce and not well-defined. This adds a layer of complexity that slows down the approval process and can hamper creativity and innovation due to fear and inexperience. There is considerable progress to be made in this area but for us as a company our approach is to focus on building skills and capabilities within our cross-functional teams around digital channels to ensure that the programmes that we execute are of a high standard and add value to our customers”, Ong adds.

Localising the Strategy

For Pfizer, we adopt an 80:20 rule, adhering to a consistent global message the majority of the time, with an added amount of customization to address local market needs.

Another consideration is how far to act locally or when to stick rigidly to a global strategy.

“For Pfizer, we adopt an 80:20 rule, adhering to a consistent global message the majority of the time, with an added amount of customization to address local market needs. It’s important to balance the economies of scale of centralized messaging and maintain consistency across markets thereby avoiding duplication of effort with customizing the message to address local preferences and cultural differences”, informs John Gordon.

Customer Experience Key

The central issue that will dictate the success of digital pharma campaigns in the future will be the quality of the consumer experience. Something Gordon is keen to impress upon us.

“Creating quality content for digital assets that meets customer’s needs, and addresses their concerns and requirements is pivotal to the success of any initiative, as if the consumer (be that the payor, the HCP or the patient) is not getting the information they require to make a decision or to bring about a desired behaviour they will ultimately go elsewhere.”

“The challenge for the pharma industry as a whole is to ensure we invest in digital strategies that are customer-centric in focus. This requires investment in internal resources and training, partnering with external agencies and technology experts, all the while pushing the boundaries and scope of digital media to engage key stakeholders,” he adds. 

The key benefit of digital channels is that it allows for true, two-way engagement and relationship building.

With the on-going mantra being “digital = good, old practices = bad”, it’s easy to (still) see the excitement surrounding digital as something of a passing fad, particularly if you’re a traditionalist. Surely if digital delivered on such promise, there’d be no need to continue banging the drum? Maybe there’s an argument to be made there (although we won’t be the ones ever making it), or maybe, just maybe, the traditionalists are holding up the digital adoption process? Maybe they’re still unable to truly see the benefits of a multichannel approach which includes new technology?

On the topic of benefits, Ong concludes for us quite nicely, “the key benefit of digital channels is that it allows for true, two-way engagement and relationship building. We also need to revise the metrics we use to determine the success of a digital campaign. Digital provides enormous real time feedback on how information is consumed, providing real consumer insights that can assist in providing a richer customer experience. It’s a listening tool that can shape an enhanced consumer experience – a richer experience that truly addresses their needs.”


Seleen and John will be presenting a case study on how Pfizer’s cross-functional regional approach led to a richer multichannel customer experience at this year’s Multichannel Marketing EU Summit in London. For more information on the presentation or to find out more about other innovations in marketing, visit the official website.


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