Kantar Health Blog

Brand marketing is dead. Long live brand marketing!

by Mark Sales | Jul 31, 2014
Mark Sales

In pharma, you need a cohesive approach to brand marketing that must embrace three key elements:

  • Rigorous, evidence-based “scientific” planning to properly understand your brand position and opportunities
  • Coordination across the payer-, prescriber- and patient-focused teams
  • Forward-looking strategy and executable implementation that is constantly looking for improvements

Perhaps it’s more useful to think of this as a circle: companies need to understand where the gaps are in their channel strategy, where they are already successful and where they need more help. Out of that will come different conclusions about where the opportunities are and what you need to do to take advantage of each opportunity. Get this right and there is the chance of putting together a sort of virtuous cycle – a mini-diagnostic you can keep repeating. Over time, ongoing measurement will pull out areas of opportunity where you will be able to drive success.

Along with the metrics, evidence and more collaboration, what else is now required for this new approach? Perhaps most important is the forward-looking element. If you examine classic brand equity metrics, they are either looking at what’s happening now or at what has happened in the past: How did we perform in the last three quarters, and what is our current brand equity? But you need to focus on the fact that it’s about looking forward, making better decisions and understanding where you could be as an organization if you made the right decisions, constantly rolling, planning ahead. It’s all about planning and having a metric that will identify that gap – you could be there and this is how you get there – that works very successfully in other industries. In some ways this is about opening your eyes to what you don’t know is there yet – the opportunities you know are there as well as the ones you don’t know you’re missing – and about bringing direct action to bear on them.

So is brand marketing dead? No, it’s just gotten interesting. In the U.S., the healthcare system has completely changed under the “Obamacare” Affordable Care Act, which means the nature of stakeholders has changed. It is now about real key account management. You’re not just throwing sales reps out there anymore; you’re dealing with organizations such as the NHS or major insurers that demand value, not to mention the patient voice demanding real-world results.

The fact that branded products have moved away from broad, blockbuster molecules coming down the pipeline to more targeted, niche treatments has changed the way we as an industry have to do things. We have to be smarter now in this space to get what we want. Pharma companies are slimming down, being forced to act more like customer-centric marketing organizations and adopt a true multistakeholder, cohesive approach around a brand.

The challenges are clear – but this is not a question of, “Will the last person to leave pharma please turn off the lights?” Myriad opportunities exist for companies that are prepared to react to, and engage with, the changes that now influence the landscape. It’s not about controlling the multichannel environment; it’s about understanding it. Brand marketing needs to change to reflect new customer needs but pharma brands already have all the skills and evidence available to be successful. The key is applying them in the right way, and this is what will deliver unrealized brand opportunity.

For those who are smart enough to embrace this new approach, perhaps it’s more a case of: “Brand marketing is dead! Long live brand marketing!”

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