Life Sciences Marketing

10 Life Sciences Marketing Trends That Will Shape 2024

Next year, expect to see more AI, new social platforms, and a wave of rebranding.
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In: Life Sciences Marketing

Alright, folks, it's that time again – the dreaded budget season for life science marketers.

Nobody wants to pour resources into a sinking ship, right?

So, to make your life a bit less miserable, let's dive into the trends I've spotted this year that are bound to shake up 2024.

1/ Ride the AI wave

Let's talk about the elephant in the room – AI.

ChatGPT is your new buddy in the marketing game, and if you're not on board, your boss will probably drag you into it.

Sure, it's a no-brainer that chatGPT has become the copywriter's best friend.

From improving your product page to outlining your next article, there is a prompt for every use case.

It’s becoming so good for this purpose that many copywriters morphed into prompt engineers as soon as they saw the potential of chatGPT.

But AI will also have many other uses.

It’s about to become a game-changer for video production as well.

Imagine ditching those expensive video shoots and embracing the ease of generating video explainers with a few clicks.

No more fretting over hiring actors or coercing your colleagues into becoming involuntary stars.

Generating videos is becoming as easy as pushing a few buttons.

Even Microsoft has big plans to make virtual avatars a part of your software suite.

Another obvious use will be image generation.

Remember the days when AI-generated images looked like Picasso on a caffeine overdose?

Well, say hello to DALL-E 3, OpenAI's latest masterpiece.

Artists are practically revolting because it's that good.

So, when it comes to image generation, AI has come a long way in a blink.

No more three-armed, twenty-one-fingered disasters.

Don't shy away from experimenting with those tools.

They won't replace you unless you keep denying their usefulness.

2/ Email marketing is making a comeback

Newsletters have made a comeback in recent years thanks to the rise of tools like Medium, Substack and Beehiiv.

Even though the craze has somewhat reduced in the last year, newsletters and email marketing, in particular, are more than ever under the marketers’ radar.

According to a recent survey, 62% of US marketers say their budget for email marketing has increased in the past 12 months.

And this trend is not likely to stop, as email marketing has been proven to be an extremely effective channel, with a whopping average of $36 generated for every dollar spent!

In my opinion, niche newsletters are an underestimated area of life sciences marketing.

While many specialized newsletters are popping out online, I still don’t see many companies jumping on the opportunity to place ads in them.

This is a missed opportunity as even though those newsletters tend to have smaller audiences, they can offer you a great entry to a loyal and specialized audience within a decent budget.

So start reaching out to them and tap into this opportunity to get a head start.

3/ Twitter/X is dead, long live LinkedIn

As I wrote a few months ago on LinkedIn, scientists are leaving Twitter in droves.

In a survey conducted by Nature back in August on 9,200 scientists using Twitter, 54% of them said they had reduced their use of social media in the last 6 months.

6.7% even left the platform altogether.

Well, you won't be surprised to hear that the scientist exodus has everything to do with Elon Musk's management of the platform.

As explained in a Nature article sharing the results of this survey, many scientists said that they had "noticed an increase in the number of fake accounts, trolls, and hate speech on the platform" after Musk's takeover.

For years, Twitter has been a common place for scientists around the world to promote their research and advance their careers, especially in countries where it's more difficult to get attention through the usual academic channels.

As the platform has also been a hunting ground for many journalists, it has provided an opportunity for female researchers to speak out about issues such as harassment and unequal pay, or to help scientists of color address inequality in academia.

This time is gone.

Advertisers are also fleeing the platform because having your ad displayed next to a pro-Nazi post is not great, to say the least.

So, where are all those people going?

It’s still hard to say.

While Meta is trying to replace Twitter with Threads, it’s still hard to say if it will culturally have the same impact.

Mastodon, Bluesky, and all the copycats are also not doing great and are struggling to get traction.

In my opinion, most scientists who leave Twitter will end up using LinkedIn instead.

Think about it.

Scientists use social media to promote their careers and their professional networks.

LinkedIn was built as a professional network first.

It's also become a strong social network in recent years, thanks to an algorithm change that focuses on good content.

Twitter and its clones have a really big disadvantage anyway.

They are entertainment platforms.

As scientist Emilia Jarochowska said in a Nature article:

"If you appear with your scientific contents between videos of cats, it’s not a particularly good medium for promoting yourself professionally, anyway.”

I couldn't agree more.

So let's face it, Twitter is dead ☠️

If I had to bet on a common playground for marketers and scientists, I’d go all-in on LinkedIn.

So double down on this channel to succeed in 2024.

And don’t just post boring photos of your event booth; LinkedIn has changed, and you need to adapt to it if you want to be seen.

The new game is long-form content in LinkedIn posts, so make sure to put your writer’s hat on and start creating content that reflects your expertise (I can help with that).

4/ Events will be back as if COVID never happened

Life sciences was certainly one of the most event-focused industries in the pre-pandemic era.

The stay-at-home period was not kind to life sciences marketers who struggled to adapt.

Well, it seems that this is over as physical events are coming back on the front stage at full speed.

You just need to look at the record-breaking last BIO-Europe in Munich to see the industry’s appetite for face-to-face meetings.

But even though big conventions are back, let’s not repeat the old-school strategies.

Investing dozens of thousands in a boring booth won’t help you much in 2024.

So, start looking at events in a more data-driven way.

People want to go back to this format; use the momentum to invest smartly in your event planning.

5/ It will finally be time to automate your marketing

Automation has been around for more than a decade, but while it was once reserved for nerds with good technical knowledge, it’s now becoming very easy for anyone to automate marketing campaigns.

And once again, AI is playing a key role in accelerating that.

If you know a bit about automation, you certainly know the king of this game: Zapier.

In a nutshell, Zapier can connect to pretty much any online software you are using and automate the heck out of it without requiring any code.

Well, Zapier is becoming very friendly with chatGPT, as the two companies have recently shown during OpenAi’s DevDay how to create automated agents using the combination of the two tools.

The only thing you need to do is ask chatGPT what you want to automate, and tada, the chatbot will guide you through the steps to set this up in Zapier.

If you are still hesitating, it’s time to jump on the automation bandwagon.

6/ SEO will become messy

SEO is complex (and if you’re struggling with the basics, I made an easy guide for you).

Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm and breaking website traffic without warnings.

Worst of all, it even seems that the whole SEO industry misunderstood Google’s own guidelines on how to rank.

Believe me, 2024 won’t get easier.

First, AI chatbots are coming to Google and might suck in a lot of the search traffic we use to see on our websites.

But while people might be pessimistic about it, I stay on the more optimistic side and believe that despite the fact that AI will answer most basic questions without sending you any traffic, more in-depth research will still require people to dig into first-hand sources.

And some of Google's new features are encouraging for quality content, as the company recently decided to prioritize first-hand knowledge in their ranking.

So get your best experts on board and create unique content to reflect your expertise.

This will pay off next year.

7/ You will try TikTok and fail

Yes, I know, your marketer instinct is telling you that you should be on TikTok.

And ultimately, you will succumb to the temptation and try it for your company.

Well, think about it twice.

If you’ve been using TikTok yourself, you know how addictive it can be.

And it’s not only for Gen Z, as the 45-and-older demographic grew more than 245% between July 2021 and July 2022.

But despite big pharma’s efforts to crack the TikTok code, I have real doubts that it’s a good idea for marketers to venture on this platform.

As reported in the link above, Sanofi has been sharing short-form videos of its employees in the hope of being seen as cool by the younger generation.

But you just need to look at some of the comments on their post to understand how this can backfire really fast:

Screenshot of a TikTok post by Sanofi

I’m expecting to see more of those negative comments plummeting pharma and life sciences brands trying to venture on TikTok.

People are there to forget about the real world and just doom-scroll for hours.

Trying to break their escapism with serious stuff hidden behind fakely genuine videos won’t work.

In my opinion, your brand is safer on LinkedIn, where professionalism pressure and real-name profiles tend to diminish trolling.

8/ Influencer marketing will start to emerge in B2B

Influencer marketing has been around since the Kardashians became a thing.

But life sciences companies have been more than slow to jump on the trend.

Things are starting to change as we see more and more healthcare professionals becoming influencers on diverse social channels.

And as influencers emerge, talent agencies are starting to appear as well to help marketers tap into this new resource.

If you are in B2C, you are certainly already aware of this and maybe even an early experimenter of this trend.

But I think there is also potential for B2B there, and I’m expecting more companies to try it in 2024.

Think about it.

We’re seeing more and more scientists becoming sort of influencers on LinkedIn, for instance.

Those scientists are attracting massive audiences interested in science.

Being associated with them can be a game-changer for a brand, especially so early in this game.

The only thing with influencer marketing is to make sure you are associating your brand with trusted people who fact-check their science.

You don’t want to end up with a PewDiePie situation on your hand, don’t you!

9/ Niche podcasts will become all the rage

Podcast in 2024?

Yes, but not the one you used to see back in 2020.

The time of the dumb money is gone for podcasting.

While the era of flashy acquisitions and million-dollar exclusives is behind us, podcasting is becoming something more personal and more niche than ever.

Just look at the Argenx podcast series focused on a rare disease called Myasthenia Gravis, which managed to count over 100,000 downloads.

Ultra-specialized podcasts are becoming a strong asset in the pharma marketers’ toolbox.

While chasing big numbers like Argenx may be a challenge (and maybe a bit of luck), you can still get your podcast in front of your target audience.

The relationship you’ll create is priceless.

And if you don’t want the headache of setting up your own recording studio, think about sponsoring a podcast from a publisher or hiring a podcast production company to do hard work for you.

10/ Big Pharma is going on a rebranding craze

In a bid to stay relevant and resonate with evolving consumer expectations, major pharmaceutical companies have recently undergone significant rebranding efforts.

Industry giants such as GSK and Sanofi opened the rebranding season in 2022.

Johnson & Johnson and Boehringer are the latest in line.

Heck, even venture capital firms like Flagship Pioneering are caught up in the rebranding fever.

For most of them, it’s actually not just a cosmetic change, but a real strategic overhaul of their business.

The rebranding wave is closely aligned with the recent strategy from big pharma to exit consumer health markets.

Pfizer opened the ball in 2022 and left its consumer health business under GSK’s watch.

This year, J&J spun off Kenvue to get a ton of cash to reinvest in R&D.

Novartis got rid of its generic brands, and in the last weeks, Sanofi and Bayer shared their intention to leave consumer health to focus only on innovative therapies.

For life science marketers, this wave of rebranding introduces both challenges and opportunities.

On the one hand, it will be hard to keep track of all this mess going on in the pharma world.

On the other hand, the rebranding initiatives present an opportune moment for life science marketers to collaborate with big pharma on shared narratives.

All the big guns seem to be excited by the idea of being totally focused on innovation.

Goodbye ibuprofen; say hello to immunotherapies and obesity cash cows.

Leveraging the momentum of these transformations, marketers can position their products and services as integral components of the industry's forward-looking vision.

As big pharma evolves, life science marketers have the chance to ride the wave of change, positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation and contributing to the industry's overarching narrative.

Going into unknown territories

Look, I might be totally wrong on most of those predictions.

After all, we couldn't have predicted a year ago that a chatbot from an obscure AI company would become the main topic of conversation.

What’s important is to keep an eye on the new trends as they unfold.

Marketing has always been a fast-moving field, and that’s why I love it so much.

With AI in the mix, it's even crazier to keep track of what's going on.

But as long as you keep an open mind and experiment with the tools at your disposal, I think there is always a path to success, whatever that means for you and your business.

So keep exploring, dear marketers!

Written by
Joachim Eeckhout
Over the past decade, I have specialized in science communication and marketing while building a successful biotech media company. Now, I'm sharing what I've learned with you on The Science Marketer.
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