Branding in a Digital Age

Oct 15, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

GOOD digital branding requires equal parts science, mysticism, and magic. Sound simple? In fact, it is. Good (even great) branding is not as difficult to achieve as it would seem if—and it's a big if—a few simple guidelines are followed.

Scott Reese
First, let's note something: With a good brand, we understand not only what the product is and we know what it does, but we feel why it makes a difference.

Good branding, then, is a reassuring sensation of trust: Trust that the product will work as promised; trust that it will continue to do so time and again; trust that other products by the same maker will behave similarly. People return to brands they trust and are often willing to pay a premium to guarantee a positive experience.

No brand can make up for a flawed product. Then again, no great product can succeed without good branding.


Pharma Sites Are not Consumers Top Source
The digital environment offers pharma a unique opportunity, as well as a serious challenge: Statistics tell us people don't or won't instinctively go first to a pharmaceutical site for information (See "Pharma Sites Aren't Consumers' Top Source.")

Typically, consumers distrust pharma's brand Web sites, assuming that such sites are merely sales vehicles. People will, however, visit a company's site when:

  • They are armed with a prescription from their doctor. They want to understand what the drug is, how it works, and what they can expect from taking it.
  • They have a specific health condition.
  • They are searching to understand the condition and its treatments.


With a compelling brand, audiences will stay and engage with the Web site. A good Web site should offer an online subculture—that is, an environment—where the audience can join, participate, and share.

The single defining feature of online versus other branding channels is this functionality: Digital branding enables your audiences to self-direct and customize their relationship with your brand.

Audiences can feel they are immersed in a larger community—similar people, facing similar consequences, experiencing similar emotions. The digital environment can be a space that offers:

  • The opportunity to dialog with experts
  • Lessons and suggestions for managing life with a given condition
  • CRM (customer relationship management) functions that would otherwise be impossible or prohibitively expensive outside the digital space
  • An environment of trust where nothing is forced—or, rather, nothing has to be forced.

This fundamental shift of power, from the information giver to the information consumer, goes a long way toward establishing the enduring trust.


If it's so simple, why is good branding often a point of contention? Much of the problem lies in misconceptions about branding:

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