4 Ways to Become an Activist Pharmaceutical Brand

Yesterday I wrote about consumer’s increasing expectations for brand activism in a post entitled, “Tough Times for Timid Pharma Brands.” In a nutshell, many progressive consumer brands outside of the pharmaceutical industry are increasingly taking stands and acting on social issues.

So why should a pharmaceutical brand manager care about this trend?

Because according the Edelman’s 2014 BRANDSHARE report, consumers are more likely to purchase, recommend or defend a brand if they perceive the brand is meeting an important societal need. Consumers are also more likely to engage with the brand, sharing personal information and forwarding branded content. And Millennials aren’t the only ones with high expectations of brands.  Edelman found that consumers across all demographic groups are looking for companies to be a force for positive change in the world.

Brand Activism: What’s a Pharmaceutical Brand Manager to do?

So consumers want brand activism and there is a real business value in providing it. So how does a Pharmaceutical Brand Manager meet consumer needs for increased brand activism?

  1. Start talking about something other than your brand.  Engage in Content Marketing. Content Marketing is defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. I detailed a few ways to get started using Content Marketing in my blog post “Building Great Brands byTalking Less About Them.”
  2. Partner with a governmental or NGO on issues that are important to your customers, whether they be payors or patients. For example, both patients and payors are interested in using big data to understand more about individual health risks and to improve the patient experience. There are many organizations such as PatientsLikeMe or 23andMe that have teamed up with pharmaceutical companies for research purposes, from finding the genetic basis of diseases to better understanding the real world concerns of their patients.
  3. Clean up your therapeutic area’s digital environment. There is a lot of garbage out there, much of it dangerous to patient health. How about assembling experts in your therapeutic area to weigh in on the most egregious misinformation?  A a digital clean up day of sorts.
  4. Sponsor a healthy debate. Consider obesity. There are those who feel pharmaceuticals have no place in the treatment of obesity. Obviously, pharmaceutical companies who sell medications for obesity feel otherwise. A debate between two reasonable experts in some sort of public forum would be newsworthy and garner much “earned media.” People’s deeply felt views won’t change, but you may convince people sitting on the fence that treating obesity with a pharmaceutical product is the way to go.  Plus your brand will gain added credibility for being open enough to debate the issue.

Certainly, undertaking brand activism is not a “set it and forget it” kind of tactic. But as consumers take an increasingly larger role in health care decisions, it will be increasingly important to incorporate their evolving views on brand activities into your marketing plan.