Branding: Right Brain Research in a Left-Brained World

It takes both the rational and emotional facets of a product benefit to help consumers distinguish one brand from another.
Feb 01, 2005

The very nature of pharmaceutical claims tends to make the industry's messages— and indeed its brands—very left-brain oriented. Think about the language used: "effective first-line monotherapy," "significantly higher response," "24-hour once-daily dosing," and the ever-popular "powerful relief." These stilted claims result partly from the regulatory environment and partly from the nature of the products. Performance and clinical differences are measured by an alphabet of parameters—A1C, LDL-C, MMSE, HAQ, and GAD. Hard facts and data are needed to demonstrate the important clinical performance and safety profiles that characterize prescription drugs. But in today's crowded and competitive markets, in which those claims leave many brands undifferentiated or poorly differentiated, the emotional side of the brand may be of equal or greater importance than the data.

Trout and Reis define positioning as the place a brand occupies in the consumer target's mind. Emotional branding takes the brand to a deeper place, the target's heart. Emotional branding is about the "F" word: feelings. It's about how a brand affects the heart, the gut, and the brain. In Emotional Branding, author Daryl Travis suggests that it takes both the rational and emotional sides of a product benefit to help consumers distinguish one brand from another. The emotional response to a brand is tempered by facts, logic, and reasoning that help people rationalize their buying decisions.

The power of efficacy and the tenderness of tolerability are key messages introduced in Abbotts professional launch ad for Kaletra. So, the theme for doctors is clear: Kaletra is all about strength and tolerability.
Dr. Charles Kenny of Kenny & Associates (also known as The Right Brain People) says behavior takes its cue from information processed from both sides of the brain—the left side providing logic, language, intelligence and rationality; the right side centering on wants, needs, desires, and feelings. (See "Pharmaceutical Claims.") According to Kenny, the emotional drivers are the most important to marketers because they are the direct links to customer behavior.

Kaletra Case Study In the HIV/AIDS market, Abbott's Kaletra (lopinavir/retonavir) is a brand that offers considerable rational and emotional benefits to physicians and patients. At launch, Kaletra was distinguished from other protease inhibitors (PIs) by its potent suppression of the HIV virus. It also boasted a high level of tolerability. The product's marketers wanted to communicate superior efficacy in a way that would resonate with both patients and physicians because the audiences in the HIV market are emotionally connected. Competitive promotion focused on the once-a-day feature, convenience, and improved adherence.

Although based on objective left-brain features and benefits, it seemed clear that Kaletra could continue to lead the PI segment. But logic and reason are not the only drivers, perhaps not even the primary drivers, in the HIV market. So the company and agency marketers consulted with Kenny, who proposed a series of interviews with physicians and patients to better understand the emotional and rational motivators behind HIV drug selection.

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