Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

The new reality of building a corporate brand in pharma

The global pandemic has heightened everyone’s awareness of healthcare

An interesting thing has happened during the race to produce COVID-19 vaccines in that perceptions of the pharma sector have improved – and the pharma companies themselves have started to become more famous.

Until the likes of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna started to have their coronavirus vaccines approved, the companies behind the medicines were rarely recognised by the public.

Brand names

Most people know what Viagra or Prozac are for, even if they personally have never been prescribed them. But, if you asked the same people who manufacture those medicines, far fewer people would have been able to answer Pfizer or Lilly respectively.

And the reason for this is that most pharmaceutical companies have deliberately separated their company name from the individual brand names of the drugs. The parent companies behind the portfolios of product brands have remained in the shadows. But the world has changed. The global pandemic has heightened everyone’s awareness of healthcare and consumer expectations of companies have changed.

This – in addition to the rise of technology in pharma – begs the question of whether it’s time for pharma companies to revisit their strategy, as it relates to their corporate brands.

Maintaining separation

One reason pharma companies separated their corporate and product brands was to protect the corporate brand in the event of a product issue. Unlike other sectors, a problem with a product in the pharma sector can have a devastating effect.

For instance, when the weight loss drug, Fenphen was recalled in 1997, after a study revealed patients experienced heart disease and pulmonary problems, there were thousands of lawsuits filed by US users, resulting in its manufacturer, Wyeth, paying billions in damages.

Claims are still being filed and paid more than 20 years later. But in our internet age, the argument to keep the corporate brand separate from the product brand is losing steam. Access to information is quick and easy for everyone and it is then shared and talked about with no care for country boundaries – so any previously perceived separation benefit is negated.

And we are now living in a time of purposedriven marketing. According to Deloitte Insight’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report, purpose is one of the key aspects necessary for businesses to flourish – they need to understand why they exist and who they serve.

It found that 79% of global consumers remembered instances where brands had responded positively to the difficulties caused by the pandemic by helping their customers, workforce and communities.

The face behind the name

People want to know about the companies behind the products they buy – and that knowledge may influence which brands they choose. This is not restricted to consumer brands – we are seeing more B2B companies target consumers, including pharma, which is also embracing modern marketing methods to build awareness and growth.

Pharma companies are now following the likes of FMCG giant P&G – which has championed elevating a corporate brand voice to speak to consumers – and using marketing and communications to engage with consumers. Last year, Pfizer promoted its corporate brand with ‘Science Will Win’ adverts in preference to spots previously reserved for its products.

Another factor impacting pharma companies’ need to raise their corporate profiles is to attract talent. As pharma becomes more tech focused, the leading companies find themselves competing with tech businesses such as Apple and Amazon to recruit staff.

According to a 2019/20 Deloitte survey, 68% of biopharma leaders said that advances in technology are one of the top five issues that will have the most impact on their company over the next year. This, combined with global talent shortages nearly doubling in the past decade, mean pharma companies will have to work harder to make their corporate brand desirable to any potential new candidates.

The impact of COVID-19 on pharma

And as mentioned at the start, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on pharma companies over the past year, putting corporate brands front and centre.

Pharma press tripled in volume pre- and post-COVID-19. In January 2020, the pharma industry received approximately 10,000 mentions globally in major news and business publications, compared with more than 30,000 mentions by December 2020.

The pharmaceutical and biotech company Moderna was virtually unknown to most people a year ago but now it is a household name. Has anyone ever paid attention to – or asked – who produced their annual flu vaccine? Unlikely.

But as the COVID-19 vaccine has been rolled out, a common discussion between friends and families around the world is whether someone had been given the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab when it was their turn. This has opened the door for corporate pharma brands to have a stronger voice with more audiences and establish a relationship with consumers in a way that was a real challenge before.

If more pharma companies build on this momentum, their next challenge is brand differentiation. This category is replete with ‘sameness’. Most brands look and sound the same – same colours, imagery, wording. Their next task is to define what they stand for, why they exist and – most important of all – what makes them distinct.

Jenn Szekely is US Managing Partner at Coley Porter Bell

4th May 2021

Jenn Szekely is US Managing Partner at Coley Porter Bell

4th May 2021

From: Marketing


Career advice

No results were found

Subscribe to our email news alerts


Add my company

OncoSec is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing cytokine-based intratumoral immunotherapies to stimulate the body's immune system to target...