A guide for international pharmaceutical communications: What do we really mean by brand value? (Part 1)

Sunil Ramkali

W strategic &amp, creative communications

Is developing differentiated brand communications that deliver real world value and drive brand uptake your goal? If so, understanding how the pharmaceutical market defines brand value and knowing how your brand fulfils this definition is vital. To help you stand out from the crowd, this article presents some key insights on how to deliver a brand that truly addresses market needs.

Brand value – what do we mean?

Traditionally the term ‘value’ has been used by market access functions, e.g. brand value communications and value demonstration. However, as the pharmaceutical landscape becomes increasingly influenced by payers and their advisors, marketers must also consider adopting the term into their everyday vocabulary when developing &amp, implementing differentiated brand communications. Value must become an integral part of the marketers’ vocabulary in the same ways terms like ‘positioning’, ‘segmentation’, ‘vision’, ‘key selling message’ have become. However, like these other commonly used brand strategy terms, it is essential marketers know exactly what the term means and how their brand delivers on the term.


“…like these other commonly used brand strategy terms, it is essential marketers know exactly what the term means and how their brand delivers on the term.”


When developing brand communications an in-depth understanding of how the market defines brand value and how your brand delivers on this definition is critical, irrespective of the customer type – from healthcare provider to payer to patient. Drug manufacturers that can bridge the gap between this market definition and their brand communications will create significant commercial benefits for their brand. In short, it will enable them to deliver a brand that is able to differentiate itself from the competition by truly addressing market needs.

So what’s new? Isn’t this what we call marketing? It sure is, but what’s new is the way brand value is defined, and how the definition has changed in recent years, with increased focus on delivering clinically meaningful benefits that justify a change in treatment and are worth paying for.

When used in marketing, the term value is described as ‘the relationship between the consumer’s perceived benefits in relation to the perceived costs of receiving these benefits, i.e. ‘value = benefits / cost. Value is thus subjective (i.e. a function of consumers’ estimation) and relational (i.e. both benefits and cost must be positive values)’.1

This equation is equally valid within the pharmaceutical industry, where the consumer is replaced with a healthcare provider, a payer or a patient. However with the increased need to demonstrate incremental clinical benefits compared to standard treatments, the definition of brand value is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfil. Fulfilling this definition will require marketers to find all the pieces of the brand value jigsaw and fit them together.


“…the definition of brand value is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfil.”


This raising of the bar has consequently resulted in the definition of brand value becoming less subjective, more objective and increasingly prescriptive. For example, reimbursement bodies across Europe are more clearly defining their expectations for new drugs if they are to be considered for reimbursement / funding and subsequent market access.

A similar requirement for demonstrating brand value is also reflected in a brand’s ability to command a position on treatment guidelines. Many treatment guidelines will grade the level of clinical evidence required to support the use of a brand or drug class within a specific population, e.g. level A: consisting of randomised controlled clinical trials to level D: expert opinion or case studies. If a critical success factor for a brand is to achieve a positive placing on treatment guidelines, it is essential marketers understand how guidelines bodies define brand value. This understanding will ensure that you are able to communicate the value of your brand in a relevant manner.

As the definition of brand value becomes increasingly standardised, the industry will need to mirror these changes and invest in a better understanding of how its customers define brand value, to ensure that its pipeline as well as current brands are reimbursed and prescribed in the future. This requires marketers to increase their level of customer insight and be able to translate these insights into brand communications that deliver ‘real world’ brand value to the right customer at the right time. Brand communications must focus less on brand attributes or features and more on brand benefits. Therefore, to justify the adoption of your brand, marketers must develop brand communications that clearly demonstrate incremental clinical / patient benefits vs. standard treatments that are worth paying for. Failure to do so will result in no or limited reimbursement and exclusion from treatment guidelines, i.e. a commercial disaster!

Consider brand communications early in drug development

Delivering key selling messages that address the market definition of brand value will require manufacturers to dig deep and really challenge themselves. Will your clinical development programmes generate the right data required by marketers to develop and execute brand communications that will address the needs of healthcare providers, patients and payers? If the answer is no, this is likely to mean additional investments during clinical development, e.g. a possible need for a comparative phase IIIB trial vs. standard of care in the labelled population. In this scenario marketers must be able to justify their requests for additional funding supported by a thorough understanding of brand value, now and in the future.


“Brand communications must focus less on brand attributes or features and more on brand benefits.”


As brand value in today’s market is increasingly defined by external stakeholders and not by senior management who may be far removed from customer facing activities, marketers will need to be involved much earlier in clinical development. The time of silo working, where R&amp,D develops a drug and marketing is expected to commercialise it, is long gone. Marketing (brand management, medical and market access) must be involved early in shaping the clinical development programme. Such an approach will enable an organisation to effectively use the market insight held within its commercial functions during the drug development process and provide R&amp,D with clear strategic direction. This will avoid the heartache of discovering that the data generated from the registration trials will not be sufficient for developing brand communications to achieve market access.

There is no point spending millions of euros developing a new product and implementing a clinical development programme, if you have not identified and measured the right clinical and economic end points, to generate the data required to develop brand communications to address the needs of external stakeholders.

Part 2 of this article can be viewed here


1. Wikipedia 2012


About the author:

Originally from the UK, Sunil now heads up the Life Science Business Unit at the W Communication Agency, Malmoe, Sweden. In his role, Sunil works closely with W’s life science clients where he is responsible for the day-to-day management of regional / global communication projects, from brand strategy development to sales implementation.

Over the last 22 years Sunil has held a number of commercial roles within the industry, incl. sales, sales training, hospital account management, pricing strategy, global &amp, affiliate brand management and market access (UK, IT &amp, DE). During which time he has been able to develop an in-depth understanding of the rapidly evolving global pharmaceutical landscape.

Using this knowledge he understands the importance of unearthing the right key customer insights to drive brand adoption, how external stakeholders define brand value, and the importance of communicating brand value in a relevant, compelling and motivating manner to successfully address customer needs – from regulators to payers to healthcare providers to patients, i.e. the complete ‘communication value chain’.

How do you define brand value?