What does 2021 have in store for pharma marketing?

Issue 12, December 2020

"What does 2021 have in store for pharma marketing?"

While 2020 was a year no one could have predicted, we thought it’d be a great time to dust off the crystal ball and look optimistically to what 2021 might hold.

Bastion Brands reached out to some of the pharma industry’s key marketing people and asked them 5 questions about Pharmaceutical Marketing in general, and how they are marketing their brands in the wake of 2020 and the tsunami of change this has brought to the landscape… here’s what they told us.

1. What is your biggest learning from 2020? 

Unanimously these responses followed the fact that F2F interactions are a thing of the past. And while many were slow to adapt tactics, HCPs seemed – and continue – to be very open to online sales calls.

“Pharma has forever relied on F2F interactions… but now we need to better blend F2F and other channels of marketing… to adapt, move forward quickly and optimise all relevant marketing channels to ensure your strategy holds up regardless of the situation.”

“…together we have accelerated the relationship away from a transactional to a partnership one… there is scope to build further trust as pharma were seen as the ‘good guys’ during 2020 by being more transparent, trusting and open with customers.

2. What is the biggest shift to how you market? 

Without conference activity and virtually every interaction being been done without reps in front of HCPs for the last 6 months, the shift has seen more reliance on digital, email and tele comm’s – and will continue to be a focus.

“The way forward will be finding that balance between digital and face to face and show a strong commitment to bringing value beyond just product and price.

3. What is the largest mistake you see being made in pharma marketing today? 

Most responses pointed out that ‘learnings’ had been made rather than ‘mistakes’, once the reliance on F2F marketing was compromised.

“COVID really highlighted the gaps pharma had. To its credit, most organisations have adapted quickly and are now learning how to better interact without F2F calls… In the past there hasn’t been the pressure to nail these channels because we have always had our core F2F business interactions.”

And that… “there was still too much conservatism from the company (not necessarily marketing)… all too readily saying ‘no, I don’t think so’, instead of ‘how can we?’…”

4. With regard to the changes you have made to your marketing mix since COVID 19, what are you going to continue with, in 2021?

Most agreed the new mix would entail a blend of F2F, virtual and phone calls.

“…it will continue to increase our transparency and value.”

“Each of these platforms require a different skill with regards to how to deliver your product story and messages effectively. Not only do we need to have a story for our F2F calls, we need one for virtual and phone calls to make them just as engaging.”

5. What is your number one priority in 2021? 

Most responses were focused on building on the new channels and relationships developed throughout COVID.

“Maximising the use of different channels to ensure content can be received by HCPs in their preferred way,” and “Solidifying our existing customer base to protecting against competitors entering the market.”

Interestingly a few responses pointed out that building even stronger relationships was a priority.

“Taking some risks and trusting our customers to continue the journey with us to win-win situations.”

In summary, 2020 has been a huge learning curve for all of us – especially in navigating the use of new channels. This learning will continue to develop in 2021, with the focus on bringing more meaningful interactions to those channels.

Throughout 2020 Bastion Brands have helped our clients navigate and execute effectively across all channels. If you’d like to see some case studies or take a more detailed look at our survey answers, please contact us for more.

Maybe we can help you build a more effective approach to your marketing in 2021 and beyond.

If you are interested in a marketing effectiveness game-plan, reach out to:


Simon Davies
M: 0402 425 545


Dan King
M: 0439 190 700


We are always interested in hearing from great people dedicated to making a career in pharmaceutical communications. If you’re ready to make a positive impact with Bastion Brands, get in touch today.