How Pharma Brands Grow: An Evidence-based Approach to Pharma Brand Marketing

Pity the poor pharma brand marketer. Over the past many years, they’ve seen their colleagues on the performance marketing side grow in influence and sophistication as their datasets and digital channels have expanded their value to the business.

In contrast, brand marketing can feel like a vestige from another era of marketing, poorly understood, with poor metrics, and little consensus of how brand marketing contributes to the overall business. Should pharma brand campaigns drive quality, affinity, or persuasion? Everyone has an opinion, and the outcome can feel pretty subjective.

Today we are excited to share insights from a study by our team at EVERSANA INTOUCH on the unique challenges facing pharma marketers, and how marketers can bring an evidence-based approach to pharma brand marketing, laying the foundation for successful performance marketing campaigns.

Our research, based on data found in the ACTICS by EVERSANA claims database, looked at nearly half a million new brand prescriptions, written by more than 100,000 HCPs over a two-year period across five very diverse conditions: breast cancer, psoriasis, MS, Crohn’s, and HIV.

Survey Reveals Why Brand Building Matters

Two big themes emerge that distinguish pharma marketing. First, pharma categories are dominated by the top 20% of prescribers. Success in targeting these knowledgeable, highly involved, heavy prescribers requires targeted, personalized communication to assist in medical decision-making. Based on this fact, it’s no surprise that performance marketing is fundamental to the success of pharma brands.

However, a second key finding is that many HCPs are frequently not able to respond to performance marketing efforts when they receive them because many are only able to write a new branded prescription every two to three months. Our research shows that for breast cancer, MS, Crohn’s, psoriasis, and HIV, 90% of prescribers only have an opportunity to write a new branded prescription (NBRx) a few times a year. These low-frequency prescribers frequently account for nearly half of all prescribing volume in these categories.

What boosts performance among these low-frequency prescribers? Brand-building campaigns!

Brand-building campaigns are about building a visually distinct brand that is easy to recognize and remember. They attract attention by breaking cliches and embedding the brand in emotionally compelling stories. While performance-based marketing focuses on differentiating your brand from the competition so it will be chosen, brand-building campaigns focus on making brands distinctive within the category so it will be considered. Brand-building campaigns prime HCPs before they enter the category and before they want to engage in more targeted, performance-based marketing materials.

How Brand-Building Efforts Should Change

More importantly, these findings show the opportunity for pharma marketers to truly evolve their decision-making and be more data-driven and evidence-based in their brand-building efforts. Pharma brand marketing should no longer be seen as focused on driving persuasion or quality or affinity, models borrowed from other categories. Instead, pharma brand campaigns should be based on the simple truth that you’re more likely to be considered and chosen if you’re remembered and familiar.

All this has implications for how brand campaigns target and message, and the media they use. At a more fundamental level, it allows brand marketers to bring new rigor and evidence-based marketing to their colleagues in the C-suite. Brand campaigns ensure performance campaigns receive higher levels of engagement throughout the customer journey, by making the brand memorable and familiar to a larger set of HCP audiences, through investments in creatively driven, break-through branding.

And in a world where HCPs are increasingly over-targeted and overwhelmed with information, this is a critical skill to bring to any business-building endeavor.

  • John Kenny

    John Kenny, PhD is SVP, Managing Director, Head of Strategic Planning at EVERSANA INTOUCH. John is responsible for working with the strategic planning team to continually evolve EVERSANA INTOUCH’s strategic point of view and approach while bringing the most innovative and effective solutions to clients’ brands. He brings more than 25 years of marketing experience, both in the U.S. and globally, always bringing innovations at the intersection of data, technology, and psychology to drive marketing impact for clients.


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