It’s happening. In fact, it’s already happened. The pharma industry is hurtling headlong into emerging markets with incredible passion and energy. Emerging markets aren’t just the future of the pharma industry; they are increasingly the present as well. As strategic partners for our clients, we need to be on top of the relevant marketing trends as we travel into new frontiers like emerging markets. So, how can we do that? First, it’s important to look at why the expansion into emerging markets is happening so rapidly. There are several reasons:

  1. Sales in more developed markets are flattening: Stagnating populations in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Western Europe, expiring patents, and increased regulatory barriers are all contributing to sluggish growth.
  2. Emerging markets have large populations: The 6 most sought after emerging markets, the so-called BRICMT countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, and Turkey), have combined populations of approximately 3 billion people. Emerging market countries as a whole hold about 70% of the world’s population.
  3. These markets are gaining access to healthcare: As economies in emerging markets grow, more people are accessing healthcare, which is helping them live longer. In fact, healthcare spending in emerging markets has surpassed spending in the EU5 (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom). Apart from being exciting on a human level, this creates new opportunities for growth.

We all want to increase our business, and based on the trajectory of the pharma industry, emerging markets is one of the most promising areas to foster that growth. In order to ensure that we thrive long term, we need to understand how emerging markets work and how we can fit in.

  • Understand that every market is different: While the idea that different approaches are needed in different countries seems obvious, it can be difficult in practice. One of the biggest mistakes companies can make in emerging markets is to try to use a “one size fits all” strategy in the name of efficiency and consistency. So much about every country is different, including health infrastructure, culture, and regulatory processes. Therefore, smart pharma companies are taking a local approach, with much of their development, manufacturing, and sales resources located in the countries themselves
  • Partner with local marketing teams: Many pharma companies are looking at marketing with the same local approach as their other operations, which makes perfect sense. That leaves us with the task of finding ways to work with local marketers. In the name of efficiency, much will be left up to the local team, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stake a claim to top-level tasks such as strategic planning, tactical ideation, technical innovation, and global message development. It’s a matter of proving to our clients that we are a valuable global brand steward who understands local marketing trends
  • Embrace branded generics: Generics are widely used in emerging markets, and are often protected from intellectual property claims by local law. This has led to the rise of branded generics, which are pretty much what they sound like. These lower cost alternatives to the original drug can build up brand equity and awareness, often with the help of sales forces and marketing efforts. That leaves pharma companies in a “with us or against us” conundrum. When entering a market, they can either compete directly with a branded generic or manufacture one of their own. Either way, it’s important to understand how branded generics work in each emerging market so we can successfully market them, or against them
  • Expand our knowledge: It’s all about proving to our clients that we can help them in emerging markets. That means learning about who the important stakeholders are (payers and hospitals are increasingly important), understanding how intellectual property laws can affect our brands, and considering additional factors like local economics and pricing dynamics

The emerging markets train has already left the station. Some (maybe even a lot) of the advertising work in these emerging markets will inevitably be handled locally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have our hat in the ring. We go through great pains to show our clients that we understand marketing trends, and knowing emerging markets is a key part of that. There’s no reason our clients can’t have successful marketing operations working in these countries that are supported by agencies in the United States. It’s just a matter of making it happen.