Four Steps To Credibility - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Four Steps To Credibility


Guide to Branding


2. CUS ON TARGET MARKETS, NOT THE WORLD

Many DTC advertisements have made the mistake of trying to drive product demand among the mass consumer market rather than a specific group of patients. With such broad appeal, audiences sometimes had trouble distinguishing Claritin from Clairol and Nexium from Nike. The problem with targeting the entire world is that drugs rarely work for everyone—and the entire world doesn't care about a brand's message, only about its ethics. Powerful product advertising messages link brand names to life and health, but also to profit in the minds of a skeptical public. And there's the rub: The more popular or prolific a brand becomes, the more likely it is to encounter criticism and controversy. This pharma literacy is a fertile breeding ground for detractors whose mission is "protecting" the public interest. It also makes new product launches, and new disease-awareness campaigns, highly suspect to the world outside a target marketplace. There are some very important reasons to cross the bridge between the target market and the rest of the world—to sensitize supporters and opponents, for example—but knowing when and why (and which communications disciplines to use) should be part of the analysis.

3 ACCEPT PRIVATE IS PUBLIC

This lesson has been learned more than once, but it can't be stressed enough. Even with the need to protect intellectual property and keep competitors at a disadvantage, our communications can have a huge impact on how the company is perceived. Think of your brand as a reflection of the corporate mission, credo, and reputation. What does the company stand for? What does your communication about a brand—to the sales force, the media, physicians, patients, investors—say about your company and its character?

4. RELY ON SCIENCE AS THE BACKBONE OF THE BRAND PROMISE AND MAINTAIN A PATIENT FOCUS EVEN IN THE FACE OF NEGATIVE NEWS

Today, brands are more valuable and more vulnerable than ever before and, consequently, when a new medical insight emerges that challenges our thinking about the safety or efficacy of a brand, the first impulse might be to deny it. When a medical insight is gleaned from a large or small study—often independent, but not always so—it can be misinterpreted as a marketing threat.

The temptation may be to say the finding is an anomaly or attribute it to a class effect or a fault in the design of the study. But while the concerns for the business may seem paramount, they should never delay the need for further fact finding, particularly where outside consultation might protect the brand and possibly the public health.

The debate about the appropriate use of antidepressants to treat young people is a case in point. As concerns about antidepressants and suicide emerged, pharmaceutical companies dismissed the insights. Later, when those claims were substantiated, companies were criticized for concealing unfavorable clinical trial data. The FDA was ridiculed well for dragging its heels and silencing its own staff members who believed the drugs were dangerous for some kids.

Blaming antidepressants is a simplistic answer to the question of why some children attempt suicide, but, ultimately, the drugs were on trial and received black-box warnings. Despite the turmoil and initial backlash caused by the public hearings, industry and FDA ultimately benefited by taking a mutual gains approach to the problem—a model we should embrace more often in these situations. They acknowledged the concerns of others (parents and critics), offered contingent commitments to minimize impacts (black-box warning and monitoring recommendations for all antidepressants), and accepted responsibility and shared power by encouraging joint fact finding (with companies and independent experts at Columbia University).

In effect, all parties acted in a trustworthy fashion to protect the public health. More than 15 medical, advocacy, and government organizations contributed to a new Web site http://www.parentsmedguide.org/) to help educate and guide those with questions about depression and medications. (Unfortunately, a disclaimer exists on the site: No pharmaceutical funding was used in the preparation and maintenance of this guide or the Web site.)


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