Step It Up: Branding Roundtable

Nov 01, 2007

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Michael Guarini, Ogilvy Healthword; Wes Wilkes, Interbrand Wood Healthcare; Angela Moskow, Sanofi-Aventis; Mike Boken, Shire Pharmaceuticals
You can't blame brand teams for their existential dilemma. After all, the very purpose of a brand is to build customer loyalty and charge a premium for it. (Right?) But all the money, time, and effort spent building blockbuster brands made little difference last year, when $23 billion worth of patented drugs lost exclusivity—and the bulk of their value. Despite the branding, these drugs literally went from boom to bust.

Does it have to be this way? To find out, Pharm Exec gathered the industry's brightest stars for an Executive Roundtable. These execs debated and discussed a new vision for brand leadership—one in which brands work not only harder, but also smarter. An edited version of the discussion follows.


JOANNA BREITSTEIN (executive editor, Pharm Exec): The pipeline is full of specialty drugs that have, for the most part, quite complex science. How does this translate to the branding model?

JEFF CONKLIN (VP, marketing practices and innovation, Wyeth): Your question is backwards. The model of branding is going to be driven by the complexity of consumers rather than the complexity of brands. If you're not putting customers first in driving that model, the complexity of the brand makes no difference.

ANGELA MOSKOW (vice president, diabetes marketing, Sanofi Aventis): You're right. We need to take a page out of the consumer-package industry. Because brands are there to establish the connection with the patient.

CAROLE HUNTSMAN (VP, marketing, neurology, EMD Serono): As therapies become more targeted, it really is going to be about personalizing the patient experience and providing exactly what that patient needs to get the best experience of the product overall.

Carole Huntsman, EMD Serono
BOB MASON (SVP, director of brand strategy, Palio): Think of the overall branding model like the mass customization of drugs.

MIKE BOKEN (senior director of marketing, ADHD, Shire): We will increasingly see the industry moving more toward the specialty model. With a $300 to $500 million product, you can't afford to have reminder calls four times a week. The specialty model is about understanding how to take micro products and apply the branding model to a micro space with smaller sales forces, less reliance on broad DTC, more one-on-one communication with consumers, and more focus on finding the right patients and keeping them over the long-term.

MAUREEN REGAN (managing partner, McCann Erickson Healthcare Worldwide): The model of branding remains the same even in niche markets. Specialty marketing is more about the strategic delivery of the medium or the tactical mix, which shifts from more broad-based to more online activity—things like social networking hold a tremendous amount of potential.

PATRICK CLINTON (editor-in-chief, Pharm Exec): Where can we see this model of branding at work today?

VINCE PARRY (president, Y Brand): A recent example is the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, from Merck. There was a lot of controversy around the vaccine—in particular, social and religious issues about vaccinating girls before they come of age sexually.

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