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Smart Thinking blog

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

Iconic Brands Survey: The results

What did you vote as the most iconic brand in pharma?
Iconic Brands

Thank you to those who completed the Iconic Brands Survey. We received great insights from up to 250 international marketers from a different range of industries and companies. 

We have analysed the nominations for 'iconic' brands and are pleased to reveal the top 1-10 league table of iconic pharmaceutical brands:

Iconic BrandsManufacturer
4TylenolJohnson & Johnson
6PfizerCorporate nomination
7ProzacEli Lilly
9Johnson & JohnsonCorporate nomination

To complete our Building Brand Strength series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 around this Iconic Brands activity we now analyse the findings.

Marketers who completed this survey mentioned consistent themes that, in their opinion, distinguish iconic brands from others in the market. These themes revolve around:

  • Differentiation from competitors
  • Relevance to customer needs
  • Adaptation to market changes
  • Consistency in messages
  • Presence at a global level
  • Strong awareness/memorability
  • Recognisable values.

Additionally, as mentioned in your nominations, these brands deliver on what they say they do and therefore establish trust, stand the test of time, build strong heritage, and create a strong emotional bond with their customers. These brands are innovative and visionary.

These attributes are indeed key for the success of strong brands. As discussed in the Building brand strength series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), brands that have successfully become iconic have fulfilled these criteria. For example, some have ensured strong presence such as Viagra; a brand that broke down the boundaries of erectile dysfunction and was endorsed by renowned personalities. Others have addressed customer needs but also created new ones. Only just missing the top 10, BAND-AID, is a brand that successfully became an eponym and expanded its products to children and athletes. And some others have successfully differentiated from competitors, such as Aspirin, a brand that emphasised technological innovations to improve its product and address new indications.

However, one cannot ignore the strength of a brand from an internal standpoint, ie, from inside of the organisation. Internal clarity, commitment and responsiveness are also key for the success of a brand. We believe that strong brands are built by teams who are clearly aligned on what the brand stands for in terms of its values, positioning and proposition, and have a clear understanding of who their target audiences are and what drives their purchasing behaviours. 

Because so much hinges on this, it is vital that these are articulated internally and shared across the organisation. Additionally, the team's commitment to the brand in terms of time, influence, and investment is necessary to building a strong brand. Finally, the ability to respond to market and customer changes, challenges and opportunities and to keep a desire and ability to constantly evolve leads to continued innovation and brand differentiation. 

Lastly, a strong component of brand strength revolves around its legal protection, which is patent protection in the pharmaceutical world – how secure the brand is across a number of dimensions: legal protection, proprietary ingredients or design, scale or geographical spread – also defines its success. Some of the nominated iconic product brands have lost or will be losing patent exclusivity by 2015 (eg, Lipitor has lost patent exclusivity in 2012 and Herceptin will lose it in 2014). In such cases, the role of the corporate brand is crucial to increase marketing efficiencies and differentiate these product brands. 

Historically, brands have focused on leveraging their product brands to create efficiencies. However, with changing market dynamics, a strong endorsement from an iconic manufacturer brand such as Pfizer can create a lift over the generic alternatives by associating a product's name, such as Lipitor, with its strong corporate equities. 

This is also relevant to biologic products such as Herceptin that will soon be faced with competition from biosimilar products. Because of the uncertainties surrounding biosimilars, spending branding efforts at not just the product but also the corporate level will be of particular importance to the innovators of biologics, to transfer equities and keep generating revenue once these products are off-patent.  

Another opportunity for brands facing loss of patent exclusivity is the customer experience that they can develop beyond the clinical benefits of the product. By providing value-added services that fulfill unmet customer needs and improve the overall experience with the condition and treatment, these brands can create a point of differentiation that generics and biosimilars cannot easily compete with. Leveraging such opportunities can maintain loyalty, provide a rationale for premium spend and protect brands as they lose exclusivity.

In summary, successful brands undoubtedly leverage the holistic components of a strong brand, from both an internal and external perspective, to achieve an 'iconic' status. Nowadays, we believe that these components do not only encompass the product itself but also extend to the product's corporate identity and value-added services in order to stand out in the face of changing market dynamics. 

You may also find InterbrandHealth's white paper, Vital Times: The Changing Role of Brand within the Health & Life Sciences Industry, of interest.

Article by
Karen Choueiri

associate director, analytics team, InterbrandHealth

7th February 2013

From: Marketing



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