Missed opportunities – the importance of brand in pharma marketing 
By Ed Hudson, managing director of  Create Health 
Even within the backdrop of science, with a dominance of logical, left-brain thinkers, still only 5% of the decisions we make are conscious – 95% are unconscious. This is because humans are not rational decision makers. Emotions, metaphors and memories are the tools our brains use to help us make sense and make decisions.  
It’s that concept that the most powerful pharma marketing campaigns tap into. However, this idea is at odds with the well-worn process of pharma marketing, particularly when promoting a new drug.  
First missed opportunity 
Pharma launches all tend to follow a similar pattern. It takes years of scientific research, clinical trials and analysis of trial data before a drug is ready to be branded, typically this is several years before launch. Branding involves devising a name and packaging. At this stage, the motivation is usually compliance approvals. 
Creative agencies aren’t necessarily brought into this process, in favour of skillsets like graphic designers to work on logos. Yet, I’d argue this is a critical phase – the right, experienced creative minds could help create a brand from the start which will engage emotionally with health care professionals and therefore be more likely to have an impact and remain memorable. 
Bearing in mind the prevalence of biosimilars, drugs must now compete with others, and part of that competition is the way they’re communicated. Once the drug – including branding and packaging is approved, making changes becomes harder. 
Second missed opportunity 
The second opportunity comes after phase three trials, where a sales and marketing launch team are recruited for pre-launch and launch. They will be new to the drug and it’s their job to get it successfully launched.  
There’s always an emphasis on scientists and medical staff, who are an important part of the team, but what’s often missing is the creative brains who understand the healthcare world but also understand creative communications, and how to tap into that all-important emotional part of decision making. 
Experts in healthcare, not necessarily just pharma 

Ed Hudson, Managing Director, Create Health

Of course, any creative thinkers who are brought in have to be experienced in healthcare – they need the knowledge and expertise to understand the drug, the process, compliance rules etc. However, they don’t need to be just pharma or med ed specialists. Broader healthcare agencies with genuine expertise in branding and campaign work have a lot to offer. They could be device marketers who understand how to communicate in the space but have holistic communications expertise and draw on a mix of talents, for example. 
Parallels with over the counter medicines 
Over the counter medicine communication has needed to be differentiated for a while (think about Nurofen or Calpol being chosen for their brand attributes, rather than their contents). We’re now seeing parallels for communication to doctors – the more compelling a drug’s brand, the more likely it is to be chosen. Whereas trial data will always be central to the messaging, branding and campaign ideas are needed to better engage doctors. No longer is a detailed PowerPoint presentation enough – there needs to be more to help with the decision-making process. 
Don’t be too literal 
Strong imagery can help and often metaphors are used in communications that work within compliance. However, they shouldn’t be too literal – something being strong doesn’t have to involve weights and something progressing doesn’t have to involve a mountain climber. If a metaphor is eroded down it becomes too literal, and loses its power and differentiation. The truth is, rational is not engaging. A good, experienced agency can allow you to be more creative and impactful within restraints. 
Launch and marketing teams are well stocked for science but less well stocked for art. Yet, it’s the fusion of arts and science that creates the impact these brands really need – actively bringing in the right marketing skills married with healthcare knowledge.  
A good creative healthcare specialist will offer value at each stage. They bring experience but also diverse, richer thinking – and therefore will help a new pharma brand stand out.