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When is it time to rebrand?


Every change in marketplace dynamics, customer insights and global competition can be an opportunity or an obstacle. Today, customers interact seamlessly with chatbots, respond to new digital platforms and switch easily from familiar habits. Brands must be one step ahead, anticipating each new paradigm. In response to constant change, brand touchpoints - from apps to social media - are constantly evolving. But at some point, that is not enough. Leaders need to recognise when it is time to rebrand - time to activate a new customer experience - and time to reaffirm mission and values.

Historically, the pharmaceutical industry invested significantly in marketing campaigns for a specific drug. Marketing campaigns are being replaced by branding initiatives. Pharma has become more patient-centric - with brands investing more in disease awareness, prevention and education. The c-suite is developing more strategies to build brand loyalty - investing in sustainable long-term relationships with key stakeholders (patients, prescribers and payers) across a multi-channel world. A differentiated brand can withstand disruptions in the marketplace, across branded, generic and over-the-counter categories. A strong brand can stand out in a densely crowded marketplace.

Branding is a long-term investment. It’s vital to take the time to plan, build trust in the process and set expectations. Finding new ways to attract new markets, engage employees and dramatically differentiate your brand from the competition is increasingly difficult. A disciplined branding process requires strategy, planning and orchestration. It begins with thoughtful leadership, a shared understanding of core purpose and brand fundamentals - and an imperative to grow brand equity.

Four critical success factors for brand initiatives are:

Readiness - Companies need to be ready to invest their focus, capital and human resources. Acknowledge that your investment will require staff time, not just writing cheques to a brand consultancy. Great outcomes require vision, commitment and collaboration. The process requires the ability to suspend judgment, listen carefully and transcend politics. Be ready to research and deconstruct the stakeholder journey - from patients to key partners and decision makers. Internal, legal and competitive audits can offer valuable insights.

A mandate from the top - It is important to ensure that your leadership team endorses the brand initiative. If the commitment to revitalise the brand is tepid, the initiative will frequently fizzle in the middle. Know when it’s necessary to educate decision makers to reinforce what brand strength can deliver. Share best practices both in and outside of the life sciences category. Make sure that decision makers are present at key points in the process. Although the mandate to build the brand must come from the top, the brand has an opportunity to ignite employees throughout the process.

Clear goals - Establish clear goals at the onset and use a disciplined process that is easy to map and share. Everyone should understand and agree on the endpoint. What drives margin and growth is the brand. Although there are numerous performance and perception metrics, both qualitative and quantitative, value is incrementally built over time. The brand is an asset that needs to be protected and grown.

Results - There is consensus as to what success will look like and what can be measured over time. Companies that invest in a more efficient and effective way to manage brand governance have a high return. Consider the benefits of employee engagement. Branding does not end with the launch. The best companies develop tools that drive brand engagement and make it easy to be a brand champion. It’s everyone’s job to grow the brand.

Branding is a disciplined process used to build awareness, attract new customers and extend customer loyalty. Knowing when to start the process is key. As organisations grow, their purpose frequently becomes more lucid. The best brands provide a central, unifying idea around which all behaviour, actions and communications are aligned. A rebranding decision is challenged by crucial questions: What is the business imperative for this change? How does the change support the organisation’s core purpose and vision? How will it maximise our value and revenue potential? Which core ideas or elements need to be maintained to preserve brand equity? Should the change be evolutionary or revolutionary? Are we really ready to invest in the long term, and is our customer ready for the change?

When to start the branding process

New product, new service

  • We’ve developed a new product.
  • We have a new market segment with new needs.
  • We want to brand our disease awareness and prevention.
  • We want to brand our partnership with a healthcare system.
  • We’re going public.
  • We need to raise venture capital.
  • We’ve had a crisis and we need to reset.

Name change

  • We need a name for our more affordable alternative.
  • We have a trademark conflict.
  • Our name has negative connotations in some of our new markets.
  • Our name misleads consumers.
  • We merged.
  • We need a new name for the Chinese market.
  • Our name no longer fits who we are and the businesses we are in.

Revitalise a brand

  • We want to reposition and bolster our parent brand.
  • We need to communicate more clearly about who we are.
  • We’re going global - we need to enter new markets.
  • No one knows who we are.
  • Our stock is devalued.
  • We want to appeal to a new market.
  • We want to express the hallmarks of our values and culture.

Revitalise a brand identity

  • We are innovators, but we look behind the times.
  • We need to optimise our identity for digital.
  • We have numerous divisions and our nomenclature is inconsistent.
  • We want to unify all experiences, offerings and communications.
  • We look like our competitors.
  • We need an image bank for content marketing and social media.
  • Our market recognises our symbol. Our logotype is illegible.

Create an integrated system

  • We need centralised brand management.
  • We do not present a consistent face to our customers.
  • We need new brand architecture to deal with acquisitions.
  • We need to create an online equivalent of our offline experience.
  • We need to look strong and communicate that we are one global company.
  • Our competitors look better than we do and their sales are going up.
  • Every division does its own thing when marketing. This is inefficient,
    frustrating and not cost-effective.

When companies merge

  • We want to send a clear message to our stakeholders that this is a
    merger of equals.
  • We want to communicate that 1 + 1 = 4.
  • We want to build on the brand equity of the merging companies.
  • We need to send a strong signal to the world that we are the new
    industry leader.
  • We need a new name.
  • We need to evaluate our acquisition’s brand and fold it into our
    brand architecture.
  • Two industry leaders are merging. How do we manage our new brand?

Establishing a difference

Brands outperform their rivals by establishing a difference that they can express, sustain and legally protect. The pharmaceutical industry can benefit from a disciplined branding process that includes research, brand strategy, design execution, launch and brand governance. Branding is a complex discipline. It can be synthesised in these four questions: Who are you? Who needs to know? How will they find out? Why should they care?

This is an edited excerpt from Designing Brand identity: The Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team (5th edition, published by Wiley, 2017), all by Alina Wheeler. Wheeler aspires to demystify branding and deconstruct the branding process.

Article by
Alina Wheeler

18th March 2018

Article by
Alina Wheeler

18th March 2018

From: Marketing



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Healthcare is evolving rapidly. To stand out from the crowd requires a potent combination of rich insight, innovative ideas and...