To Brand or Not to Brand? - Pharmaceutical Executive


To Brand or Not to Brand?

Pharmaceutical Executive

Seek and Ye Shall Find

However, in terms of behavioral intentions, non-branded ads produced significantly greater intent to seek more information, discuss the medication/disease state with their physician, and ask for a prescription for the medication/disease state. Examining the total pool of data, behavioral intent did not correlate to consumers clicking to see more information. However, those with higher behavioral intentions performed the information search behavior significantly more than those with lower behavioral intentions. The significantly greater behavioral intentions created by non-branded ads imply this ad type could result in greater physician discussions.

Consumer disease state involvement played a significant role in both attitude formation and behavioral intent. Consumers with a higher level of disease state involvement had significantly more positive attitudes and greater behavioral intent. Interestingly, though, regardless of involvement level, non-branded ads maintained positive attitudes.

From a marketing perspective, this indicates a non-branded ad should be an option to positively engage consumers and induce greater information seeking. Keeping the goal of DTC advertising in mind, the fact consumers may seek more information, have favorable attitudes, and increased discussions with their physician after viewing a non-branded ad is vital information for the pharmaceutical marketer. By not advertising a specific product, non-branded ads may also be seen by the consumer as more objective and credible. Then, not only would the industry benefit from greater discussions with physicians, they would have the added image benefit of promoting disease education and removing the controversial risk versus benefit "fair balance" issue associated with branded advertising.

From the FDA's perspective, non-branded ads increase the amount of consumer disease education in the marketplace and, again, possibly remove the risk-benefit fair balance issue. This past March, the FDA proposed an amendment to its DTC regulations, stating "the major statement in DTC television or radio advertisements relating to the side effects and contraindications of an advertised prescription drug intended for use by humans be presented in a clear, conspicuous, and neutral manner" (Federal Register, March 2010). Further, the FDA has had to frequently address this subject through regulatory or punitive measures (USA Today, May 30, 2005).

Benefits of Non-Branding

The use of non-branded ads would allow the FDA to reduce their resources focused on this continually problematic issue. Further, if non-branded ads were used exclusively in the early stages of product marketing, they could provide marketing and disease education opportunities while initial post-marketing surveillance is conducted. This could also possibly avoid a situation in which a drug is heavily utilized early in its life cycle, speeding up the introduction and growth phases and reaching maturity rapidly, which would decrease the time manufacturers, and the FDA, have to monitor the product's post-marketing impact.

In the June 2008 issue of DTC Perspectives, Kristin Patton, then President of HealthED Group, advocated this when asked how marketers should combine patient education with broader DTC efforts to get the best effect. She said "let the mass campaign solely drive awareness and direct prospective patients to an appropriate resource." Though future research is needed to validate these results in various disease states and marketing exposures, in a highly regulated marketing environment where information and education is power, non-branded, disease education ads might be the pharmaceutical marketers' future focus.

Brent Rollins is Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Administration at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Georgia Campus. He can be reached at

Matthew Perri is Professor of Clinical & Administrative Pharmacy at the University of Georgia. He can be reached at


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