Step It Up: Branding Roundtable - Pharmaceutical Executive


Step It Up: Branding Roundtable

Pharmaceutical Executive

Half the time, the brand manager doesn't want to use the corporate logo on the ad, because he feels it is distracting and doesn't sell the product. Also, though a lot of people feel that it is really great that you are giving free HIV drugs out in Africa, they want to know why their drug here is so expensive. It always comes down to access and cost.

WILKES: Whether we are talking about safety or marketing, drugs are trying to do things that are bigger than them. People expect a product to answer the bigger questions, like pricing. But drugs can't answer those questions—that's where there is a huge disconnect.

The role of the corporate brand is going to—has to—change drastically over the next 10 years. Patients are going to know who makes their drugs, and it will drive preference because these big issues, like trust, can be handled only at the corporate level. It's the most underleveraged business asset of pharma companies.

BREITSTEIN: We are also seeing more franchise brands. But there seem to be many execution issues there.

PARRY: These are self-imposed obstacles. The problem is that no one is getting paid to think about it. Whenever I get a call saying, Hey, we would like to do a diabetes franchise, my first questions are, "Is someone in charge of that initiative?" The answer? "I am." I ask, "Who is your staff?" They respond, "I am." "What is your budget?" They typically say they borrow, or maybe tax, their brands 5 percent each. Well, those teams are going to love you. So companies simply are not organized to do it.

WILKES: Things are starting to change. Pfizer Oncology, for example, which had very little presence or credibility in the oncology space, allowed the company to link its services to the oncology space.

HUNTSMAN: Everybody in the multiple sclerosis category is already doing this. Their patient services are under one umbrella, which is treated like a separate brand. Everything—whether it be access programs, reimbursement, nursing, relationship marketing, all of that—is done under the umbrella of patient ambassadors, all under the umbrella of MS Life Line.


CLINTON: With the barrage of blockbuster expirations, are companies rethinking how to keep the brands alive?

NOLAN: Two words, Hatch-Waxman. You will see a decline with any strategy after the patent expires.

BREITSTEIN: That's true. But look at how Zocor dropped its price and secured favorable formulary status. Do you expect to see similar strategies to ward off generic competition?

GUARINI: An emotional connection to the user is the top of the hierarchy. If you have that, then you buttress yourself to the competition and the erosion of the franchise.

MASON: But we shouldn't talk about emotion for the sake of semantics. People are always trying to throw emotion into branding. But it has to be baked into the legitimacy of the drug—the fusion of emotion and functionality together.

CONKLIN: It is the most honest moment in branding. For me, the test of the brand is when you bring price into the picture. If somebody is not willing to pay a little bit more for your brand, you did not have a brand in the first place.

WILKES: We just did a study for a client who wanted to see the demand for a post-LOE blockbuster. We found that people are willing to pay a premium over generic to stay with the same drug that has been in their body for years, just by adding some services and bringing the price down a bit. We now see two major manufacturers looking at post-LOE promotions. They are asking, Why flip the lights off after investing billions?


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