On occasion we are compelled to publish letters from our readers who have a strong point of view on the articles we publish. Here is one we would like to share with you. Do you have a comment on this or any other article you would like us to consider?


Dear Editor:

I read with interest Michael Zilligen’s article: Begin with the End in Mind: Creating a Compelling Lexicon for a Brand (PM360, March 2013) and would like to offer the following comments.

Michael is to be commended for providing brand builders with excellent verbal pointers to creating brand differentiation in a “me-too pharmaceutical world” filled with undifferentiated and “happy patient” brands. Additionally, he alludes to building on this approach by creating visual counterparts as part of today’s pharma brand-building methodology.

If I may, with greatest respect to the author of this provocative article, offer a quote from the author of another lexicon, The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, who is quoted as saying: “There is nothing new under the sun…but there are lots of old things we don’t know.”

The second clause of this sentence is apposite to Michael’s article—since I am sure that he is unaware that his suggested methodology for creating brand differentiation was first proposed and executed by yours truly in the late ’80s when I was founding principal of “1991 Agency-of-the-Year” Winners, Lewis & Gace (later becoming Lewis, Gace, Bozell and eventually part of the Interpublic Group).

Back then we proposed that “Brand Vocabulary,” along with our other newly coined term, the “Crystallized Brand Promise,” should be two key verbal components of a more comprehensive concept of “Brand Anatomy,” which also included five differential visual components. As to the genesis of the term “Brand Vocabulary,” I am often quoted as saying that: “If the pharma industry were to market sushi, they would market it as cold, raw fish!”

Indeed, nothing could be more relevant, in 1987, when the then Astra in the ROW countries (and subsequently, Merck here in the U.S.) were challenged with introducing omeprazole—a new proton pump inhibitor. To a medical profession unfamiliar with this new class of G.I. agents the pharmacologically-esoteric term “proton pump inhibitor” would have sounded more appropriate to the world of atomic physics than to the treatment of acid-related disease! Therefore, our recommendation to both companies was to make “The First Acid-pump prohibitor” part of the “Brand Vocabulary” for Losec.

What a difference a simple word like “Acid” can make! Not only staking the brand’s claim to a unique piece of “Brand Vocabulary,” but quickly associating it with a roster of acid-related indications. Regrettably, I believe subsequent generations of marketers—unaware of the previous and differentiating Astra-Merck creative strategy, opted for “cold, raw fish” and reverted to the pharmacologically-esoteric “PPI”—the acronym that applies to each and every member of this group of largely undifferentiated agents, to the present day.

Over the ensuing years, I have presented (and, in fact, created) many additional examples of this differentiating aspect of brand building, both verbal and visual. Currently, as a semi-retired consultant to several multi-nationals, I continue to urge agencies to change the old creative paradigm for brand creation they have used almost unchanged since the ’60s for a more contemporary one.

In simple terms, the new paradigm for creating differentiated pharma brands seamlessly blends a Trilogy of Creative Disciplines: “Brand Anatomy,” “Brandvertising” and “Controlled Flexibility.”

In closing, I welcome Michael Zilligen to the fold of the enlightened brand-builders and readers who know there’s got to be a better way to build pharma brands than stock photos of “Happy Patients.”


Clive Lewis



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