Since the beginning of 2022, several top global pharma majors are exhibiting their renewed focus on creating a new corporate ‘brand-identity’. Its key purpose is to chart a new strategic frontier where their brands will stand out in the highly competitive pharma market – gaining a greater share of mind of the customers.
This happened recently with GSK, as reported on June 9, 2022. Prior to this announcement, on February 03, 2022, the French pharma major Sanofi, reportedly, undertook a similar change to refocus on a new brand-identity. It began with a new simplified logo of plain “Sanofi,” apparently, signifying a nod to the tech world.
Against the above backdrop, in this article, I shall deliberate in the process of winning a marketing warfare by creating, and effectively leveraging a strong pharma corporate ‘Brand Identity.’
Instead of starting this discussion with what changes the above companies have made and why, let me try to be on the same page on two important facets in this area. First – what is generally considered as critical ingredients of a ‘brand identity.’ And then – why initiatives of creating a targeted and stronger pharma ‘brand identity’ are gaining increasing importance to pharma marketers of many top companies, across the word.
Some critical ingredients of brand identity:
As defined by the April 11, 2022, issue of Investopedia: ‘Brand identity’ reflects the intent behind branding with the visible elements of a brand, such as color, design, and logo, that identify and distinguish the brand in customers’ minds.
The ‘brand identity’, therefore, encompasses, appropriate brand name selection, designing a logo commensurate to the company intent, well-thought through color selection, use of shapes and other visual elements that will facilitate brand promotion. Above all, employees who are at touch points of patients’ disease treatment process need to be thoroughly explained and appropriately trained to effectively leverage the purpose of change.
‘Brand identity’ is different from ‘brand image’:
It’s important to note that ‘brand identity’ is quite different from ‘brand image.’ While ‘brand identity’ relates to the intent behind the branding – creating and cultivating a strong ‘brand image’ in the customers’ mind – is its purpose. ‘Brand image’ educates customers about both intrinsic and extrinsic values that the brand offers through ‘Omnichannel’ targeted communication. This process helps create customer loyalty.
Increasing importance of stronger pharma ‘brand identity’:
A new trend alerted many pharma leaders, as brand new Covid-19 vaccines started being available to the public. For a vast majority of the population, across the world, vaccines were construed to be the only savior against the unprecedented life and livelihood disruptor – Covid-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, right from the regulatory approval of the first Covid-19 vaccine, although, all such vaccines had brand names – general public, doctors, media, even the World Health Organization, or Governments, started calling vaccines, predominantly, by company names. For example. AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine, Pfizer Covid vaccine, Moderna Covid vaccine, J&J Covid vaccine, and so on. Even the Corporate head honchos of respective vaccines and Covid related drugs, came to the fore with corporate branding to establish a meaningful relationship with the customers. Accordingly, in the marketplace, establishing a strong corporate brand identity has assumed greater importance, more than before.
Studies vindicate this point:
That a strong corporate ‘brand identity’ helps create a differentiable product image, has been captured in several studies. For example, a study published by PharmaVoice on August 28, 2014, came to an interesting conclusion. After analyzing a situation in which multiple pharmaceutical companies developed a similar oncology product for the same indication, it said: “All things about the product being identical, including the price, we asked which company’s product would the oncologists recommend. The companies with the best company brand images scored highest, proving that company image alone would have a significant impact on recommendation behaviors.”
Would pharma’s strong corporate ‘brand identity’ impact the bottom line?
Several independent studies have also proven the same. For example, a mere 5% improvement in the strength of the company’s brand image and reputation could be expected to produce, on average, a 1.5% uplift in the share price over the year, translating to about a $550 million increase in market capitalization.
Acknowledging this point the above paper underscores: “Thus, any pharmaceutical company that wants to succeed and sustain a healthy, long-term competitive advantage, create differentiation in the short term, and insulate itself from weather storms of clinical disappointment, which invariably occur in pharma, would want to invest in corporate brand identity development that includes all drivers of reputation and relationship.”
It is happening more, especially in post Covid-19 pandemic period:
Let me now go back to where I started from. I started by saying: ‘Since the beginning of 2022, several top global pharma majors are articulating their renewed focus on brand-identity.’ I also wrote about deliberating what changes, especially the two pharma majors have made to strengthen their corporate ‘brand identity’ – for different reasons.
Let me start with GSK:
According to June 09, 2022, edition of the ENDPOINT NEWS, GSK – as it transforms into a pure Biopharma company – unveiled the reinvented company and the corporate brand to its employees first – on June 08, 2022, with the intent to bring everyone in the global company together.
The Company says, it’s about a way more than a logo. The Biopharma-only GSK believes, it has adopted a new purpose – “to unite science, technology and talent to get ahead of the disease together,” besides a new strategy, ambitions, and revamped ‘brand identity’.
The new corporate ‘brand identity’ of the corporation is a blend of familiar and modern of its vibrant orange brand color that remains. Now it’s a three letter-only corporate name - all uppercase and standalone - reimagined in a curvy contemporary logo. The new GSK logo “takes inspiration from the visual language of biosciences, genomic sequencing and data analysis, but – still feels warm and human,” as explained on the GSK website.
According to the Company, the new GSK’s ambitions also include people. It’s the final goal in its three debuted ambitions – impact the health of 2.5 billion people in the next 10 years, achieve specific competitive growth goals and make sure employees are thriving.
Coming to Sanofi:
According to Fierce Pharma of February 03, 2022, Sanofi also undertook a similar change at the start of the year. Ditching the Pasteur and Genzyme of old, the Company decided to go for a new ‘brand-identity.’ It rebranded itself as plain “Sanofi.” That switch also came with a new, simplified logo with a nod to the tech world.
According to Sanofi Press Release of February 03, 2022, the French pharma major’s ‘rebranding centers on a clean, lower case new logo. ‘The new logo is a representation of Sanofi’s new purpose and ambition, which is inspired by the simple and motion-oriented codes of the tech industry. The two purple dots embody the scientific journey between a starting point – the curiosity of questioning the status-quo and wondering “what if?” – and a finish line – the eureka moment where innovative solutions are unlocked to impact people’s lives’, it explained.
“With our new brand, we have sought to provide our people, our partners, patients and healthcare professionals with a clear and strong understanding of who we are and what we are set to achieve,” Sanofi highlighted.
The Company further reiterated: “Sanofi’s attitude is humble, authentic—and a little bit unconventional, too. We believe that our new brand and logo carve out a unique space in the healthcare industry that perfectly represents our new purpose to chase the miracles of science to improve people’s lives.”
The journey of creating corporate pharma ‘brand identity’ initiatives is highly cerebral and originates from the top echelon of pharma management team. The key objective of creating a strong corporate ‘brand identity’ is to ensure that the brand effectively depicts its own unique stance to the customers and differentiate itself from competitors in the marketplace.
I explained above, this process encompasses all branding activities of the company. The aim is to make the company to be perceived in a particular way by the target audience. Which is why, creating a strong corporate ‘brand identity’ is critical in shaping a unique corporate image, especially in generics dominated Indian pharma industry.
It goes without saying, such differentiation, in turn, helps expanding a loyal customer-base for performance excellence, more in the post Covid pandemic environment of India. Even, global pharma majors, are recreating their new brand-identity, for various reasons, and trying to leverage it effectively, to carve out a greater share of mind of more and more customers.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.