Going beyond the pill to offer value-added services is helping companies from Incyte to Pfizer build brands that patients embrace as caring and trusted partners.

Consider this: the characteristics that are driving the new world order of interactive, customer-centric marketing are the very same that should be driving pharma brand equity imperatives. It starts with an outside-in perspective and it’s all about building a more authentic, deeper relationship that places customer needs at the heart of a brand’s communications and offers (i.e., value-add beyond the pill).

Unlike marketers in other industries, we in pharmaceuticals can’t easily change the product or the label (that needs to be crafted optimally in clinical trials), but we can augment the “bundle of benefits” the brand can offer. The idea is to stretch the brand’s value proposition in meaningful ways so the brand team can build sustainable advantages in the marketplace that are hard to replicate. In essence, the offering is a “branded” treatment and care solution that goes far beyond the product’s clinical benefits— a well thought out holistic approach that is marketed as such. Given advances in CRM and cross-channel communication capabilities, the augmented product is customer-specific and personalized. For patients, that would include variations of specialized counseling, disease management, financial assistance, patient education/support, community involvement, and gaming. Likewise, the right bundle of personalized benefits to best serve physicians, caregivers, etc, would be offered as well.

As with any new idea, there are challenges to overcome. The pharma ecosystem is tradition-bound, with product/marketing directors in their jobs for only 18-24 months on average. That said, in a competitive environment that cries out for meaningful differentiation, companies large and small are starting to adopt these brand-extension practices. Little Incyte Pharmaceuticals recently launched a myelofibrosis therapy (Jakafi) that was bundled and branded with a host of unique value-add services. This included co-pay assistance (and help with filling out the forms), specialty pharmacy delivery to the patient’s doorstep, one-to-one nurse counseling when needed, and unparalleled disease education and adherence support. To close the loop, the company promised the patients’ doctors a confirmation checklist of patient enrollment, drug delivery, progress, etc. This is clearly an example of value beyond the pill.

Similarly, mighty Pfizer has done an excellent job of establishing value-add “corporate” equity in their offerings to physicians—efforts that include things like MD-personalized education materials for their patients, and customized apps, videos, and education tools delivered via ePocrates. The company also has a patient-centric website called pfizerhelpfulanswers. com that, among other things, provides easy-to-follow patient assistance and co-pay programs across all brands. To steal from the tenets of consumer marketing principles, these examples effectively speak to the extended brand that provides emotional as well as rational benefits—and a personality that ensures an all-important images of caring and trusted partner. The metrics that will define success for the augmented product are customer-centric as well, and speak to lifetime value, satisfaction, and loyalty. In all other markets, high marks for these metrics are virtually always predictive of sales success.

In a world of fewer launches, little product differentiation, and increased customer centricity, the successful employing of the “extended brand” provides a powerful way to build a unique and sustainable competitive advantage in your marketplace.


  • Jim McDonough

    Jim McDonough is VP, Marketing and Customer Advocacy at Frontline Medical Communications. At Frontline, Jim is the official spokesperson and advocate for the customer—both advertiser and HCP.


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