The iTunes model is the future of pharma
There was a time where the difference between products and services was clear. But the evolution of online and digital technologies means that now, often, the two things are intertwined. Take iTunes, for example. It delivers both a product, like a piece of music, and a service, storing and playing the music.
As service excellence becomes increasingly the norm in wider consumer culture, the implications for pharma and healthcare brands are far reaching. From a commercial perspective, thinking about brands as services can start to open up solutions to common business challenges: how to differentiate from rivals, encourage brand loyalty, and create value outside the typical life cycle of a particular drug?
A great example is Pacif-i who make smart pacifiers that not only act as a dummy but can take and record information about babies’ temperatures and help parents find the dummy when it’s missing. Their integration of product and service clearly distinguishes them and adds value to their offering, both financially literally and in terms of cultural capital.
But great examples are few and far between. While pharmaceutical and healthcare companies are increasingly extolling the virtues of moving “beyond the pill” to provide services, few have managed to truly integrate this philosophy.
The reason for this is that pharmaceutical companies are not thinking like service providers. The way they will succeed is by adopting a mindset more akin to iTunes or Amazon, a mindset that focuses on facilitating seamless interactions and fostering on-going relationships.
The best services lead to the best outcomes for health and wellness because they’re designed with people and their myriad emotions, needs and frailties in mind. We all have a life outside a given moment of consumption and our behaviours are shaped by the cultures we live in.
Brands like Glow cap know this and have created an offering that is a hybrid of product and service. They’ve designed a medicine bottle lid that glows when its time to take the medicine, sending text reminders and collecting data on consumption to help track health outcomes.
Similarly Pill pack offers a service where all medications taken in a given day are packaged together and dispensed daily in an easily transportable way.
Thinking in terms of service ultimately allows us to think about brands less as a means to generate revenue alone, and more as a tool to help build relationships person-to-person. In this way, brands become vehicles for providing human-centred services that listen, respond, converse and support, rather than simply transact. The benefits of such an approach will be felt by brands, healthcare providers and patients alike.
Health through the Culture Lens is a weekly series exploring important cultural currents in health and pharma
- Article by Lizzie Jones