Another Burning Question

September 1, 2004

Successful Product Manager's Handbook

There are plenty of examples of consumer packaged goods whose brand names are the same no matter what country they're in. In pharma, there are only a few such examples. Why can't pharma brands enjoy the same consistency and identity around the world? Six experts explain how it works.

5 marketing experts

1 pharma executive

Another burning question: Will pharma ever use just one global brand name for its products?

A: Alan TopinPresident, Topin & Associates, Chicago

While there are numerous barriers to launching a global brand with a single name, there are also numerous reasons to run the gauntlet and aggressively pursue the opportunity.

Alan Topin

First the reasons: The most obvious is the communications impact of a global brand and brand name. As the medical community continues to evolve into a more global marketplace via congresses, publications, and electronic media, the value of a unified brand increases. Plus, the economic and logistical savings add to the value.

On the other hand, the barriers to singularity continue to grow. Cultural and regulatory factors plus local differences in medical practice all create a series of challenges. Add to this the possibility that the brand may not be granted the same indication or indications for each region.

While there are few singular global brand names to point to, pharma has been able to create globally unified brands through singular positioning, messaging, identity, graphics, and imagery while keeping the brand names as close as circumstances allow.

A: David L. Stern Vice-President of Marketing, Metabolic and Endocrinology, Serono

Branding is a strategic approach to marketing communications that builds maximum recognition by evoking a consistent set of visual and verbal and rational and emotional associations across all venues and audiences. There's a difference between a product and a brand. A product is a function- and/or feature-based item that can be copied by a competitor, can become outdated, and "does" something.

David L. Stern

A brand offers a unique benefit, sought by a customer, whose value endures and "means" something to users. As an ad agency executive once put it, "A product sits on a shelf, but a brand lives in your mind."

The packaged goods industry embraces worldwide brands. With well-conceived product development and planning, a single global pharma brand name is possible. It could convey a promise and bring value to various customers. If we, as an industry, do not create single global brands, we are destined to be commoditized and lose the value proposition we are striving to create.

A: Joseph Kuchta President, Goble & Associates, Chicago

From launching several global pharma brands—some of which have the same name throughout the world, some of which don't—we know that it's often the language, cultural connotations, or legal constraints that determine if different brand names are necessary for different markets. But beyond a name, a brand identity encompasses what the product stands for, what it delivers, and the experience users have when choosing a specific product. That, along with brand positioning and messages, is what should be singularly and consistently established for globally marketed brands, regardless of the names they assume in different markets.

Joseph Kuchta

A: Rebecca RobinsDirector of Global Marketing, Interbrand Wood Healthcare, London

The brand name is the first public act of branding. It is also the one element of a brand which will not change throughout the brand's lifecycle. Positioning, packaging, and communications are all subject to variance, but the brand name will endure. A great name encapsulates the brand, ignites consumer recognition, helps define personality, and differentiates from competitors in the marketplace. Companies are increasingly seeking to market global brands under a single brand name. However, the regulatory, legal, and linguistic challenges should not be underestimated:

  • More than 35 percent of names submitted to FDA and EMEA are rejected.
  • Approximately 1,000 trademark applications and registrations are filed monthly in Class 5 at the USPTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office].
  • Ensuring your name has no negative connotations across global markets is critical.

Ultimately, a brand name is for life—take a strategic approach and look to the long-term potential of the brand.

Rebecca Robins

A: Bob DeBartoloExecutive Vice-President, Corbett Accel Healthcare; Group Director of Client Services, Corbett Accel Worldwide Healthcare Communications, Chicago

Global branding is still a big issue, not just in pharma but also in the consumer world. Whether it's because of local cultures or customs or a company unwilling to ensure a universally accepted brand name outside of Coke and Nike (okay, a lot more, but you get my point), there are tons of products with different brand names in different countries. In pharma, we're getting better, but we still market the same product with different brand names around the world. As physicians from global markets attend more US conferences (and vice versa), we'll have to be more dedicated to providing a common lexicon of brand names for our global customers.

Bob DeBartolo

A: Jed Beitler Chairman and CEO, Worldwide, Sudler & Hennessey, New York

A single brand name is the ultimate desire. Our world is getting smaller and the idea of unification using a single name has the potential to make the greatest impact. A globally unified brand gives the marketer better opportunities to create significant "memorability" because it generates consistent recognition and reinforces the brand positioning. But establishing a unified name results in a more intriguing question: "To what degree are you willing to sacrifice the desired name because of regulatory or legal hurdles?" One of the hurdles companies face is that the potential name brand may be difficult to apply in every region. Translation, patents, and "implied claim" issues become barriers to selecting the desired name. The choices, therefore, can become limited and marketers are often put in a position where they have multiple names for the same brand—which causes dilution. The end goal should always be a single brand name that provides a verbal and visual connection globally.

Jed Beitler

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