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Digital Marketing In A Regulated Industry
Apr 11

Marketing in a Regulated Industry? Here's How to Grow Your Brand Online


In: Strategy Insights

For brands that work within highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, alcohol, tobacco and financial services, strict marketing regulations are a constant concern when trying to reach today’s consumers. The struggle within digital is no different with heavy-hitters such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook all bringing their own restrictions on these industries with them, restrictions that constantly ebb and flow as regulations change. Just as important as it is to keep up with the latest regulations is understanding what strategies and tactics can help your brand overcome them. 

Check out our tips for how to grow your brand’s digital marketing success within a regulated industry: 

Get Personal  

While compliance is essential, compliance does not mean that every piece of branded content and experience must be uniform and impersonal. By personalizing your content, you are not just speaking directly to the user with content that is relevant to them, you are also providing a sense of authenticity. This makes users more likely to not only engage with your content but also respond positively to future offerings.

Just personalizing email messages alone has been shown to improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.

That figure above is more impressive when you realize that email personalization is a basic component of marketing automation and can be achieved with just a few simple clicks within your CRM. By properly segmenting your target audience and creating a series of automated triggers and relevant landing pages, you can empower your digital marketing strategy with a lead nurturing campaign that delivers the right content to the right consumers at the right time. While you may not have as much control over the type of content you are permitted to create, you can ensure that all content is targeted and made personal for each and every user.

Know Your (Online) Limitations

If your brand works within a highly regulated industry, chances are you have sufficiently lawyered up to protect your business from stepping out of bounds in your marketing efforts. However, while industry regulations may be your legal team’s specialty, they are not marketers and may not understand that digital channels have their own restrictions that often change more quickly than the broader industry rules. For some brands, marketing via certain channels may be absolutely prohibited or highly restricted. In the alcohol industry, for example, any user-generated content that appears on company websites can only be contributed by “registered members” of the brand. Likewise, pharmaceutical companies are not permitted to “like” or “retweet” any third-parties claim if it includes a violative statement, regardless whether the statement originated with the brand or not. However, pharma brands can engage in online disease education and prevention information about the areas where their products specialize, effectively joining the conversation without making a problematic connection to their product.

It’s because of these nuances that it's absolutely essential that your brand can keep pace with what the most popular digital platforms are doing in terms of regulation. If keeping up with the quickly evolving world of digital seems intimidating it’s because it is. That is why many larger brands will outsource their work to digital agencies that work with major platforms and vendors such as Google on a regular basis and can be more intimately familiar with what policy changes are coming and how it might impact the brand. By staying on top of the latest in digital marketing trends and restrictions you can stay ahead of any problematic changes and your competition. 

Be Creative, Be Different, Be Yourself

In a regulated industries like wine & spirits, the restrictions in place can prohibit you from explicitly promoting the selling points of your products. To keep from stifling your brand with all the ways you can’t talk about yourself, get creative and think more about the ways you can. Instead of focusing on what exactly your product does, think about what your product stands for and what lifestyle your are promoting. Successful brands have had to think outside of the box for decades now on how to reach and engage with consumers without directly selling them a product.

So what do these winning brands do? They offer them experiences that are in line with their audience’s interests and behaviors. An experience like Macallan’s recent event which saw lucky participants taken on a helicopter ride from New York City into the middle of the Hudson Valley for a day of various activities including drone racing, massages, chef-inspired meals and, of course, whiskey tastings. This lavish experience was chronicled on social media by the attendees, drawing the awe and jealousy of many online. By seeking out and listening to what your target audience does online (and offline), you can offer unique experiences and discover what their needs are and what content they’re looking for to help solve those needs. You may not be a brand that sells music but you can certainly be the brand that develops a sponsored app that offers music festival attendees a custom map and live schedule of when and where artists are performing.

Partner Up

With digital innovation and technology rapidly changing, becoming further integrated in nearly every aspect of our daily life, one thing will remain certain for brands in regulated industries–the more things get regulated, the more the regulations change. If your brand’s response to new regulations is to reduce your investment in digital marketing then you will quickly see yourself left in the dust as your competitors continue to increase their spending and reliance on digital. 

eMarketer reported that U.S. financial services advertisers spent 19.5% more on online advertising than they did in 2015, while healthcare and pharma advertisers spent 20.5% more on digital ads in 2016 than they did a year prior.

So the question then is not whether you should invest in digital marketing but how can you maximize that investment? The correct answer might be to find the right partner who will help build out a digital marketing strategy that is right for you.

A 2017 study by SmartInsights showed that nearly 50% of businesses surveyed admitted that they do digital marketing but have no defined strategy. The reality is that digital marketing is complicated and made more so when your industry does not have the same flexibility as other industries. So, whether it is updating your brand’s website, building out a new video campaign or optimizing your current strategy, working with a digital-first partner will give your internal teams to focus on reviewing and compliance while our experts take on the heavy-lifting that will help your brand grow.

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UNION is a full-service digital agency. We create experiences that help brands thrive. We believe to be relevant in today’s marketplace, brands must lead with a digital-first philosophy. We craft engaging digital experiences and integrated campaigns that are built on strategy and driven by data. At the heart of what we do is help brands create meaningful and enduring relationships with highly connected consumers.

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