What Type of Brand Are You?

Stop the aimless soul searching. The path to brand success lies in understanding how best to position your drug.
May 31, 2006

In the same way American Idol proved that there's a method for creating a pop star, there are also proven methods for creating brands.

Time and time again, Idol judges reward contestants who exhibit a common set of characteristics: good looks, great vocal range, versatility across genres, and stage presence. Similarly, brand teams determine their strategies by following trails blazed by other brands. Executives might ask, "What characterizes billion-dollar brands?" or "What has defined leading cardiovascular brands?" Then, they try to recreate that success by basing their decisions on what has worked in the past. For the aspiring starlet as well as the aspiring brand, this model often works on at least one level—short-term success with a mass audience. But pharmaceutical companies, more than ever, must create brands that maximize their revenues with long-term successes, and with ever-more specialized drugs. For this, the American Idol model falls short. Instead, marketers should look to cultivate their brands more like the great artists of our time—Bob Dylan, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., or the bluesy artist Tom Waits—who exhibit uniqueness and the agility to evolve.

What can we learn from artists who have followed their own paths? Brands must evolve. Marketers need a model that can capture originality prospectively, yet provide the flexibility that allows brands to change while still remaining true to their long-term objectives. In this article, we set forth several archetypes for branding based on characteristics and behaviors of the brand, and the market dynamics surrounding it at a particular moment in time.

However, as brands grow and develop, gain additional indications, and create and lose market share, their teams will need to evaluate and adapt their behavior. In this way, the archetypes, when taken together, also provide an understanding of under what circumstances a brand needs to change course. In that way, companies and their agencies should not be asking, "What qualities make up a leadership brand? " but rather, "What are the different and unique ways that brands grow up to be leaders?"

It is important to note that there is no right or wrong answer. This prospective archetyping system is meant to put a brand team through a disciplined examination of its product, in a consensus-building workshop format. No single category is more or less desirable than the others—each contains brand examples that have been highly successful.

To best illustrate this process, let's hypothesize about a fictional brand called Karalyn, which is set to launch in the next 18 to 24 months. It's a once-monthly injectable therapy that works to modify the immune system, and its first indication will be for reversing the underlying conditions of gout. Additionally, it is being studied as both a stand-alone and add-on treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), and psoriasis. These indications will each come 12 to 18 months apart from one another over the next several years.

Which brand category—at this moment in time—would best set Karalyn on a course for brand success?

Creation Brand [BRAND CATEGORY 1]

This brand creates a need in customers' minds, and positions itself as the solution.

Gout is a poorly understood and poorly managed disease. Its etiology is not well known, and patients manage the symptoms, instead of the condition, with pain relievers. They don't see gout as a serious enough problem to worry about long-term treatment. In this context, one could debate that Karalyn is a Creation Brand. If so, the brand team must focus on creating a greater need in customers' minds about the relationship between gout and arthritis, and the medical consequences of non-chronic treatment.

Creation Brands, such as Mevacor (lovastatin), Zantac (ranitidine), and even Gatorade, have become successful by identifying and promoting a completely new customer need, and positioning themselves to meet it. For Mevacor, Merck refocused coronary disease management on the long-term regulation of LDL cholesterol. GlaxoSmithKline recast heartburn as a chronic, erosive condition called Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD), an indication Zantac had secured. And marketers for Gatorade redefined the rehydration market from mere fluid replacement to electrolyte replenishment—and educated consumers about its role in reaching peak physical performance during exercise.