We are a brand-obsessed industry. Our job as marketers is to “grow the brand.” So capturing market share (brand differentiation) is the primary focus for countless pharma marketers.
And wow, do we ever measure the brand, because our employers insist on it. They know that we respect what they inspect, and measurement is a deliberate way to focus our attention on aligning use of corporate resources with a financial return. It works, and that helps us become effective stewards of the resources entrusted to us.
But is differentiation our only job as marketers? Don’t we have an equal responsibility to evaluate opportunities to grow the brand in other ways, including activities that might lead to a comparable—even superior—financial return for our employer? I think we do, but I’m concerned that we don’t have the same dedication to measuring what are often “unbranded” activities as we do our “branded” work. This puts us at risk of not supporting these programs in a robust way, even when they could produce a return for our shareholders and help patients and society much more than yet another battle for market share.
Pharma is increasingly presented with opportunities to collaborate with other stakeholders in the healthcare environment in ways that use its corporate resources to better serve patients and more effectively stretch scarce healthcare budgets—while also producing a financial return. Pharmaceuticals can do wonders to prevent and manage conditions that, left untreated or under-treated, lead to higher healthcare costs and needless patient suffering. But if we don’t measure both the effects these programs have on the “good” we hope to do and the effects on the corporate resources funding them, we simply won’t have the ability to invest as many dollars in these types of programs in the future.
Today’s pharma leadership speaks often of our industry’s need to act in a responsible manner as part of society. As we move toward more value- and outcomes-based care, pharma’s ability to provide that type of care by collaborating on programs that focus on “unbranded” activities may increase dramatically compared to the brand-focused activities we are more comfortable measuring. These collaboration opportunities are encouraging, and I am convinced that most leaders really do want to act responsibly. But they—we—are also stewards of corporate resources that come from people who invested in things like their 401(k), and who depend on us to act just as responsibly with their money.
So how do we balance these two responsibilities? By figuring out how we can measure the effects of our actions on the total good we are trying to do in ways that will allow us to invest our funds sustainably for the long term. I believe that both good works and good profits can coexist—and there are many opportunities for that to occur. But we will be granted the ability to invest at scale in these opportunities only if we can justify our activities to both those who wish to collaborate on good works and those who have entrusted us with their funds. Measuring the effects of our actions as they apply to each of these parties is the only reasonable and sustainable way to do that.