Pharma Marketing Insights From Industry Leaders

At XDS, we are constantly expanding, adapting, and seeking new ways to better meet our clients' needs. In an ever-changing digital healthcare ecosystem, strong internal teams have become our strongest asset.   

Last Updated: 3/11/24

Pharma Marketing Insights From Mark Spangler

We took some time to research what makes for the best internal teams in pharmaceutical marketing. Success in pharma marketing involves giving everyone the space to thrive in self-organizing teams.

Our research also features pharma marketing insights from an industry leader. Mark Spangler has a unique perspective, having spent the last four years building an in-house agency with one of the largest (and oldest) pharmaceutical companies in the world, Merck. He will be offering his expertise throughout this blog. 

We looked at: 

  • Workplace flexibility, safety, and inclusion  
  • Where creativity comes from  
  • What’s in store for the future of pharma  


The Best Teams Value Flexibility

Return to office has been a hot debate among many organizations that made the shift to remote positions after the public health emergency. Although XDS was founded in 2017 with a remote first work policy we slowly shifted into a hybrid setting, and then returned to remote during the  pandemic.  

There is one constant that remains between these different working styles: flexibility 

A study done on the effectiveness of flexible work environments found that flexible working arrangements are one of the top three motivators for job seekers. Life is busy for everyone in the workplace. Job seekers who are able to find roles that fit their core values and motivators are more likely to perform to their highest potential.  

Flexibility goes beyond the opportunity to work remotely. Pharma shops are often operating with several internal teams, and have to determine a cadence for discussion and task completion. According to Mark, it’s critical to allow pharmaceutical marketingthese teams to work independently: 

“Giving everyone the space to thrive in self- organizing teams is all about letting the team make choices. If you do the work, you speak to the work: you’re transparent on how you talk about work, who’s doing what work. It’s all so motivating to see teams assembling to their greatest potential.  

The job of management is to give them air cover, get the impediments out of the way, knock down barriers and challenges in the system that may be slowing them down. Let teams fanatically focus on themselves, and their health.”  

The Importance of Feeling Safe at Work 

Creating a flexible work environment ensures that your team has the bandwidth to show up. There is, however, another piece to this puzzle. The best teams don’t simply feel like their work options are flexible, but that their voice is heard and welcomed in that environment. In other words, the best teams have high levels of psychological safety 

"Psychological safety" is a term coined by Amy Edmondson, the definition being “A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal-risk taking.”  

Edmondson insists that psychological safety is the core component to unlock “exponential improvement in outcomes and quality of conversations”. 

As a leader Mark Spangler has witnessed this transformation himself. He shared that: 

 “I believe that psychological safety is all about giving team members the space to thrive in a self-organizing team. It’s all about the team making the choices, so if you do the work, you speak to the work. 

 It’s very important to me to be transparent about work. And I think that’s really motivating and helps each team work to their greatest potential.” 

So overall, it’s a lot of intentional work that brings teams together; but it starts with the individual.” 

Diversity and Inclusion  

All organizations and individuals benefit from diversity and inclusion efforts.  

In the world of pharma, there has been a sharp increase in patient centricity where outcomes are largely determined by how open the engagement is.  

Patient centricity is all about the individual needs of the patient. This focus is especially beneficial in the world of Pharma, where clinical trials and marketing initiatives require a deep understanding of the target audiences. Pharma companies that prioritize patient-centered care are reaping the benefits. Our approach to SEO in the pharmaceutical sector places a strong emphasis on understanding and addressing patient needs,

Mark agrees with this assertion, sharing his thoughts on the future of healthcare as a whole: 

I see uber diverse and inclusive workplaces as the future of healthcare. I’ve seen an increase in internal teams looking like and representing the patients that they’re trying to reach. All these different segments (HCPS, consumers) are being nurtured in these new corporate environments. They are being given space to be their authentic selves, get fanatically focused on the consumer, their viewpoints and overall having a seat at the table."

This is why I focus on psychological safety in my role. I use a very intentional approach for how we want to bring appropriate diversity and inclusion into these teams – which can mean many different things. I am now seeing that when we’re making decisions at the table, it’s with thorough analytics and insight.” 

We couldn’t agree more. By having more perspectives at the decision-making level, knowledge can be leveraged. In order to do that, we need to create spaces where people truly feel comfortable to be their authentic selves.  

When we asked Mark for his final thoughts on the topic of building the best internal teams in pharma marketing he shared: 

“My parting thoughts? Be a good human.” 


The Experience Design Studio is an award-winning digitally-native customer experience agency founded in 2017 by two agency veterans, bringing their collective creative, user experience, marketing, technology, and healthcare expertise together. XDS is a full-service digital agency providing strategy to creation, consulting, design, engineering, marketing, and analytics, with the aim of providing seamless customer, patient, and HCP experiences across all digital touchpoints, with common sense sprinkled in. To learn more about XDS visit