Jan 11 2024
Ryan Sperry

Understanding 5 Key Pharmaceutical Consumer Personas


Pharmaceutical marketers today have their work cut out for them. On the one hand, technological developments like digital healthcare, personalized medicine, and artificial intelligence are reshaping how consumers take care of their health. On the other, signal loss in digital advertising, created by factors like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, digital advertising regulation, and the loss of third-party cookies, is changing how advertisers can target consumers and assess campaign performance.

Amidst all this technological transformation, however, a key marketing tenet remains true: To market effectively, you must know your consumers. Pharmaceutical advertisers who take the time to understand the various segments they want to reach will create a level of relevance that cuts through the noise and builds trust and memorability with their target audiences.

To that end, let’s get to know how five key pharmaceutical consumer personas look, sound, and feel as they shop for these critical medicines.

1. Chronic Conditions

“There’s almost too much information to sift through, but I’ll do whatever it takes to improve my health.”

More than 116 million US adults live with chronic conditions, some of the most common including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. These consumers are often aged 45 and older, are married, and have college degrees and annual household incomes less than $100,000. They visit their doctors often and are mindful of what they have to say. This professional advice is particularly valuable because, between the media's coverage of this industry and pharma's large ad spend, this group is constantly bombarded with information about their conditions and available treatments. Because their health negatively impacts important things like family time, they’re willing to do what it takes to manage their symptoms.

Industry advertisers can prepare this group with the right questions to ask during their frequent doctor visits by leveraging messaging that relates to their experience and sharing how their brand can help. For high relevance, marketers can use contextual targeting to align ads with content about conditions, and take over ad inventory of resource-focused websites known as “condition centers.” At the same time, advertisers can tap into data providers who create custom models based on anonymized patient diagnosis and treatment information to reach target audiences wherever they are in the digital world, whether researching or simply relaxing.

2. Older Adults

“I have to trust my doctor and my medications if I’m going to maintain my quality of life.”

There are just over 102 million US adults in this segment, and they’re typically aged 50 and older, married, college educated, and bringing in less than $100,000 per year. These folks see their healthcare professionals regularly for check-ups, screenings, and the like, and take their recommendations seriously when it comes to medications and lifestyle. They use the drug brands their doctors recommend, and stick to the brands they know even if their favored brand is a little more expensive, unless a change is deemed necessary. Therefore, it’s important to approach this audience with a mix of emotional appeal and hard evidence that they can bring to conversations with their doctor.

That loyalty only leaves a bit of room for new brands to enter a patient’s consideration set, but this audience does stay up to date on alternatives, so the window is slightly open. Given the broad nature of this segment, search advertising can help people who are looking for answers to their health-related questions when they are in the discovery stage, while contextual targeting can reach those who are researching specific ailments. For awareness, a mix of CTV and radio is a great way to bridge the gap between traditional media and digital for this audience.

3. Younger OTC

“This is stressful. I still work when I’m sick AND I have to search for OTC drugs I can afford and trust.”

Forty-eight million plus younger US adults rely on over-the-counter medicine to manage symptoms of illness. Typically aged 18 to 44, they were born and have come into adulthood in an age of two economic crises and a pandemic… and, understandably, they’re stressed. Between career (where they earn $50,000-$250,000 per year) and family (they’re mostly unmarried but in some cases living with a partner and with kids in the home), they’re stretched thin—sometimes so thin that they don’t care for their health issues as well as they should.

Because of this constant state of stress, it may take a while for pharma advertisers to get their attention, but this group is always looking for ways to improve their health. And given their level of digital savvy, they know how to seek out answers. Once they find what they’re looking for, they would rather try out OTC options and skip the visit to the doctor. So, it’s important to be there when they are doing research around their condition, making search a top channel for this audience. Point-of-care platforms focused on telehealth are also a great option, as the younger audience continues to utilize these platforms over in-person visits.

4. Surgical Patients

“I’m trying not to worry—I just had surgery, and I don’t want my recovery to be hard and expensive.”

This key audience segment is made up of the more than 46 million US adults who go “under the knife” each year. They’re usually aged 55 and older, either married or not married, have some college education, and tend to earn $100,000-$250,000 annually. Surgical patients tend to do what their doctors tell them, only using or switching drug brands as recommended by their physicians. These folks are all too familiar with the healthcare system as they navigate procedures that require more care than just a standard visit. It’s important to focus on information using high-impact placements that can help establish trust with the brand.

While they may not be easily swayed by pharmaceutical ads, they do their due diligence, taking care to perform research about health and wellness on trusted websites and ensuring their health insurance covers all prescriptions. Industry advertisers should consider sponsored content with top healthcare publishers paired with condition center takeovers to appear during that investigation. For a broader approach, CTV and streaming audio can communicate in-depth messages more effectively than channels where space to include information can be limited, such as display.

5. Healthcare Workers

“My job is already demanding, but I can’t let my patients down by not doing my research or recommending costly drugs.”

It’s hard to discuss the pharmaceutical industry without looking at the 7.4 million healthcare workers who diagnose patients and prescribe their medications. They are generally women, aged 25 to 54, who are married with children, have graduated college, and are earning $75,000 or more per year. Their passion for their career leads to a lot of positives for their patients: Healthcare workers are typically very analytical in their decision-making process, looking for the best options for their patients and the most efficient way to deliver results. Pharma advertisers should reach them on the platforms where they actively engage with other professionals, like Doximity and Sermo, or LinkedIn for those on the administrative side.

Because this segment tends to be strapped for time, they often stick with what’s already working for their patients. However, advertising that’s adjacent to their research can bring forth new options for consideration. Marketers should align ads contextually with this group’s favored content, like trade publications and discussion sites, by setting up custom private marketplaces and using programmatic guaranteed for preferred rates and direct deals. Point-of-care platforms can also help reach doctors when they are in the process of making treatment decisions. Last, ads should include compelling, informative messages that highlight the benefits of the product.

Wrapping Up: Pharmaceutical Consumer Personas for Advertisers

Industry advertisers have much to weigh as they look to fuel business growth by targeting key groups of consumers. By incorporating the personas outlined above into their planning, marketers can ensure that their approaches are suited to the pharmaceutical consumers of today. Strategic targeting and messaging based on the characteristics of these personas will be just what the doctor ordered for brands to maintain or grow market share and consumer trust.

If you’re looking to connect with pharmaceutical consumers in a meaningful way, advertising automation can help. It empowers your team to get more granular and efficient when reaching audiences on the channels they prefer and to deploy impactful, personalized messaging. Download our guide to learn more about how advertising automation can help you create intentional, omnichannel experiences for key audiences.

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