Can You Brand Trust? - Pharmaceutical Executive


Can You Brand Trust?
Lack of trust is preventing pharma from doing what it does better than any other entity on the globe: research and develop new cures and treatments, says Billy Tauzin, president of PhRMA. What to do about it? Twelve top brandmeisters weigh in.

Guide to Branding


By Jamie Cobb

Jamie Cobb
WHETHER consciously or subconsciously, for most consumers, trust is a function of a good brand story. And what is a good brand story? It is a compelling, relevant, interrelated promise of insights and attributes that's unique to every brand and written with a specific kind of consumer in mind. It is the story that invites the consumer to have a dialogue with the brand—to join it, to engage with it.

What's the best way for a brand to engage? Successful brands listen. They realize they are not always creating loyalty and trust, but earning it, one experience at a time.

Too often, marketing directors want to build trust (or trustworthiness) into the short list of personality traits for their brands. While that sounds like a great shortcut, it's a formula for an unrealistic dialogue. Imagine introducing yourself at a meeting or a party as a "reliable and likeable guy." Most people will save judgment until they have had their own experience with you.

Even with all the brand "dos and don'ts" that exist, there's a simple way to look at the relationship a brand should have with one of its stakeholders. After all, what we look for in brands is a little bit of ourselves. Maybe a slight reflection of the self we want others to see. And admire.

If that's the case, then the answer of how strong brands lead to trust is quite simple. Who can you trust if you can't trust yourself?

Jamie Cobb is executive creative director of MicroMass Communications. He can be reached at


By Michael Guarini

Michael Guarini
TRUST implies the presence—and acceptance—of a certain amount of risk. It plays a big part in all pharmaceutical marketing, whether explicitly addressed or not.

However, there are certain situations where brand trust plays a bigger role than usual. These include:

  • When the consequences of brand failure are high (doctors hate to change what's working, even in the face of improved options).
  • When the nature of the problem is extremely personal and involves self-image (men with erectile dysfunction have been very loyal to Viagra).
  • In crowded categories with little performance differentiation (doctors recommend glucose meters based on their trust in the company's after-market support programs).
  • When market leaders and first-in-category brands are still an option (doctors have been very loyal to Fosomax, the first bisphosphonate for osteoporosis, despite patient preference for newer, once-monthly products).
  • Where physician experience is shallow, such as with new product launches or infrequently seen conditions (low prescribers in every category typically commit just one brand to memory and use it almost exclusively).

Like any other valued brand attribute, trust needs to be incorporated into the fabric of the brand, and that starts with creative messaging. Witness the creative brief: Agencies can easily restate the "reason to believe" section as "reason to trust."

Beyond creative messaging, the other critical area where I believe trust is built every day is the sales force. Like other categories where products or services involve an ongoing relationship with a sales representative (e.g. insurance, automotive, real estate, financial services), to the customer, the pharma representative is the brand.


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Source: Guide to Branding,
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