Global Brand Development: Debunking The Myths and Understanding The Realities

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Global Brand Development Debunking The Myths and Understanding The Realities These are not easy times in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly given pressures to increase shareholder return and value, increased focus on price and generic use, a drop off in new chemical entity approvals, and increased government and public scrutiny. In an exclusive to PharmaVOICE, Richard T. Minoff, President of Dorland Pharma, a healthcare advertising agency located in Philadelphia, discusses what it takes to become a stronger global marketer, whether it be as a global brand team leader, global brand team member, or agency partner, regardless of function or locale. “Today more than ever, our industry is under constant attack from all comers, and all of us – companies, communications agencies, and suppliers/specialty vendors – are all asked to do more with less,” says Richard T. Minoff, president of Dorland Pharma. “The task before every company, whether it be a mega-pharmaceutical, specialty pharmaceutical, biotech, device or diagnostic business, as well as their global brand teams and affiliates, is to build strong, sustainable businesses with a faster time to peak sales and a longer, more profitable product life cycle.” At the same time, pharmaceutical companies and their partners are being tasked with developing global brands to take advantage of worldwide trends and potential economies of scale. “Over the past several years we have read countless articles, heard way too many speeches, and seen an abundance of PowerPoint presentations, all extolling the virtues of globalization and global-brand development,” he says. “In addition to the ‘think global, act local,’ and ‘global best practices’ lexicons that are in vogue today, we are being asked to exploit the commonalities – globally – and respect the differences – locally – as we build these new global brands. Yet, few seem to comprehend the sheer impact of the marketing and cultural paradoxes impacting this new way of life. Perhaps that’s why there are so few truly global pharmaceutical brands even though we conceptually embrace the ‘global village’ in which we now live and work. “Imagine just for a minute that the leading franchisee in the United States for Kentucky Fried Chicken decided ‘fried’ was holding back sales, given increased health-related concerns over fried foods, so it changed the name,” Mr. Minoff says. “Or the McDonald’s Northern European Region Director decided to get rid of the famous ‘golden arches’ and changed the local color environment from red and yellow to neon blue and silver in the Nordic countries. Or the leading Mercedes-Benz dealer in Brazil decided that the well-recognized and personality-oozing Mercedes-Benz symbol should be changed on all local car sales. Would anyone ever consider such a change? What would be the consequences? Clearly these situations would not and do not happen on those products that we would all consider global brands, and yet today these occurrences continue to happen in our industry.” Continuing Resistance to Change Mr. Minoff says despite all the philosophizing, presentations, and tacit agreements, global branding in the pharmaceutical industry is still often missing the mark. “And has anyone thought about the consequences to the company or to the brand,” he says. “Imagine again, just for a moment, that the Prilosec marketing team in the United States had decided to use green instead of purple. What would have happened to the brand and its long-term strategy with Nexium?” Mr. Minoff suggests that global brand directors need to think about what is getting in the way of real globalization at their company or on their brands, how they can achieve a stronger working relationship with their affiliates, and what is really preventing them from becoming stronger global partners. “And everyone should think about the real value an agency truly brings to its global efforts,” he says. “If one doesn’t think building global brands in today’s marketplace is the smart or right choice, reconsider why you have that view and whether it could be wrong. Being wrong or at least being willing to think about alternative approaches is often a very difficult concept for many high achievers in our industry. “Over the past 20-plus years, I have watched the global brand phenomenon develop and grow and grow and grow,” Mr. Minoff says. “Over the years, I have formed my opinions from working on both the client- and agency-side, from my successes and failures, and from formulating a log of lessons learned during the countless hours spent on planes and trains.” Debunking the Myths of Global Branding “There is no match for having an exceptional product, not necessarily the first or best, whether it be a compound, device, or diagnostic with a strong USP,” Mr. Minoff says. “But there also appears to be another major ingredient necessary to drive success globally. The people involved, regardless of function and locale, seem to have an uncommon cross-cultural awareness, as well as a natural inquisitiveness about others, rather than a parochial ‘me’ orientation and worldview. Interestingly, I have heard many corporate leaders state quite matter-of-factly this is why Americans seem to have a particularly hard time driving globalization. The view is that an independent, ‘it’s all about me’ self-orientation interferes to the point of arrogance and ignorance. But, in talking with colleagues and former/current clients, many of whom reside abroad, everyone echoed the same chorus. The ‘it’s all about me’ orientation is not an American-only phenomenon as it can be found in virtually all nationalities, and yes, that kind of orientation does get in the way of building global brands.” Mr. Minoff tapped this distinguished group to develop a fairly comprehensive list of myths that impact global brand development. The four biggest are: Myth No.1: Pharmaceutical brands are much different from consumer brands and thus much more difficult to brand globally. Reality: The development of global pharmaceutical brands is no more difficult and, in fact, is usually easier than developing consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. The general consensus among marketers and academicians is that CPG products are quite difficult to globalize given the impact of local or national culture, symbols, language, etc., on the brands. “Unlike our industry where there are often great commonalities among the target audiences that drive prescriber/user behavior, regardless of locale, this is not the case for most CPGs,” Mr. Minoff says. “This is consistent with the fact that anyone who understands the importance of market segmentation knows that markets are made up of people not products/brands. Marieke de Mooij, in her must-read book, ‘Global Marketing And Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes,’ clearly illustrates the fact that while there may be global products, there are no global people, and while there might be global brands, there are no global motivations for buying them.” To illustrate this point, Mr. Minoff cites an example that Ms. Mooij relates in her book regarding Sony’s Walkman. While the Walkman is perceived to be a global brand, most people don’t realize that it was not developed based on a set of global perceptions, needs, or motivations. In fact, in Japan, it was developed for listening to music without disturbing others, while in the United States and Europe it’s often sold based on the premise that one can enjoy music without having others disturb them. “Although I hate to generalize, healthcare professionals as a whole compared with consumers are much more driven by collective commonalities,” Mr. Minoff says. “The global utility of pharmaceutical products and motivations for use are different from those for CPGs. As the agency global team leader on the launch of Glivec/Gleevec for CML, Elidel for atopic dermatis, and having worked for several years on Neoral to replace Sandimmune in transplant immunosuppression, I saw that the global motivations for use were quite clear. That’s not to say that there were no local nuances or local drivers, but pharmaceutical brands often enjoy an unusual commonality among the target audiences. This allows marketers to pursue a much more global mindset than if we were marketing CPGs. In fact, my discussions and work with global brand teams that have developed DTC or DTP campaigns indicate that they have had a much more difficult time landing on a global platform and needed to respect local differences to a much more significant degree.” The question remains: Why do so many in the pharmaceutical industry hold onto old beliefs on globalization? According to Mr. Minoff, one reason is inexperience. “For many in the industry, especially those who rose through the domestic ranks, they did not have an opportunity to work globally,” he says. “They were rewarded based on local results, not on contributing to the development of a global brand. Reward systems often influence behavior, both good and bad.” Mr. Minoff also stresses that pharmaceutical branding is still a developing discipline, albeit fast tracked. “It wasn’t that long ago that companies often used their names and/or the generic to brand their products,” he says. “In fact, many of these brands still exist and even thrive today as evidenced by Cibacen, Novolin, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Rocephin, Sandimmune, and Sandostatin. Today, industry marketers are growing in sophistication, continually learning and improving and understanding more about the impact of the world community on their brand, rather than being confined to that small, comfortable space called home.” Myth No. 2: Global brand development is virtually impossible because every country/affiliate wants to do its own thing and never wants to adopt global branding or a global campaign platform. Reality: Many pharmaceutical companies have done an exemplary job in developing global brands based on a core philosophy driven from the top. Every marketer wants to own his or her brand, be the key driver, and be the brand champion who is recognized and rewarded based upon success. “Clearly, companies need to recognize and respect these needs, but at what expense?” Mr. Minoff asks. “How much latitude do companies allow in the development of global brands and how much is too much? How can companies motivate and reward based upon a common goal of developing a global brand, while at the same time ensuring local success? These are a few of the key questions that face globally oriented companies. My intent is not to answer these questions, but rather offer a perspective or solution that will demand considerable company thought. Many companies, global brand directors, and local country managers have found ways to ensure that rewards are available for their local marketers and teams but not everyone is motivated similarly.” According to Mr. Minoff, his experience indicates that affiliates definitely want to be involved in the process, especially the G-7 countries, as if it’s almost a birthright. “A birthright, no, but it’s common sense and an absolute necessity given the sales impact of these countries,” he says. “The United States often accounts for 30% to 40% of sales. Thus, the reality is that other countries must be involved when developing a global brand. Does that mean that all they get equal voting rights? Not necessarily, but it does mean that they are involved and consulted along the way. This could involve critical market research performed in their country or participating in global brand development exercises or having a say in major initiatives and core brand strategy. Global brand directors who are adept at facilitating these interfaces will have active, engaged partners and significant global brand compliance. In fact, if global foots the bill for many of the core deliverables, affiliates often would rather have global pay for them as long as they are involved. Our experience shows that if kept in the loop, affiliates will generally adopt the core global brand platform, including brand essence, identity, positioning, and core messaging.” And, according to Mr. Minoff, countries with very small budgets rely quite heavily on global marketing team efforts for brand books, core materials, etc., so that the only thing they have to do and pay for is local market translation and implementation. “Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to work with several companies, including Novartis, in the globalization of brands,” he says. “While at another agency, I worked across Novartis’ portfolio and helped the company launch several key brands as the agency’s global team leader. Looking back, Novartis was quite ahead of its time and has done an exceptional job in becoming a leader in the global brand development arena.” Mr. Minoff attributes Novartis’ success to the fact that global initiatives were driven from the top based on a philosophy and mindset that simply expected and held everyone – global and local affiliate staff – accountable. “Of course, this was helped by the fact that Thomas Ebeling, CEO of Novartis and head of pharmaceuticals, is a former consumer marketer who understands the impact of global brands,” he says. “Secondly, Novartis embraced the logical need to go global relatively early and set out to develop a core set of best practices and global brand team deliverables that became the Novartis way. Thirdly, the company learned from both its successes and mistakes and passed along that knowledge to every global brand team and affiliate. In short, everyone knew his or her role, the expectations and the reward system, and the punishments.” Myth No. 3: Only large, mega-agencies with highly integrated global networks have the talent and global smarts to handle global assignments. Reality: Myth No. 3, which continues to be fostered by large mega-agencies, is pure sales speak. Unfortunately, this message continues to resonate, reinforcing a barrier-to-entry for many small and medium-sized agencies, which have exceptional global talent, global experience, and global understanding. Mr. Minoff’s experiences have taught him that global branding is not about the agency and its network; it’s all about people. “Each agency talks about its special processes and global best practices, but when the layers are peeled away, what’s left is a lot of rhetoric and sales sell,” he says. “Frankly, most agencies can develop what appears on the surface to be global brand elements – an icon, logo, color palette – or a creative campaign concept delivered as an A4 ad unit and sales aid, a Website modeled after the brand elements, and maybe some can even provide needed medical education and clinical communications or public relations. But, few agencies and agency teams truly understand global marketing, the needs, the challenges, the barriers, the cultural realities, and local context.” Mr. Minoff says even though teams are thinking globally, each team member is a product of his or her own culture. “Therein lies the inherent global-local paradox,” he says. “Despite best intentions, thinking and behavior are equally influenced by culture, so agencies need to understand the importance and meaning of this statement.” Although at first it might seem counter-intuitive, global brand development and launch implementation does not always work well using one large agency and its network. “The vast majority of local country managers I have worked with prefer using the corporate global brand platforms, which can be implemented with their own local agencies,” he says. “This way they feel like they have some level of real control, an agency beholden to them, and most assuredly, an ability to better manage cost.” Myth No. 4: For brand optimization, it’s necessary that only one agency handle all aspects of developing and implementing the global brand. Reality: While there are agencies that can offer a full-service package, including strategy, brand development, marketing communications, medical education and clinical communications, publications, packaging, and PR, full service does not necessarily ensure a highly successful global launch. According to Mr. Minoff, given new developing medical-education guidelines and OIG issues, some pharmaceutical companies have decided to use different agencies for various aspects of work. “The bottom line is that agencies must realize that there is plenty of work to go around,” he says. “While any agency would love to have all of a client’s business, and in some circumstances do, agencies need to learn how to play well in the sandbox. It sounds simplistic, but my experiences, both globally and domestically, whether as a client or on the agency side, have taught me that being a good team player, particularly globally, is critical to success. Agencies that show the flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to work with others are most likely to succeed. It’s part of the DNA of a truly globally oriented team.” To succeed in developing a global brand, everyone on the team, from the global brand director and his or her staff, to the global brand team, to the affiliates, to each agency and all of the other various players, must look to the common good to ensure brand optimization. “This is not about compromising but in adopting a philosophical mindset focused on understanding others, their cultural influences, their attitudes, their philosophies, their values and, most importantly, their core competencies,” Mr. Minoff says. “When I was the agency global team leader on the Diovan launch, the agency’s focus was on global brand development, brand strategy, and the marketing communications effort,” he says. “The client at that time, Ralph Makar, now general manager of Berlex Therapeutics, a true brand champion with a bigger vision for the brand than many of his colleagues, decided to use several agencies based upon two key factors. “First, he wanted his agency colleagues to focus on their real core competencies to ensure the absolute best work on the deliverables; and secondly, he was concerned that since brand globalization was well behind schedule because of the impact of the Sandoz-Ciba merger, spreading the work made the most sense,” he says. “Not one of the agencies balked at the idea. As such, Ralph established a Diovan Agency Working Group, which came together, shared information, were in constant contact with one another, and under Ralph’s leadership, helped set a strong foundation for the brand’s success. In the end, everyone partnered, everyone contributed, and everyone came away a winner.” F PharmaVoice welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at and agency side, from my successes and failures, and from formulating a log of lessons learned during the countless hours spent on planes and trains. best practices’ lexicons that are in vogue today, we are being asked to exploit the commonalities – globally – and respect the differences – locally – as we build these new global brands.

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