The Use of Virtual Reality (VR) in Pharmaceutical Marketing Communications

Virtual Reality is increasing user interaction

Published 6 years ago

As health care and health care marketing grows, so too will the number of tools designed for medical and pharmaceutical marketing. Innovations include Flash animations, 3D presentations and video webcasts. Now pharmaceutical companies are making scientific content come alive through VR, otherwise known as virtual reality.

VR allows for event experiences that were impossible just a few years ago. Pharmaceutical companies can use VR in medical conventions rather than hauling around heavy, expensive equipment. Virtual reality also helps convention attendees explore mechanism of action in a completely new and engaging way.

VR sessions can increase the quality and attractiveness of visits by medical representatives. With virtual reality, the user becomes actively involved in the presentation. A health care professional looking through a pair of VR glasses can explore pharmaceutical machinery that is in a remote location or vacuum sealed. The clinician can also interact with the virtual environment to learn how to use the machinery. Medium VR in medical conventions

About VR in Pharma and Biotech Yesterday and Today

Virtual reality is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment in which users can interact in a seemingly real or physical way by using special electronic equipment, such as headgear with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. Immersed in the environment, the user becomes part of the virtual world and can manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.

Perhaps the earliest example of immersive, multisensory technology was the Sensorama Simulator, invented in 1957 and patented in 1962. This early virtual reality machine played a 3D film along with stereo sound, wind and aromas. It also included a bucket seat and a set of handles that would shake and move in conjunction with the sights and sounds of the movie.

Interest in virtual reality has exploded since the introduction of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR and Google Cardboard. In fact, the number of research articles relating to VR in the PubMed database has increased from just 204 publications in 2004 to 720 in 2014.

Technology continues to advance quickly, making very high-quality virtual reality experiences possible today at reasonable prices. Modern VR builds on video gaming technology to create interactive experiences for customers on behalf of a brand.

Modern VR also builds upon mechanism of action (MOA) animations, which are a mainstay in pharmaceutical marketing. In fact, no blockbuster drug gets released without a 3D animation. While MOAs provide clear and concise information about drugs, most animations pale in comparison to the experience of “being” in the bloodstream or penetrating a cell wall to deliver healing medicine. VR and pharmaceuticals

Virtual Reality and Pharmaceuticals

There are almost unlimited benefits of virtual reality in pharmaceutical marketing today. VR gives pharmaceutical marketers an opportunity to deliver to their audiences the closest experience possible with a product, service or place without actually being there. VR gives pharmaceutical marketers an ideal way to engage customers.


Pharmaceutical companies can use VR technology to promote brand awareness in a unique way. Consumers are far more likely to remember the extraordinary experience of virtual reality than a PowerPoint presentation. VR allows retailers to market products more cost effectively – marketers can provide the viewer with an immersive virtual reality experience instead of lugging around expensive, heavy machinery.

Virtual reality creates an innovative approach to visual storytelling for pharmaceutical and biotech marketing, enabling marketers to tell stories in a completely new way. VR always creates a buzz and builds excitement about a product, even when the product is as mundane as a syringe or tubing.

The “wow factor” of virtual reality attracts clients while well-placed substantive information leads consumers to the “eureka moment” of real understanding of the potential benefits of a particular pharmaceutical product. Virtual reality creates excitement that grabs the attention of a target group and entices them to learn more about a product. Marketers can then make information available that might not be accessible or interesting through traditional media.

Because VR is exciting and engaging, it helps pique and retain interest in biochemical processes, clinical trials, equipment and more by creating an interactive, intuitive and sometimes playful learning environment. It allows pharmaceutical professionals and other health care workers to become active, rather than passive, consumers of information.


Virtual reality provides a tangible and powerful product experience not possible with brochures, speeches, websites or even videos because it allows potential clients to “test drive” equipment without actually having to touch the equipment. The VR experience is the difference between walking around a seaside resort, for example, rather than merely seeing pictures of it.

Virtual reality can build empathy. Because of demanding workloads and the scientific complexities of their jobs, practitioners can sometimes lose sight of why they became doctors in the first place, which is to help patients. VR helps them regain empathy in a truly impactful way, one that helps clinicians.

VR helps clinicians “experience” what it is like to have Parkinson’s or chronic migraines, for example, as they feel their hands shake or see as a migraine aura distorts their vision. The experience engages users in a way that makes them more receptive to brand messages.


Virtual reality can facilitate training. A company that produces stents, for example, can use VR to let clinicians experience how it feels to use the device without the fear of failure. VR shows the production process and educates consumers in an immersive way. Viewers get an inside look at machinery and physiological processes normally hidden from view.

At the drug introduction stage, virtual reality serves as a tool for raising awareness among doctors. At the product growth and maturity stage, VR reinforces traditional promotional tools and increases market penetration, which leads to more sales, frequent use of the drug, use of the drug by new patients and more. VR and pharmaceuticals

Making Scientific Information Come Alive Through VR

An increasing number of companies now embrace the idea that making scientific content come alive through VR can improve interest in new products during medical conventions, conferences and other events where doctors, administrators and other medical professionals gather. A growing number of pharmaceutical companies are utilizing virtual reality to engage physicians and to create memorable brand experiences.



1.     "Patent US3050870 - Sensorama Simulator." Google Patents. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.

2.     Senson, Alex. "Virtual Reality in Healthcare: Where’s The Innovation?" TechCrunch. N.p., 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.