How technology enables more dynamic brand planning

Sales & Marketing
Brand planning

Daniel Kohlstaedt, managing director at PurpleLeaf Strategy, discusses how new technologies can help bring brand planning and strategy development into the digital age.  

Brand planning should be as dynamic as the real market it represents. Using today’s technologies – such as large datasets and artificial intelligence (AI) – brand teams can more efficiently respond to a rapidly shifting landscape and create truly impactful brand strategies. 

Today, too many teams are still held back by the more “traditional” approaches to brand planning, performing manual analyses to develop strategies that exist only in static slide decks and spreadsheets. This method requires a huge resource expenditure on the part of brand teams, who dedicate weeks to developing a season’s brand plan that, once distributed to local teams, is archived in a filing system until they repeat the process the following year. 

Instead, by harnessing the power of the latest advances in technology, brand teams can make better use of their efforts to better understand the market environment as it changes, then build and adapt strategies that drive more value for their portfolio.  

The problems with traditional approaches to brand planning

Over nearly two decades working with or within pharma marketing, brand, and commercial teams, I’ve witnessed first-hand the challenges with analogue brand planning efforts.

According to a 2021 report from PwC, 80% of European pharmaceutical executives feel that their current brand planning approaches, processes, and outputs aren’t fit for purpose. They cited difficulties reaching the right conclusions from data, messy processes, and a lack of internal organisation and alignment as top challenges to their brand planning success.

Most of the time, the brand plan strategy becomes static after launch and doesn’t reflect real-market scenarios. Much more problematic is the fact that brand strategy and the data used to develop it sit in closed templates; very rarely do brand teams use their plans to improve brand performance throughout the year.

Another key challenge with the model of static templates and presentations is version control. As slide decks containing brand plans circulate from global to local teams, it’s difficult for brand leaders to monitor changes made and track for inconsistencies across geographies. 

In short, brand plan development methods of the past require too much effort for too little outcome. When highly skilled teams invest time and effort into this process, it should serve for more than a one-off presentation. These plans should inform all strategic decisions and anchor the brand’s focus across teams and throughout the product’s lifecycle – not just for an annual budgeting process. 

Tech-enabled solutions to brand planning challenges 

As the pharma industry dives deeper into its digital transformation, we can apply technologies like AI and machine learning (ML) to data in order to streamline the brand planning process, leading to more dynamic outputs that fit companies’ needs in today’s world. 

For example, it’s important that brand teams understand the drivers and barriers their product could encounter in the competitive landscape. They often use SWOT grids – which assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – to map out the market, but these analyses are often based on anecdotal evidence, rather than real-world data. Enavia’s data approach captures information from a specific therapeutic landscape and structures it into a logic-driven database, which AI models can then query to, for example, visualise customer perceptions about the value of a brand. Using technology and scientific methodology, rather than gut feelings, to assess the market environment – combined with a logic flow that connects insight generation to strategic decision-making and tactical execution – brand teams can establish a more accurate picture of their competitive differentiators. 

In addition, many brand teams are familiar with the PEST analysis, which investigates the political, economic, social, and technological factors that could influence their brand’s success. But performing the typical PEST analysis is a complex, tedious process that requires brand teams to manually collect and enter data. Enavia’s platform helps teams visualise and display all of the internal and external events that could affect their brand. Our datasets can be connected to external data sources, such as, meaning new information can be updated automatically without the need for manual refreshes.    

Brand teams also use Enavia to house their brand plans in cloud-based systems, where colleagues from around the world can access the latest version of the strategy. This establishes a single version of truth for brand teams that avoids the confusion of managing changes across multiple PowerPoint files. It also promotes global-to-local consistency of brand plan implementation. 

With technology, we can simplify, streamline, and automate elements of the brand planning process, all while making the process more dynamic. What’s more, by increasing the efficiency of brand planning, brand teams can significantly reduce their operational costs.  

In the end, brand planning can become a full-year exercise, rather than a one-off project, enabling brand plans with the insights they need to drive their products’ value throughout the lifecycle. 

Considerations amidst pharma’s digital transformation

In recent years, talk of healthcare transformation at conferences and in the industry has focused on patient centricity, omnichannel approaches, AI, and personalised medicine – all means of bringing brands and healthcare professionals closer to their patients. 

In the commercial space, the push towards digitisation has enabled solutions like Enavia to create automated and highly targeted customer engagement approaches, which use AI and ML to leverage huge databases. But, within brand planning, achieving a successful digital transformation will require teams to first perfect the basics and manage change effectively within their biopharma organisations. I believe that digital transformation is 20% digital and 80% transformation, and, therefore, establishing the right internal structures to enable digital change will be crucial. 

Nonetheless, the healthcare landscape continues to evolve rapidly. Three years ago, we had to explain to customers why a cloud-based system could help them develop better brand strategies. Today, we spend more time educating clients about the value of slowing down our projects to make sure we adequately address all basic needs and questions as part of change management. 

More to come at Reuters Pharma US

As we approach the season when many companies begin brand strategy development, I look forward to engaging with pharma leaders about how we can collaborate to modernise and streamline their brand planning strategies. I'll be attending Reuters Pharma USA 2023 in Philadelphia on 28th-29th March, where I hope to reconnect with old friends and meet new global managers from large and small organisations to discuss how Enavia can support and enable their digital transformation. Come find us in booth 47.

About the author

Daniel KohlstaedtDaniel Kohlstaedt is founder and managing director of PurpleLeaf Strategy and has over 19 years’ extensive experience in commercial excellence and global marketing implementation. He is an expert in global roll-out.

About Purple Leaf Strategy


At PurpleLeaf Strategy we strive to help Pharma and Biotech businesses achieve their commercial goals through our cloud-based platform, Enavia. Through structured cloud-based systems, Enavia guides teams through brand strategy development and execution on many fronts. Automated data collection and sharing, analytics through modular tools, and planning & execution through interrogative exercises help business in their go-to-market strategies and commercial excellence. Tools like Relative Competitive Analysis, Patient Flow and Journey, Timeline Dynamics, and many more help in pulling actionable levers for commercial success.

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