Unsurprisingly, pharma’s era of blockbuster drugs led to a relatively simple approach to brand planning and marketing. However, with the competitive landscape driven by patent cliffs and generics, the complexity of multiple stakeholders and empowered patients, it’s now time for pharma to up the ante on their brand strategy.
“When the environment gets tougher, when the price pressure gets more challenging, it is not the expensive and less innovative drugs which suffer first; it is the less differentiated drugs.” Severin Schwan CEO, Roche.
A great brand strategy has the potential to capture the full commercial value from a product. It’s about defining the value proposition for a multi-organisation, multi-stakeholder audience. It should be strong enough to support market access, be the rocket-fuel for a product launch, compelling enough to build a multi-channel marketing plan around and have the durability to pay dividends post-patent.
Is your value proposition valuable enough?
Propositions are commonly defined through the functional benefits provided by the product’s attributes as shown through clinical trials. While a ‘value’ proposition simply ensures these benefits are what the customer, or customer segment, actually value by researching into their wants and needs.
With increased pressure from payers and patients researching products themselves online, pharma must now look to value propositions which are defined through emotional, as well as functional, benefits. These benefits will increasingly be gained beyond the drug itself, for example, patient outcomes supported by patient services offered by the brand.
With the value proposition defined the next step would typically be to wrap a ‘positioning’ around it to ensure it was differentiated from competitor’s products. However, research from Byron Sharp challenges conventional ‘wisdom’ about differentiation through positioning and instead, using empirical facts, offers a better approach.
Think distinctiveness not differentiation
In his books ‘How brands grow 1 and 2’, Byron Sharp sets out the importance of building mental availability (saliency), as well as physical availability (distribution), for successful market penetration and ultimately sales growth.
Mental availability is about ensuring your brand is front of mind in all buying situations, which can be achieved by making your brand distinctive and by building associations between your brand and these occasions.
Opportunities to create these associations can be found within 5 category entry points:
- Why are they buying from the category?
- When are they buying from the category?
- Where are they buying from the category?
- With whom are they with when buying from the category?
- With what are they buying from the category?
To identify the relevant category entry points for pharma we would advise using experience journey maps for all stakeholders including payers, patients and prescribers.
Brand distinctiveness can be achieved through a combination of uniqueness and fame. The more your stakeholders associate your brand with unique and famous brand assets, the greater your brand’s distinctiveness.
These distinctive brand assets, such as logos, taglines, fonts, celebrities, characters, colour palette, pack designs, digital content assets, brand ideas and communication campaigns, should provide consistent sensory and semantic cues.
Are you ready?
Now is the time to ensure your pharma brand strategy is fit for purpose. So, be sure you really understand your stakeholder’s various needs across their experience journey, be clear how your total product and service offering will deliver functional and emotional benefits and then define your value proposition around those, use the stakeholder experience journeys to identify the category entry points and finally roll-out the strategy using distinctiveness brand assets that will provide brand saliency at each and every entry point.
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