A guide for international pharmaceutical communications: What do we really mean by brand value? (Part 2)

Sunil Ramkali

W strategic &amp, creative communications

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

Merging definitions: is brand management and market access becoming one?

With an aging population and the increased consumption of healthcare resources, healthcare systems across global are employing increasingly aggressive cost containment measures in order to manage shrinking healthcare budgets.

Sir Isaac Newton describes in his third law of motion, ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. This law is an excellent analogy for the pharmaceutical landscape as it is telling us as key stakeholders redefine brand value manufacturers will need to react and be better at demonstrating brand value.

It is clear that understanding payers and those who influence them will become increasingly important for marketers. It is also clear that these insights must be reflected in brand communications for healthcare providers. A landscape that is becoming increasingly influenced by payers has started to dictate what can be communicated to physicians. For example, your brand may have an indication for the treatment of asthma. However due to cost containment measures your brand is only reimbursed within a specific asthma sub-population. If this is the case, this will dictate your messaging to healthcare providers and prevent you from communicating the value of your brand within the entire asthma segment, i.e. positioning your brand outside the reimbursement population will fall on deaf ears.

From a communication perspective this may actually not be a bad thing, as it forces marketers to develop brand communications for a specific population with a high unmet need, which will in turn help healthcare providers better understand the value of your brand. From a commercial perspective such a niche segment may not be financially appealing. However, from a long-term perspective, communicating the value of your brand in a clearly defined population with a specific unmet need will allow you to get your ‘foot in the door’. Once your brand is established here you will be able to expand its use over time. Of course this is highly dependent on the market potential and a manufacturers ability to generate the right data during the lifecycle management programme.

As the landscape evolves and brand communication strategies are developed to reflect this change, brand management and market access will start to become one. If you look at the broad definition of market access, i.e. overcoming hurdles to ensure your brand can be accessed by patients, we may be there already.


“…close collaboration between brand management and market access functions will be vital for future success.”


Today, brand teams use the term ‘brand positioning’ for healthcare providers and market access teams will use term ‘brand value proposition’ for payers &amp, decision makers. Yes, there are key differences between the two statements, but both are derived from the same brand strategy and so naturally both are very similar. With the market place becoming increasingly payer driven, close collaboration between brand management and market access functions will be vital for future success. Therefore, when developing brand communications irrespective of the end customer, these functions must work in close collaboration and ensure each other needs are addressed in their respective brand strategy statements.

An example of this is the AMNOG healthcare reform in Germany that was introduced in 2011 (early benefit assessment). This new process requires manufacturers to submit a product dossier and quantify the level of incremental clinical benefits versus the German standard of care. This information will then be used to determine the reimbursed level and price for the brand. This need for clear value demonstration vs. standard therapies will force manufacturers to generate comparative clinical data, and more importantly effectively communicate the data in order to influence funding and prescribing decisions. This approach will naturally migrate from payers to healthcare providers and must be reflected in brand communications developed by marketers, i.e. brand communications must reflect the brand’s incremental value in the reimbursed population.

A coordinated approach leading to brand adoption

There are also upsides to this increased transparency from external stakeholders when defining brand value. It provides increased clarity to manufacturers on the type of data that is likely to be required to influence reimbursement and prescribing behaviours. One may argue, if the key parameters for reimbursement and prescribing are known to manufacturers before and during drug development, are there any excuses for developing a drug that will not achieve market access?

The TLV (The Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency, Sweden), GBA (Federal Joint Committee, Germany) and NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, England) offer the opportunity for drug manufacturers to enter into a dialogue through ‘early scientific advice’. During such discussions manufacturers are able to increase their understanding of how these different organisations define brand value and then use this information during drug development. Such a service is also offered by EMA (European Medicines Agency), where scientific advice required for registration can be discussed. It is critical during such discussions marketers are not excluded, as the information derived from these interactions will provide invaluable information when developing brand communications, as well as the information likely to be required for achieving registration and reimbursement.


“Manufacturers that are able to understand the evolving pharmaceutical landscape and predict future trends will create a significant competitive advantage for themselves.”


Manufacturers that are able to understand the evolving pharmaceutical landscape and predict future trends will create a significant competitive advantage for themselves. However, determining the data requirements for developing effective brand communications will be meaningless if organisations do not have a coordinated approach to achieving drug registration, reimbursement and brand adoption.

The future of brand communications

Amongst healthcare providers and payers the term innovation has now been superseded by the term brand value. Brand value is not about being first in class or having a unique mode of action, it is about offering clinically meaningful benefits, and increased cost effectiveness.

This shift towards standardising brand value does not mean the role of traditional brand communications will disappear nor does it lessen the importance of creating emotional brand associations. However, what it will mean is that marketers need to focus less on perceptions to influence the prescribing decision and more on hard facts reflected in their brand communications.

Brand communications based on the right mix of rational and emotional benefits are likely to succeed. This success will only be achieved if marketers have a better understanding of the competitive landscape, customer needs and very importantly have the right data to communicate the added value of their brand versus the competition, in a relevant, compelling and motivational manner.

In summary, manufacturers must ensure that their brands live up to the market’s definition of brand value and that the data they generate addresses the needs of stakeholders who will influence the adoption of their brand(s), from registration to reimbursement to prescribing, i.e. the entire communication value chain.

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’.

What does brand value mean to you?