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Redefining pharma brand values

Dr R B Smarta
Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Carolyn Stafford, author of the book 'Small Business, Big Brand', believes many organisations misconstrue what branding is.

"They don't pay attention to the soft, intangible parts of the brands. We really need to reverse the whole concept of branding and not look at it from a visual and physical context but from an emotional viewpoint and create a community around our brand."

In view of the wide spread acceptance of brands as valuable strategic assets, it is strange that very little evidence exist with the pharma industry. Do we not take long term brand building very seriously!

Prescription sector contributes around 90 per cent of global pharmaceutical sales. It is definitely regulated and subject to government and political interventions. As a result, even the information about products and brands has been restricted to doctors and other healthcare professionals leave aside brand building processes of established practices.

All over the world a move has been initiated for DTC advertising for those low risks and low development products as patients are getting educated. Largely this movement is in USA. However, for the marketers of those products which are creation of successful R&D, is becoming increasingly elusive task to create a brand.

Although, industry is already working in 21st century, yet, the methods to build brand have remained old fashioned. Supply driven, supply chain driven, government and politicians policies driven and lastly prescribers driven industry, may not locate its feet for brand driven processes.

Brand building
Usually, the emphasis on product development is the key to commercial success. However, in the market like India and also other competitive markets like all emerging markets where high competitiveness exists, speed to market with newness either for patented or generic products can bear rewards. It's also equally true that in markets like India where more generics and competitive brands are available, it is difficult to reward investment.

With the cost of R&D rising and the success rate is either static or not as good as it was earlier, need to exploit brand potential has never been so crucial than any other time. Many big pharmas have almost 40-50% of their sales or 50% of their market share, ranking from those already well established branded generics. Remaining comes from the new products which are launching at this moment.

They have the dilemma whether these new products will ever even reach position of a star in brand portfolio or they will come out as woven horses or dogs!

Product portfolio rationalization
As a result, it is really important to develop a strategic balance between older brands might not have even matured at all and new products in such a way that a strong brand portfolio is built up and strategic assets are created. You can see this happening in stock markets for Coke, Nokia, General Electricals, Intel, Ford and McDonald. Each brand almost becomes synonymous to the organisation and hence, we as pharma industry need to look at brands with that perspective and also think of corporate branding along with branding for new products or existing products.

Why branding is important? - Six reasons

A platform of relationship:
Powerful brands which are at top of the therapeutic group such as Becosules, Aten, Shelcal etc. have already built up a platform of relationship with the healthy and suffering medical consumers. Hence, brand has a potential to develop a relationship with designed medical consumers.

Competitive differentiation: Although the utility of a molecule in pharma is significantly of narrow range of specific indications yet in a highly competitive market and specifically in complex markets like branded and generics market, brand or a product from a corporate brand definitely provides competitive differentiation and can also yield better premium for the brand.

Borderless: Powerful brands like Crocin, Live 52, Benedrayl, Cfran etc. have even crossed the borders of countries and markets. It's not either parallel trading or infiltration but the distinction is they have really crossed borders and created a value for strategic asset.

Capacity to change behaviour: When a brand visits or revisits the prescriber or a suffering medical consumer or a healthy medical consumer as human beings we are emotional. Brands even influence the behaviour and attitudes. I have observed many suffering medical consumers that if they have a specific way of looking at a particular brand, they recognize it from its shape, size, colour, smell, touch and also understand that the brand has to be taken before meals or before going to sleep or just along with breakfast. They form a habit. Brand has a capacity of changing behaviour and attitudes of medical consumers.

Loyalty: As the brand develops these intangibles which are mentioned as above, brand gets medical consumers loyalty and in case of pharma, it further provides a recommendatory or advisory position for a suffering medical consumer to advice, recommend the same brand with his own testimony to others.

Performance: As brand provides all values inclusive of functional value, brand is held in esteem for its performance. It helps medical consumers to comply with the therapy.

● Positioning on four values

Functional values: In order to develop a brand, we need to look at our medical consumer, his way of looking at health along with his physician and his family. Consider the brand which lowers blood pressure with a single dose treatment or a special grain Atta like Connegra for diabetes patients, can be called as functional values.

Expressive values: You may have to also express this value with the delivery of value to all customer segments. If it is a fully prescription product, then the physician is first. Obviously, he is also dependant on the compliance of his medical consumer. The physician or recommendatory person has to also look after the family of medical consumers who are over a period of time going to be a part of his influential circle.

As a consultancy firm, we found out that using Connegra Atta only for one member of family was hindering the usage. We had to think of entire family although only one person is going to consume.

Number of values, specially for lifestyle diseases, are very important to express. These are expressive values.

Central value: On the other way central value which needs to be looked into which could be based on risk and reward balance. It may be a prerogative of a physician only and hence he needs to ensure that the medical consumer who may be on multiple therapies depending on the risk platform of his disease needs to get complimentary or synergetic effect. Central value creates the Risk-Reward balance in the minds of physicians.

Comprehensive value: Comprehensive value is an equally important value in a competitive era. All other values are essential for creating a brand while they may not be sufficient. Comprehensive value looks at value for money, in terms of risk and reward, economy, efficacy, quality and assurance of promise.

Balancing and challenging task for any brand manager or even a chief executive is to keep this balance in relevance of changing environment and competition for all four values while building a pharma brand.

(The author is founder and managing director of Interlink - A business consulting firm in pharmaceutical & healthcare industry based in Mumbai.)


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