Facebook Instagram Acquisition: 7 Lessons Learned for Pharma

Mark Zuckerberg CEO FacebookSo, you have a billion bucks you’re looking to invest, and you want to purchase a company that currently has no revenue.  Within the context of the Instagram acquisition here are a few things every Pharmaceutical marketer should consider. 


Instagram acquisition is designed to thwart a competitive advantage, e.g. Google

Strategically, this is an approach that all Pharmaceutical marketers should leverage.  While product differentiation is typically driven by the compound MOA and efficacy data; the manner in which physicians are engaged can be a game changer.

One approach currently available to Pharmaceutical marketers is the option to acquire the bankrupt MTI Information Technologies Physician Preference database, a Physician Intelligent Engagement Engine, (Campaign management algorithm based on financial parameters and 10 years worth of physician channel preference data), which is an asset that no other Pharmaceutical company will have access to and be able to utilize in a competitive nature.

Facebook’s mobile app is poorly designed and lacks vision

Mobile is the future and Facebook knows it.  Pharmaceutical companies’ core function is to manufacturer and market medications that address patient needs. That is their future.  To address this perspective Pharmaceutical marketing leaders need to enhance the skill sets within their marketing teams to keep up with evolving marketing channels.

Creating direct mail pieces and sales aides are part of a skill set that is thoroughly engrained in Brand marketing teams.  Emerging technologies are the new gold standard and marketers on brand teams need to masters these skills to be competitive in the 21st century.  It is no longer an option to rely on internal subject matter experts or centers of excellence to drive channel strategy during strategic planning.  The channel strategy should be driven by brand team marketers. The future is now.

Facebook wants to recapture the essence of what it once was

“Facebook bought the thing that is hardest to fake.   It bought sincerity,” says Paul Ford at NYMag.  This clearly illustrates two sides of the equation: 1.) Facebook is no longer cool and hip but a Fortune 1000 company which is the darling of Wall Street investors.  2.) Instagram is an idealist young adult that just sold-out.

KOL mapping is a staple tactic in a Pharmaceutical marketers’ toolbox. A 21st century twist is identifying social media KOLs that have a sphere of influence, impact and reach that is not on the traditional mapping processes radar.  Being innovative does not always require recreating the wheel but figuring out how to improve it.

They want to keep people on Facebook

“Providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  Om Malik at GigaOm translated that as: “Facebook was scared s**less and knew that for the first time in its life it arguably had a competitor that could not only eat its lunch, but also destroy its future prospects.”

Pharmaceutical marketers need to evolve their physician multichannel marketing behavioral objectives from product centric usage to organizational advocacy.  It is expense and resource intensive to build awareness, interest and usage for each new product that is launched.  Focusing on the long-term relationship is cost efficient and effective.  This will allow Pharmaceutical marketers to maximize their marketing expenditure.

More data means better mobile ads

Techie Robert Scoble argues that Instagram has a better idea of what its users are doing and what they like doing. “If you are a skier, you take pictures of snow and skiing. If you are a foodie you take pictures of food at high-end restaurants. If you are into quilting, a lot of your photos will be of that,” writes Scoble at Quora. “Facebook’s databases need this info to optimize the media it will bring to you.

This data is WORTH S***LOADS! Imagine you’re a ski resort and want to reach skiers, Instagram will give them a new way to do that, all while being far more targeted than Facebook otherwise could be.”

Location, location, location is the battle cry when securing retail space.  The equivalent in physician multichannel marketing is segmentation.  In today’s competitive environment, it is  not good enough just to segment on Rx writing behavior.  With the availability of data across a variety of categories; media consumption and personal financial transactional data, advanced usage of multi-regression models that predict Rx prescription behavior can become extremely powerful predictors of future behavior.

They need to keep the digital upper class energized about using Facebook

“Facebook is not the preferred destination or permanent mailing address of the digital upper class,” writes Carles at Grantland. “While Facebook became one of the most valuable sites on the Internet by allowing mass-market audiences to participate in life as we now know it, it is still under the threat of becoming an impersonal experience without constant innovation that is aimed at making users feel like they are building something meaningful as they upload their lives to the social network. Being on Facebook just doesn’t make you feel like a VIP.”

Pharma patient and physicians needs are evolving.  Pharma marketers must ensure that the digital, multichannel and relationship marketing approaches evolve with them.  New innovative ideas must be grounded in Pavlov’s Hierarchy of Needs, (Psychological, Safety, Social, Esteem and Self Actualization), as customer needs are constant.  Pharma marketers must recognize that they must create new meaningful approaches that satisfies those needs.

Because it’s scared

“Young hot technology companies are nothing if not aware of their mortality,” write Nick Bilton and Somini Snegupta at the New York Times. “Because so many started out by wounding an older tech giant, they know they can be killed, or at least severely injured, by that which lurks in the rented office space of Silicon Valley — an even hotter, younger technology company.”

While I commend Facebook for their aggressive action, it would be irresponsible of me to suggest that Pharmaceutical marketers invest $1B dollars into a venture that is currently not generating any revenue.  None the less, successful business endeavors require some level of risk taking.  Those willing to act as thought leaders in their organizations and take risks may experience set backs but will eventually reap huge rewards.


“10 Reasons Why Facebook Bought Instagram”, Forbes<http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/04/11/ten-reasons-why-facebook-bought-instagram/>..” 6 Apr. 2012

 “Instagram and Digital Classism – Hollywood Prospectus Blog”  <http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/47456/instagram-and-digital-classism>. 6 Apr. 2012

 New York Times ‘Facebook Plays Offense and Defense in a Single Deal” <http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/technology /facebook-plays-offense-and-defense-in-a-single-deal-630865/>. 6 April 2012