Delivering a consistent brand vocabulary

Sunil Ramkali

W Communication Agency

Sunil Ramkali, Account Director, W Communication Agency highlights the importance of delivering a consistent brand vocabulary in pharmaceutical marketing and evaluating terms from an internal and external perspective.

Are you confusing your customers without realising it? A key goal of global pharma marketers is to achieve consistent implementation of the core brand campaign across multiple markets. But consistency doesn’t just apply to visual branding elements and messaging. It also applies to the use and implementation of brand vocabulary across different pharmaceutical markets and stakeholders.

A critical success factor for your brand portfolio

The combined impact of rising R&amp,D costs, reduced commercialisation of new chemical entities and increasing market access barriers for new products has led pharmaceutical companies to focus more on their brand portfolio. A key goal of any pharma brand portfolio strategy is to identify and exploit synergies across the brands within the portfolio. This includes maximising the opportunities offered by delivering a compelling and motivational brand vocabulary. Thus, an effective brand vocabulary must not only motivate and engage the target customer it must also be consistently implemented across the marketing mix.

Is your brand vocabulary confusing?

Imagine a situation where a manufacturer has one sales representative presenting multiple brands within the same therapy area to the same customer. The representative has been briefed by different brand teams and the vocabulary within the sales material has not been coordinated across the individual brand teams. Not surprisingly, this will result in a brand and / or disease vocabulary that is inconsistent and confusing.

Terms to be implemented must be evaluated from an internal and external perspective, agreed upon and then consistently implemented across all customer communication channels and deliverables, from peer-reviewed publications to brand websites. A companywide vocabulary guide should be developed to ensure the organisation is aligned to the outputs from a brand vocabulary development process. The guide should include all the identified vocabulary to describe the disease area and the brands used in managing the disease, so they are consistently implemented across all functions.


“A companywide vocabulary guide should be developed to ensure the organisation is aligned to the outputs from a brand vocabulary development process.”


Establishing a vocabulary development process

The process of identifying and implementing consistent brand vocabulary can be broken down into three simple steps:

1. Establish a baseline

2. Evaluation and consultation

3. Implementation

Step 1 – establish a baseline

Before establishing the process to develop and implement consistent brand vocabulary, you must first identify if there is a need for a consistent brand vocabulary across the brand portfolio. This could take the form of a simple audit looking at current promotional materials and / or key publications describing the use of your brands within the target indication or population. Such an audit should include both internal and external sources, e.g. how do your competitors describe their brands and the relevant disease area?

Key areas where brand vocabulary may be inconsistent include:

• The disease area in which you compete

• The target population for your brand / portfolio

• Treatment options available to manage the disease or the target population

• Generic terms used to describe the therapeutic classes within the disease area

• How your brand works – mode of action

• How the effect or benefit of your brand is described

Step 2 – evaluation and consultation

The vocabulary development process should be driven by HQ, either from global public relations and / or global marketing. It should be emphasised to all stakeholders that the on-going process is focused on identifying a brand vocabulary to be used for English-based communications. It should also be made clear to the affiliates that brand communications in the local language should be based on the identified ‘core’ English-based brand vocabulary. If direct translations are impossible, the affiliate should find the terms that best communicates the intent or tone of voice of the original English brand vocabulary. This is important for local target customers and decision makers who may be exposed to English-based brand communications / vocabulary at international congresses and symposia.


“…how do your competitors describe their brands and the relevant disease area?”


At this stage in the process, the following key stakeholders should be included:

HQ functions

• Global Regulatory Affairs

• International Marketing

• Corporate Communications / Global Public Relations

• Medical Writing / Publication Manager

• Investor Relations

• Global Clinical Development

• Research and Development / Scientific Affairs

Affiliate functions

• Marketing

• Public Relations

Once the brand vocabulary has been identified, all internal stakeholders should be given the opportunity to review and evaluate the findings, and recommend their preferences.


“Once the brand vocabulary has been identified, all internal stakeholders should be given the opportunity to review and evaluate the findings…”


Step 3 – implementation

The finalised brand / disease vocabulary should be distributed to all stakeholders involved in the process for a final review. Ideally, the vocabulary should be presented in its final format, e.g. Vocabulary Implementation Guide, enabling all internal stakeholders to buy into the final deliverable from the process. Senior management should distribute the implementation guide to support the adoption of the newly approved brand vocabulary.

The Vocabulary Implementation Guide should include the following key information:

1. Executive summary, including rationale for process / guide

2. Objective and aims of the process

3. Overview of the process, including each step and the related activities

4. Brand vocabulary

• Category – disease area, how the treatment works, etc.

• Agreed vocabulary by target audience – preferred term for healthcare professionals, payers and patients / consumers

• Rationale – evidence to support the use of the preferred term

A highly desirable outcome is to implement a vocabulary that communicates the unique benefits of your brands / portfolio and is specifically associated with your brands, resulting in brand recall when the vocabulary is communicated.

Consistency, consistency, consistency!

An inconsistent brand vocabulary will be perceived as a lack of guidance from global marketing to local affiliates, and in the worst case scenario confuse your target prescribers. Consistency is one of the golden rules of marketing and this does not just apply to the implementation of key branding elements and core messages, it must also be applied to brand vocabulary.


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’.


Do you evaluate your brand terminology from an external perspective?