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Vying for brand position

In a crowded and noisy marketplace, how well is your brand competing for GPs' attention?

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Brand managers, whether they work in pharmaceuticals or another sector, seek to ensure that the name of their brand is well known and that it has positive attributes associated with it. Creating and sustaining both sales and profit margins depends both on high levels of brand recognition, as well as positive brand values.

With this in mind, GP newspaper and MIMS commissioned independent consultancy Objective Research to conduct a major new survey examining GPsí awareness and perceptions of branded medicines in 33 treatment areas.

Providing quarterly data, Pharmaceutical Brand Monitor will provide a new tool to help those charged with managing the health of pharma brands and each month will analyse results from the survey and look at drugs that made an impact on GPs.

BrandWatch will report on a robust quarterly sample of at least 200 GPs (for each brand measured) surveyed on their levels of awareness and five key attributes for around 40 branded or generic drugs.

Three versions of the questionnaire are used to cover 20 brands and the list of brands will be updated each quarter to allow for the measurement of new launches.

Best Known Brands in Selected Categories



Score %

Erectile dysfunction



Thromboembolic disorders







Calcichew D3 Forte


Inflammatory skin conditions

Canesten-HC, Fucibet


Statins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors







Seretide COPD


Eczema/pruritis/dry skin conditions

Diprobath/Diprobase, Oilatum








Incontinence/nocturnal enuresis/nocturia

Detrusitol XL





Peptic ulcer/Z-E syndrome

Zoton Fastab





Smoking cessation









Depression/other affective disorders

Efexor XL


Competing for attention
Given the nature of their jobs, it is easy to think that GPs will seek to ensure that they are familiar with all the key treatments available to them. However, in practice the number of brands in the marketplace, and the time pressures GPs face mean that marketers should not automatically assume high levels of awareness of, or familiarity with their brands.

Indeed, one of the most striking findings of the survey is the significant variations in the relative standing of the various brands measured; some having fewer than a third of GPs rating them at all.

The table opposite shows the list of top brands in terms of awareness (GPs who knew the brand a lot or a little). Of the brands measured, the median awareness level was 79 per cent.

Other categories measured were:

  • Angina
  • Insulins
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Hypertension
  • Acne/rosacea
  • Oral hypoglycaemics
  • BPH/urinary retension
  • Alzheimerís disease/dementia
  • Epilepsy
  • Haemorrhoid/pruritis ani
  • Diuresis
  • Pain control
  • Cough/congestion, respiratory distress
  • Immunisation.

In developing the questionnaire, we sought to ensure that we included the key attributes that are important to both GPs and pharma marketers.

Following tests and a pilot survey, five key measures were chosen:

  • An effective treatment
  • Trusted and proven (has good evidence to support its use)
  • Good value for money
  • Patient friendly
  • Would consider using.

GPís were asked to tick which attributes applied to each brand. As expected, the image profile of each brand varies. The table below shows the top three brands for each of these attributes across all the
treatment categories. These figures are based on all GPs, not just those who knew the brand. Survey results revealed that Canesten-HC has the best profile when looking across all five measures.

COPD and asthma
Analysis of the results in detail shows two areas of chronic disease treatment, asthma and COPD, which illustrate how closely treatments can compete. In both of these categories three treatments vie for top position (in terms of their brand image) suggesting that marketers continually need to promote their brand to stay at the top.

In other categories, such as BPH/urinary retention, hypertension, depression/other affective disorders, NSAIDs and others there are significant variations in results across the various brands measured.

The three treatments measured in the COPD category were all rated highly across the board with between 73 per cent and 75 per cent of GPs rating each as an ëeffective treatmentí and between 44 per cent and 47 per cent of respondents regarding each treatment as ëpatient friendly.í

Some 65 per cent would consider using Seretide COPD, narrowly ahead of Spiriva and Symbicort (63 per cent and 62 per cent, respectively). Seretide COPD and Symbicort are seen as ëtrusted and provení by 61 per cent and 59 per cent of GPs, respectively, ahead of Spiriva with 50 per cent. However, while Spiriva did not score as highly in this regard, GPs do not appear deterred from considering its use.

Of the five treatments measured in the area of asthma three gained high ratings, Seretide, Qvar and Singulair, with one drug, Xolair, registering a few percentage points at most.

Seretide had the highest ratings across the board, with 80 per cent of respondents rating it as an ëeffective treatmentí, 58 per cent citing it as ëtrusted and provení, 45 per cent saying it is ëpatient friendlyí and 59 per cent citing they would ëconsider using ití.

While Qvar was rated second with regard to the first three attributes and significantly ahead of Singulair in terms of being ëtrusted and provení (48 per cent versus 33 per cent) it fell behind on the key measure of ëwould consider usingí, with 52 per cent compared to Singulairís 56 per cent.

The survey provides a rich source of data on the standing of many key brands. In the coming months we will look at selected categories to shed more light on the importance of brand positioning, highñlighting key findings for different treatment categories and attributes.

Top Brands Individual Attributes

Key attributes

Brand name and score

An effective treatment

Canesten-HC (88%), Fucibet (86%), Imigran (84%)

Trusted and proven

Canesten-HC (68%), Lipitor (66%), Voltarol (63%)

Good value for money

Canesten-HC (52%), Voltarol (50%), Oilatum (50%)

Patient friendly

Diprobath/Diprobase (51%), Canesten-HC (51%), E45 (49%)

Would consider using

Viagra (66%), Seretide COPD (65%), Spiriva (63%)

The questionnaire was developed during the latter part of 2006 in discussions with both GPs and marketers. A pilot survey was undertaken to test response levels and determine the best means of encouraging GPs to complete and return the questionnaire. The final questionnaire design has been kept as clear as possible, with only the key attributes asked and a few additional classification questions. The attributes were chosen to cover the most important areas from a brand image perspective ñ effective treatment, trusted and proven, value for money, patient friendly and would consider using.

GPs are sent a postal questionnaire comprising two pages listing 40 brands and one page asking about their background and use of information sources. For each reply received a donation to charity is made and the questionnaire is sent with a cover letter and book of first class stamps.

Three versions of the questionnaire brand lists were used, each sent to separate random samples of GPs. Two ërotationí versions of the questionnaire were used, in forward and reverse alphabetical order, a standard research technique used to iron out any ëorder effectsí when lists are presented in a survey.

Each month, on average, 75 completed questionnaires were received for each version allowing us to look at trends each quarter based on a minimum sample of over 200 GPs. The sample profile suggests that GPs participating in the survey tend to be more senior than average and more likely to be involved in policy or management decisions ñ 41 per cent qualified before 1980, 66 per cent were male and 40 per cent were involved in management or influential activities.

BrandWatch is written by Nigel Jacklin, managing director of Objective Research. The data is sourced from Pharmaceutical Brand Monitor, a survey developed by GP and MIMS.

For further information on the survey contact David Saunders, Haymarket Medical Media on 0208 267 4869 or at

11th June 2007


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