10 Emergency Brand Building Questions - Pharmaceutical Executive


10 Emergency Brand Building Questions

Pharmaceutical Executive

For example, every company wants to put an Apple iPad in their reps' hands. Yes, the technology is brilliant and seemingly limitless at this point. But before you follow suit, make sure it makes sense for your brand. If your brand is in third position with not much new to say, a leave-behind flashcard may be the better tactic because your strategy is to deliver quick, bite-sized messages for the brand.

But sometimes excitement, the desire for immediate results, and politics win over well-thought-out tactics and targeting. So demand a common-sense reason for every idea, or your team will end up with a bunch of tactics searching for a strategy.

8) Is your plan focused and aligned? Or are you about to jump on your horse and ride off in all directions?

In today's market of limited time and budgets, it's doubtful that you can address every challenge your brand faces equally. Maximizing impact takes a plan that's focused on meeting specific objectives, strategies, and tactics that are prioritized. Otherwise you'll be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It sounds obvious, but often the fear of not covering every base and including every suggestion makes a plan tough to execute. Focus requires choice and sacrifice. And common sense.

9) Is your team justifying their emotional prejudices with apparent logic?

The aim for any marketing team is to be able to talk openly, think clearly, and view a situation from all sides. And a heavy dose of common sense never hurts either.
Frankly, while we would all like to think that planning and marketing is based on solid information and objective judgment, unless you can remove human beings from the planning process, the subjective will always find its way in. And so our detailed rationales, decision trees, and comparative assessments of alternatives all contain shreds of emotional prejudices and apparent logic.

Which is why you need to stop from time to time, stand up in a meeting, and ask, "Does this make sense? Or, "Are we rationalizing our way into the plan we want, rather than creating the plan we need?"

Case in point: A brand team sees broad use (and big sales dollars) for its new product. They see it used as monotherapy and, adjunctively, potentially as a core therapy for every patient. The market, which operates with its own common sense, disagrees. Uptake is slower and more selective as physicians struggle to figure out where it fits in their armamentarium, and reps are unprepared to help them. With expectations too high and a plan that's too broad, the launch falls short even though the product eventually finds its place in the market.

So what went wrong? The team's focus, justified with research and logic that supported their belief, made them blind to some of the realities of the practicing physician.

10) Can you see how your plan will drive transactions?

In the end, marketing is all about the transaction. The script has to be written, the product needs to be on formulary, and your customers' behavior has to change. It's not about a great sales meeting, or impressing the sales force, or loading the distributor's pipeline. Somewhere, somehow, something has to get sold.

Sounds obvious, of course. Common sense, sure. Forgotten, rarely. But clearly targeted by the launch plan? Maybe not. Take a look at some of the products that haven't made it in the market, and with the wisdom of hindsight, you can often see that somehow, the ultimate transaction got buried in the process.

The customer and their needs must be present in every discussion to keep the transaction top of mind. How will a treatment protocol influence the transaction? How will sales tools help the sales force change their customers' behavior? How can we ensure patient access?

How to put some common sense back into your marketing program

You may start by tearing this article out and asking your team (and yourself) the above questions. Delete some, add more. Keep them on hand during your planning process. The objective is to create a culture that challenges the team to think clearly, talk openly, and look at a situation from several points of view. And, most importantly, to learn to rely not on common wisdom, but rather on their own common sense.

Al Topin is president of Topin Associates, a full-service medical marketing communications company, and a member of Pharm Exec's Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at


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