Pharma Marketing to Millennials: Tips for Healthcare Comms


Millennial: “I’m here and I’m open to marketing messages.”

Pharma Marketers: “Get off my lawn.”


All kidding aside, this phenomenon isn’t far from the truth. Healthcare comms know the importance of targeting millennials in their marketing messages, according to a survey conducted by Medical Marketing & Media.



  • 77 percent of respondents say it’s critical to reach this generation because they represent the patients of tomorrow;
  • 52 percent report that the sheer size of the generation is key for marketing purposes; and,
  • Just under half recognize that millennials are important consumers of their products.


At the same time, the survey reported a very sobering statistic: Healthcare manufacturing firms dedicate 12 percent of their marketing budget, begging the question:


Why are pharma marketers acting like the crotchety old man sitting in his rocker on the porch?


What gives?


Well, millennials – those who reached adulthood around 2000 (sources range their births from late 1970s to early 1980s, though others claim they’re born as late as the 1990s) – are quite a puzzling bunch. And not just for those of us marketing in the life sciences. Across the board, marketers find it a challenge to speak to an audience that’s skeptical of Big Corporate, yet open to advertising on their own level. A group that’s crazy about social media, but cynical about connecting with brands.


For pharma marketers, there are additional challenges: We’re used to the generations that phone the doctor for an appointment or a prescription when we’re sick. Millennials, on the other hand, focus on full body health and well-being. They seek out wholesome, natural remedies for what ails them. Plus, they’re young. They don’t yet experience many of the medical conditions that impacting those generations that pre-date them.


And don’t even get us started on the challenges presented by regulatory compliance in the healthcare comms space.


Hmm…it’s no wonder pharma marketers have fallen behind.


Fortunately, there are ways to embrace this puzzling generation and connect with them. And now is the time – not years down the road when millennials are aging and there’s an insurmountable gap between them and pharma brands.


Be Authentic: If you take nothing else away, it should be this.


Millennials can spot a phony from a mile away, and when they do – you’re done. You’ll never get that chance back to win them over. As Hubpost states so eloquently: “Authentic content empowers them.” It’s an issue of trust, and they trust their own peers


This is a generation that embraces the thoughts and experiences of those they “know”…even if they’ve never physically met them. Millennials crave the opinions of people who could be complete strangers, but they share the same interests on social media. When they relate, they trust.


Go for UGC: Because they rely on the relevant opinions of their peers, user-generated content can be powerful stuff for pharma marketers. Millennials rely on UGC, with 84 percent reporting that it influences their decisions and 76 percent stating that they trust content from other users to be more trustworthy than brand content.


But because of the regulatory limitations, UGC can be an uphill battle for pharma marketers. The loss of control can get you in trouble, but there are opportunities to get your audience involved. Millennials yearn for information on topics related to wellness, disease prevention, and natural remedies in healthcare. There are countless routes you can take to encourage feedback from your community – which you can share and distribute as the UGC that millennials love.


Get Collaborative: Are those crickets I hear? How can healthcare marketers possibly benefit from collaborating with millennials?


Well, you can – and yes, you should. If there’s anyone that millennials trust more than their peers, it’s themselves.


That MM&M survey mentioned above reports from external market data that 42 percent of this generation wants to co-create products with companies. In the pharma world, that’s not possible. FDA regulatory compliance may be a bit murky at times, but we’re pretty sure they wouldn’t allow a non-medical professional in the drug R&D lab.


However, it IS possible to get millennials involved in the creation process. Getting them involved in how products are made bridges that gap and enables relationship building. It’s not as crazy a strategy as you think: 36 percent of biopharma respondents in the MM&M survey say they plan to involve millennials in the creation of products in the next three years. Firms that have their thumb on the pulse of their community when developing products better engage them – and drive loyalty that can last a lifetime.


So, pharma marketers need to get away from the “Get off my lawn” approach to connecting with millennials. Trust is gained through authenticity, which is a product of UGC and collaboration. And if all else fails in marketing to millennials, healthcare marketers could always just go the obvious route: Hire them for your campaigns.


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