Study Shows Web 2.0 Influence for Pharma Brands on the Rise; Effective Brand Engagement Lacking

Study Shows Web 2.0 Influence for Pharma Brands on the Rise; Effective Brand Engagement Lacking 

While health marketing buzz is agog about blogs, social networking and various consumer-generated media activities, there has been little research that defines the extent to which these Web 2.0 spaces truly have an impact on the brands that target them for their marketing efforts.

St. Louis, MO (PRWEB) April 9, 2008 -- While health marketing buzz is agog about blogs, social networking and various consumer-generated media activities, there has been little research that defines the extent to which these Web 2.0 spaces truly have an impact on the brands that target them for their marketing efforts.

 Now, people searching for pharmaceutical brands are encountering blogs and forums in visible search results. What's more, these consumer-generated media participants are actively talking about the brands and their comments are often negative toward brands and physician-prescribed treatment options.  
But new research from v-Fluence Interactive into the online environments of top-name pharmaceutical treatments for cholesterol sheds light on this dearth:

•   Web 2.0 and its range of social media opportunities are gaining greater influence and visibility in the Web 1.0 world. That is, there's an increasing tendency for Web 2.0 spaces, including blogs and other social media forums, to show up among the most visible and influential spaces consumers see when they conduct Web 1.0 searches for cholesterol brands.
•   Web 1.0 searches are still the most often used method by which consumers look for and seek out information about cholesterol brands, their treatment plans and side effects.
•   The information consumers find in Web 2.0 spaces often occurs in a manner that's not friendly or favorable to the brands, patients and treatment providers—and v-Fluence research and monitoring of these online spaces shows pharmaceutical companies have yet to engage this potentially reputation-damaging content.
•   Brand engagement in these Web 2.0 spaces consists largely of online advertising and, research shows, it is sometimes inappropriately placed on sites that are actively working against the interests of the brands themselves.

"Up until now, blogs and discussion spaces have remained virtually invisible to most search engine users. They've been out there, but they've largely been invisible unless someone actively looks for them," says Erin Borrini, lead for v-Fluence's online benchmark research and analysis team.

"Our research shows this dynamic has changed measurably over the past two years," Borrini says. "Now, people searching for pharmaceutical brands are encountering blogs and forums in visible search results. What's more, these consumer-generated media participants are actively talking about the brands and their comments are often negative toward brands and physician-prescribed treatment options."

For example, v-Fluence's research into the online environments for top cholesterol brands shows that the number of blogs referencing brand name treatments more than doubled between 2006 and 2008. Meanwhile, the growth rate in the number of brand-relevant discussion forums increased as much as five-fold, depending on the specific brand. Across both these blog and discussion forum spaces, the favorability of the content is most often negative toward the brands, Borrini says.

Some specific findings from the v-Fluence research:

•   The number of visible and influential blogs in search results for specific cholesterol brands has doubled in the past 18 months. For example, v-Fluence research in 2006 found two blogs appeared in visible search results for one of the leading cholesterol treatment brands. Of the two, only 1 blog ranked sufficiently to be considered "influential" to online search engine users. In 2008, our research reveals four blogs, all of which are visible and influential, in this brand's search results.

•   The number of visible and influential discussion forums has increased as much as five-fold. v-Fluence's 2006 research also showed no discussion forums visible in the online search environment for top cholesterol brands. This year, however, our research shows five discussion forums (of which only one is "influential"). Among the cholesterol brands, our research also shows Simvastatin (ZOCOR) has the highest number of discussion forums (eight) referencing the brand.

•   The favorability of content in these blog and discussion forums is mostly negative toward the major cholesterol brands. For example, v-Fluence's 2008 research shows that among the 10 blogs that appear in the visible online environments for cholesterol brands, four are negative toward specific brands, two are neutral, two are balanced and two come from promoters of alternative medications.

•   Discussion forums often address multiple brands and make head-to-head comparisons. v-Fluence's 2008 research shows that a discussion group that surfaced in the search results for one of the branded drugs also appeared in the search results for 11 of the remaining 12 medications. The reason: Forum participants often discuss various treatments and compare efficacy, side effects and related issues and observations, Borrini says.

"It's now more and more common to see bloggers and other social media participants talking about negative side effects and, in some cases, specific product litigation options," adds v-Fluence president Jay Byrne. "In fact, when brand marketing content can be found in these spaces—mostly in the form of online advertising—it is largely inappropriate, non-responsive and at times detrimental to the brand's interests in these spaces."

Byrne says that v-Fluence's research and monitoring of online environments for cholesterol and other pharmaceutical brands finds that some brand-specific ads appear on health sites that promote alternative medications and litigation and work against the brand's best interest. These same ads also appear on more supportive spaces, such as health portals.

"This is clear evidence that some pharmaceutical companies deploy a 'broadcast' strategy to tap into Web 2.0 spaces without full knowledge of their respective online environments," Byrne explains. "Regardless of their levels of outreach and engagements, our research suggests brand managers and marketers should be paying more attention and provided better analysis for their online investments."

Background on v-Fluence's research methodology: In both 2006 and 2008, v-Fluence applied its proprietary tools and research-based methodology to track how consumers search for branded cholesterol drugs online and where those searches take them. Our work also includes the proprietary measurement of "online visibility and influence" to determine those spaces online consumers are most likely to see. The comparisons noted here reflect changes that have occurred in the online environments for cholesterol brands in the nearly two-year period between the two research initiatives.

About v-Fluence Interactive: With locations in San Diego, St. Louis, Boston, Chicago and Washington, DC, v-Fluence provides major brands and organizations the online analytics, strategy development and execution support they need to be measurably successful on the Web. For more on the company, visit http://www.v-fluence.com.

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