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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

A Brand of our Times

When Stephen Page read Kush Rach’s piece The Strategic Role of the Agency, it got him thinking about what it really means to create a brand in these times...

Kush Rach's (Pulsar Healthcare) incisive piece on tapping into agency insights, The Strategic Role of Agency, inspired thoughts with regards to seeing things from the pharma marketers point of view.

I couldn't help pricking up my ears this morning at Radio Four's news that to different degrees Spain and Germany were following the well-worn path pioneered by Greece.  Selfishly, in my mind's eye I could see further cuts being bestowed upon their national healthcare services and yet more local markets dropping out of our global briefs. I wonder perhaps if marketers are beginning to wonder if they should turn up at all let alone turn to marketing agencies for support.

On the wall behind my desk I've pinned up a hand written scrawl that says brand is dead. In so many ways, right now this is perhaps true. You could be forgiven for thinking it's all about price, price, price. And the word brand within pharma has long been misunderstood to mean product. Collectively as marketers within agencies and within pharma itself we're directed to think in terms of what the 'brand' does – its benefits and its features. So the word brand has perhaps come to mean the wrong thing in pharma at the wrong time.

Of course, brand – in the true sense of winning share-of-mind and defining value (rather than price) is far from dead. It has never been more relevant than now. The financial agenda is challenging but ultimately brand is not about WHAT we produce (drugs) but WHY we spend so much on researching and developing new ways of improving people's health and countering disease. If ever there was a time for pharma to stand up and assert the value it brings to global society it is now. After all, aren't all great commercially successful brands based on the customer and seller having intuitively aligned agendas?

Creating those intuitively aligned agendas is where marketers within pharma and within agencies can of course collaborate to great effect. We're more than capable of finding new innovative ways to build value. It is absolutely the right time to be honing messages that state our motives, loudly and clearly, (to improve healthcare) and it's the right time to be finding new ways of connecting with our audiences. Perhaps as Kush suggests we have an opportunity by working together to ensure, despite the changing fortunes of national economies that, pharma's relevance not only increases but becomes increasingly clear to healthcare professionals, governments and national health services alike.

Article by
Stephen Page

managing director, Euro RSCG Life Medicom

27th July 2012

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