What century are we living in?

What century are we living in?

In this age of Twitter, Facebook, iPhones and the internet leave it to Lilly (NYSE:LLY) to rely on old fashioned snail mail to get their message out.  Over the past few months Diabetic Investor has been receiving a series of printed material from Lilly designed to help educate patients on the benefits of insulin therapy while promoting Humalog® the company’s short acting insulin. The most recent installment in this series, the sixth we have received is entitled Stepping Out and states; “This brochure has tips to help you handle many different situations that come up: When you travel, At work, When you go out, When the unexpected happens” The brochure is well designed, easy to follow and if read could be a valuable educational tool.

The question is; does anyone actually reading this stuff and is this cost effective. While Diabetic Investor is not an expert on printing or design this well done material surly cost the company a pretty penny; not to mention it cost Lilly $1.73 in postage to mail it. Now Diabetic Investor has no idea how many patients have signed up to receive this material, a procedure that’s actually done on the Humalog web site, but given the number of patients using Humalog it’s safe to say that the number is greater than 100,000 and most likely higher. Doing some quick back of the napkin math, even if the numbers are less than 100,000, this is a very expensive marketing program. Remember Lilly is sending patients a series of material not just one isolated brochure.

One could reason that if a patient is motivated to sign up for this material they will also be motivated to read it when it arrives. On the flip side one could also argue that these patients who sign up to receive the material on the Humalog web site have a basic understanding of technology and would be just as happy to receive this material via email. This would not only allow Lilly to be more creative with their material, using the technology would save them a ton of money and would be more environmentally friendly to boot.

Just as way of contrast Lilly’s main competitors, Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) and Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) are embracing the internet, email and social media to promote their insulin offerings. Just as Diabetic Investor receives snail mail from Lilly, Novo also sends Diabetic Investor material on regular basis only Novo sends it via email.

Sanofi Aventis who has a great series of web sites also follows Lilly’s snail mail approach with their Lantus® Connection ™ Program which allows Lantus user to sign up on the site but then sends more information via snail mail. Even stranger is the fact that if you are not a patient currently using Lantus you cannot enjoy the benefits if this program as the program is “Exclusively for LANTUS® users.” Just why Sanofi Aventis is excluding non-Lantus users and not gathering valuable information on potential new patients is anyone’s guess.

When Diabetic Investor tried to sign up and noted we were not a Lantus user we were directed to the Lantus site. While we understand why we were directed there the question is why the company didn’t direct us there after they gathered our contact information and email address. Why not capture this valuable information and send us information even if we are not currently a Lantus user. Do they not want us as a Lantus user? Would they prefer we not ask our physician about Lantus? Would it not have been smarter to capture this valuable information and send us a coupon to help us get started on Lantus?

Just by way of contrast if you visit the Novolog site and indicate that you are not currently a Novolog user and are interested in Novolog the patient is directed to their Cornerstone4Care™ site and the first thing that pops up is an ad that lets the patient know they can save $50. Even if you not currently using any of Novo’s insulin’s the patient can still sign up for the program and Novo captures valuable patient information. The site is not restricted to just Novo patients but is open to anyone.

Even the Lilly Small Steps Program does not require the patient be a Humalog user to sign up and they do capture valuable patient information.

Given the increasingly competitive nature of the insulin market where every patient counts one just might think that insulin companies would not only embrace the internet but use it effectively. It’s dumbfounding at time when patients are embracing the internet and email has become commonplace that any company would actually send anything via old fashioned snail mail. It’s equally strange that any company would not want to capture as much patient information as possible and restrict access to the tools they have developed just because at that particular moment in time the patient is not using their product. Talk about a turn off.

Diabetic Investor has complained long and loud about diabetes device companies over reliance on whiz bang technology to sell more gizmos. However when it comes to drugs used to treat diabetes, insulin in particular, the internet when used properly can be a very effective tool. It is also true that besides being a more interactive medium that actually engages the patient, the internet and email are more cost effective methods for attracting new patients and retaining existing patients. Why any company would spend their resources on out dated old fashioned printed material which cost a bundle to design, print and mail baffles the mind. Equally baffling is how companies with some very slick web sites would then do a complete about face and send material through the mail. Do they not want the patient to come back to their site or become engaged with their brand?

Are we not living in the 21st century where almost every person on this planet uses the internet as their primary communication tool? Is it not true that almost every mobile device also can access the internet? Is it not true that for the majority of patients email is preferred method for receiving information?

Just what century are these insulin companies living in?