Smart pharma brands go back to basics
By Allen Adamson, Landor
It's not surprising that nearly every pharmaceutical advertising spot springs from the same enjoy-life-to-the-fullest strategy. It's only natural that happy, healthy outcomes are what consumers want to see whether they suffer from overactive bladder, restless legs syndrome, or asthma. This poses quite a challenge for those whose job it is to set apart one pharmaceutical brand from another in the minds of consumers. And if you can't define and communicate a difference that people care about, there's little chance your branding efforts can succeed.
Simplify the complex
While building a brand in an increasingly cluttered marketplace is difficult enough in any category, building a pharmaceutical brand is exponentially so. First of all, the copious amount of complicated information doesn't easily translate into a clear story. Then regulatory issues as well as multiple global initiatives have to be dealt with. Given this, how do the best pharmaceutical brands differentiate their offerings? To put it simply, they go back to basics. Smart pharmaceutical marketers turn to tangible branding cues like names, visual and auditory mnemonic devices, colors, and even spokespeople to help consumers distinguish their product and associate it with a meaningfully and different brand promise. Rather than try to communicate a complex brand story, they go for multisensory cues to help build associations with the brand's meaning - cues that communicate quickly, clearly, and memorably what the brand is about.
Here's what I mean. If you ask a bunch of folks what brand a red bull's-eye stands for, they'll most likely say Target. Ask the special women in your life what comes to mind when they see a special shade of blue, and they'll nod knowingly and say Tiffany. While I'm on colors as branding cues, ask people what they think of when they hear "purple pill." Whether or not they suffer from acid reflux, they're probably going to answer Nexium. While hard to establish as a branding cue, something as simple as a color is difficult to erase once it's been fixed in people's heads.
So, too, are well-executed visual signals. I suspect that even years from now, it will be hard to hear the name Cialis without thinking about two bathtubs side by side. The makers and marketers of Cialis use this sassy visual device to identify the brand and link it in consumers' minds with intimacy, an end benefit to this drug for erectile dysfunction. The makers of VESIcare had plumbing of another kind in mind when they decided on the clever use of "pipe people" to distinguish their brand of treatment for overactive bladders. Using whimsical characters as a link to the product and its benefit - assuaging the embarrassment of "leaking pipes" - is a powerful branding tactic, yet very basic in concept.
Also basic, but tried and truly effective as tangible branding signals, are spokespeople. Sally Field, a charming and talented actress has aged gracefully from her Gidget days and is now clearly identified with the once-a-month osteoporosis drug Boniva. While women may not know every detail about Boniva, they see Sally and associate her and the brand with the peace of mind that comes from knowing one way to deal with decreased bone loss.
What's in a name?
Even more basic as a sensory branding cue is a brand name. While naming is a tough nut in any category, coming up with one for a pharmaceutical that hints at the brand's promise is a coup. Lunesta is a great name. "Luna," and its association with the moon, and "esta," with its connection to "siesta," work beautifully together to conjure up a good night's sleep.
Building a brand, be it a potato chip, a car, or a pill, is not easy, especially in an environment where product choices are increasing as quickly as the media channels that market them. Smart pharmaceutical marketers have learned that the best way to break through the clutter is to go back to basics. Identify a simple, tangible cue that consumers can equate with the brand's meaning - one that distinguishes it from others in its category. It's a tactic that's just good medicine.
About the author:
Allen Adamson is managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates and author of BrandDigital: Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed in the Digital World and BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep It Simple and Succeed.
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