How to deliver an effective global strategic brand plan

In our ‘Marketing Excellence’ themed month Sunil Ramkali discusses how to deliver an effective pharmaceutical global strategic brand plan.

Developing your global strategic brand and tactical plan is a process that arrives on the doorstep at the same time every year. Despite this, how often do we find ourselves rushing the brand planning process? More often than not pharmaceutical manufacturers allocate insufficient time for marketers to perform the brand planning process optimally, often resulting in last year’s brand plan being ‘cut & pasted’!

In an ideal world the annual brand planning process is a key activity in the pharma business cycle and should be seen as an opportunity for a brand leader or manager to demonstrate what they are good at, i.e. creating marketing solutions to address the needs of their customers leading to increased sales. So if our goal is to drive sales, why is it we don’t invest sufficient time in the process? We don’t rush the brand campaign development process, so why should the strategy brand planning process be any different?

So what can we do to deliver that ‘killer’ strategic brand plan? Firstly, we need to know where we are going before we work out how to get there. Kenichi Ohmae, Corporate Strategist is quoted to have stated ‘rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction’. What this means to the strategic brand planning process is that we must avoid developing a tactical brand plan until we know what is required to drive brand sales. The only way to achieve this is to follow a well thought through brand planning process based on well-defined business models that really work. Using such models will help you formalise and structure your thinking. It also allows your target customers in affiliate marketing to see the ‘red thread’ from the global brand strategy to marketing tactics to sales implementation. But, as with any opportunity (or issue), we will need to break it down into its fundamental components, as the quote says ‘when eating an elephant, take one bite at a time’.


“…pharmaceutical manufacturers allocate insufficient time for marketers to perform the brand planning process optimally…”


The strategic brand planning process

The process can be broken down into three fundamental components:


1. Brand Strategy

• Where are we now and where do we want to be?


2. Brand Communication Platform

• How do we communicate the brand strategy, i.e. how will we get there?


3. Sales Implementation

• How do we execute the brand communication strategy to the customer – deliverables and channel selection.


There is no magic formula that will tell us how much time to spend on each of the three steps, but it goes without saying that all three steps are crucial during the development and execution of the strategic brand plan. Remember to allow enough time for steps one and two, as these will determine our tactical brand activities. To focus the mind I often use the following quote from Abraham Lincoln – ‘give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe’ or put even more simply – fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Remember to involve all the relevant internal stakeholders from brand marketing, pricing, reimbursement and market access (global & affiliate) and R&D (medical, clinical and regulatory) at each step. Consider setting up a cross-functional team to drive the brand planning process under your guidance. Once developed ensure that the brand strategy plan is disseminated across the organisation to all personnel that are affected by the plan, e.g. investor relations, PR, corporate communications, publications team, clinical development, regulatory, sales & marketing, etc.

Our starting point – building the brand strategy

In order to develop the brand strategy we first need to map out the competitive landscape, i.e. create a situation analysis. The situation analysis is a precursor for formulating the brand strategy, as it tells us where we are now and where we need to go.

The competitive landscape analysis should include the following information:

Target population / clinical unmet need

• Is there a need for your brand?


• Clinical / pricing comparators

• What will your brand be compared to?

• Brand value

• What incremental benefit / s does your brand offer over the comparator’s?

• Market access / reimbursement conditions

• What does your brand need to do to achieve / maintain market access?


Communicating our brand strategy – developing the brand communication platform

Once you have your brand strategy, you will need to communicate it to your target customers in a way that is relevant, differentiating and compelling if you are to influence their prescribing or funding behaviour.

“The brand communication platform should consist of key strategy statements…”



The brand communication platform should consist of key strategy statements – from the brand vision, a brand positioning statement to the key selling messages. From a customer facing perspective, the brand positioning statement is most crucial as this will determine the key selling messages to be communicated by the sales team.

The brand positioning statement should be regarded as the ‘strategic sweet spot’ of the brand. It communicates what your brand can offer, that your competitors cannot and is valued by your target audience, i.e. it differentiates your brand from the competition – the DNA of your brand.

Once your brand positioning statement has been created, we need to translate it into key selling messages that will be easily understood by our customers thereby creating a ‘call to action’.

Sales Implementation – executing our brand communications

To ensure that our key selling messages reach the intended audience we need to execute them via the appropriate communication channels. Failure at this stage will undo all the hard work invested in creating the brand strategy and communication platform.


“If the answer is no, don’t be surprised if they don’t prescribe your brand.”



Once you have identified the right mix of communication channels, from traditional print material to digital solutions, we need to ensure that the key selling messages are effectively delivered.

Remember that selling is about storytelling, so keep it simple and always ask yourself if you were on the receiving end of the sales call – would you value the information being communicated, i.e. what’s in it for me? Will your brand address the needs of your target audience? If the answer is no, don’t be surprised if they don’t prescribe your brand.

Get all three steps right and you’ll be well on the road to developing a successful global strategic brand plan that will unite your organisation and ensure you execute your brand strategy with a single, unified voice.

This infographic ‘Top tips for effective strategic brand planning’ infographic shows how you might structure the strategic brand planning process from strategy development to sales implementation.



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 & affiliate brand management and market access (UK, IT & 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 structure your brand planning process?