Clubhouse for pharma? Maybe not yet, but brands should think about voice identity amid the rise of audio social networks, expert says

Pharma Industry

Audio channels like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, Discord and now Swell are bursting onto the social networking scene, but is there a place for pharma?

Yes, says Mark Pappas, who leads growth and innovation at CMI Media Group. While it may be early for pharma brands to jump onto Clubhouse, companies should be thinking ahead and even experimenting with social audio.

One of the first things to think about is developing an audio identity—how does your brand sound? Is it male or female? Does it have a regional dialect or a twang?

“With [the] rollout of Alexa, Google Home and different interactive assistants, the way people interact with information has changed. People are much more comfortable using their voice asking smart speakers questions all the time,” Pappas said.

With the rise of audio social channels, the firm is advising clients to think about “voice identity especially if they’re going run ads on Amazon Alexa or other similar platforms,” he said.

RELATED: How might pharma buddy up with Alexa? Bayer Consumer’s first interactive voice ad is food for thought

Called audio or sonic branding, it’s generally a voice or sound that helps consumers recognize a brand or company. Think about NBC’s three-note chime or ESPN SportsCenter “DaDaDa DaDaDa” opening—or even the “Ho Ho Ho” Green Giant sing-song ditty.

Pharma brands may not be able to be quite as lighthearted, but just like a visual identity—Prilosec purple or the Viagra blue pill—pharma products can and should explore audio branding.

When it comes to audio social channels like Clubhouse or the more recently announced Twitter Spaces, where a host or hosts invite people to listen and discuss a topic live, Pappas sees pharma’s role for now as health or condition facilitators.

Drugmakers could tap key opinion leaders, for example, and in a “brought to you” by the company format, have the KOL talk about a specific condition and answer questions in a Clubhouse or Spaces room.

RELATED: Tune in: Pharma rides audio’s surge with podcasts and streaming radio ads

“Brands could create a club around a condition they treat and start to provide useful information to patients and caregivers and answer questions—it’s just another area to get involved,” Pappas said.

Along with building relationships, the forums may also lead to insights pharma companies and their agencies can use to create messaging or target the information people are most interested in.

Smart speaker adoption in the U.S. grew, spurred in part by the pandemic, last year with an initial increase in data by 47% year-over-year in April. Those gains leveled off midyear, but then jumped again toward the end of 2020, according to Comscore data. Smart speaker usage lept by 145% and 158% in November and December respectively when compared to the same time periods in 2019.

“Three or four years ago we weren’t really thinking about having a presence on smart speakers, but now they’re everywhere,” Pappas said. “Streaming audio has skyrocketed, and it’s important to tie your brand (identity) across those channels.”

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