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by Robin Robinson
Brand development has gone global, while execution, for the most part, remains local. While marketers have developed effective strategies and executions to create successful multinational campaigns, what constitutes a global brand remains up for debate. “Creating global positioning and corporate messaging is a long and tiring process and some companies have done it quite successfully whereas others are still in their infancy,” says Ajit Baid, managing director, The Research Partnership. (USA). “This being said, increasing numbers of global and local teams are coming to a common ground. Local teams have started to appreciate the need for an umbrella positioning and an overarching global brand strategy. Global teams, on the other hand, recognize that the tactical execution needs to be country specific and leave the actual implementation to the country brand teams.” Phil Deschamps, CEO and president of GSW Worldwide, agrees that in general, most major brands from the top 20 pharmaceutical companies are launched as global brands today, and that the notion of local brand development is almost gone; there is still local brand execution, but not brand development. “This macro trend, which has been brewing for about five years, has accelerated in the past 18 months or so,” he says. “Five years ago, companies began to create regional teams — European and Asian marketing groups, for example — and aligned their structures and business units along the different regions. In conjunction with this realignment, there was also a gradual shift from local funding of marketing programs to regional funding of marketing programs, which began changing the balance of power in terms of where decisions were being made and who was charged with execution. In the last 18 months to two years, this shift has become more pronounced.” Carleen Kelly, president of Surge Worldwide Healthcare Communications, believes that as an industry, companies are getting better at identifying the divergent needs of local markets. “But if one defines the ‘brand’ as the gut feeling customers have about a product, then overall global branding has always been achievable,” she says. “Global branding is most effective by focusing on the product’s core values and not getting hung up on specifics, because granularity is like kryptonite to overall global branding.” Argelio Dumenigo, senior strategist at Razorfish, believes that companies can only do so much to define their global and local branding. “Consumers, with access to limitless sources of information, can find out anything they want about what a company is doing with a brand,” he says. “No matter where in the world a company is launching or continuing any branding efforts, consumers in other parts of the world can discover information via the Internet. In the end, companies must behave as good social citizens wherever they do business. If they are doing anything particularly inspiring or altruistic, they should publicize it and maybe even let their consumers contribute to the effort. If they run into any trouble or controversy, they should respond as quickly as possible via the Internet and let the public know what they are doing to rectify the situation.” Alan Topin, president of Topin & Associates, is of the belief that global branding remains the Holy Grail of marketing. “Today, physicians and healthcare professionals train and practice across the globe, and digital communication channels allow for the open exchange of ideas and marketing communications,” he says. “While global branding creates instant and consistent recognition and cost-efficiencies, achieving it isn’t easy.” Some experts believe that global versus local branding will always be at odds. “But a healthy tension between the two — global and local — can produce a successful global brand,” says Jonathan Kay, head of brand management, TNS Healthcare. “The brand’s core clinical — efficacy and safety — and more tangible product attributes, as well as its relevance, will have some degree of consistency. However, the experience associated with the brand will vary by region and by culture. As the brand increasingly is considered an asset through which a pharmaceutical company builds strong and lasting relationships with its key stakeholders, it becomes more and more important to adapt to the context of that relationship: the local culture, language, customs, and especially the local market environment, including available alternatives.” The definition of what a global brand is remains almost as nebulous as any other globally anointed process, technology, system, or product. “First, it is important to define what a global brand is because that is a big obstacle that we face,” says George Glatcz, president and chief branding officer at Vox Medica. “To me, global is the ownership of an ideal that transcends cultures and is timeless. Agencies might promote themselves as being global because they have offices around the world, but I don’t believe this is what makes for a global agency or global brand. What makes a brand global is the idea, not only the execution.” Mr. Glatcz believes the development of a global brand is at odds with the ultimate goal. “Marketers often look backward at what executions worked or didn’t work, but to build a global brand the focus needs to be on the brand’s positioning, which is forward thinking and is earned over time,” he says. “Brand executives are often at odds as to what the right approach is to address different countries, when they should always be considering the end in mind first.” For Alfonso Ugarte, senior VP, global marketing, at Stiefel Laboratories, global branding is based on the belief of having only one strong corporate brand. “We see this as the foundation of all our global brand architecture strategy; even across business divisions or large customer segments — prescription, aesthetics, CHC,” he says. “We believe that every one of our brands — local or global — needs to contribute to the equity of the global corporate brand, and also, without losing its individual identity, ‘live’ within its domain. In that sense, any brand — local or global — can fit these criteria. Clearly, though, we increasingly prefer to invest behind global brands.” Global Hurdles to Global Branding The challenges of penetrating diverse international markets are many. “Individual local regulatory approvals, different cultural customs, sensitivities, and medical protocols make it difficult to keep branding consistent,” Mr. Topin says. “To accommodate these diverse standards, brands are often forced to compromise their overall message and dilute their impact.” Of course, the execution of a global strategy brings its own logistical and operational challenges. “Just to hold an effective global meeting requires negotiating different languages, cultures, time zones, and a large dose of flexibility,” Mr. Topin says. “A successful launch requires strong leadership, insightful management, effective communication, active consensus building and, above all, time and patience. To achieve a truly global brand, marketing teams must be willing and able to accept these tradeoffs. Teams that can navigate these pitfalls will create a broad platform for success and an ongoing payoff in the global market.” Marketers also have to consider differences in pricing and reimbursement regulations as well as the presence of me-too and generic competition brands, Mr. Baid says. “These are just a few of the challenges that limit the effectiveness of global branding,” he says. “In addition, global teams present a long-term investment with more subtle and gradual benefits, and in this economic downturn, and depending on the company, culture, vision, and leadership their heads may be the first to roll, stalling the global branding process.” Mr. Kay says it’s essential that global brand planning is done early and with multifunctional teams. “Companies will save time and perhaps increase speed of uptake in local markets if they are able to agree early on what, in general, should be standardized globally and what authority should be left as discretionary at the local level,” he says. “Otherwise, these brand questions are revisited during the commercial process or disrupted by reorganization.” The world of healthcare is changing dramatically and the pace with which it evolves and transforms continues to accelerate, and according to Michael Parisi, president of Altum, part of CommonHealth, it’s futile to continue to resist. “Rather, we must welcome our new reality and quickly learn how to thrive in this dynamic new environment,” he says. “In the world of healthcare communications we must continue to re-evaluate all aspects of our business so we can redefine what innovation and success look like in the rapidly changing environment. To thrive we must have a deeper understanding of customer needs so we are better able to align resources, agency staff, and in some cases, restructure partnerships to provide results-driven solutions.” F PharmaVOICE welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. George Glatcz • Vox Medica Global is the ownership of an idea that transcends cultures and remains timeless. What makes a brand global is the idea, not only the execution. Alan Topin • Topin & Associates Global branding remains the Holy Grail of marketing. While global branding creates instant and consistent recognition and cost efficiencies, achieving it isn’t easy. best practices for creating a global brand Ajit Baid Managing Director The Research Partnership (USA) To create a globally successful brand, we need to think much further ahead and plan much earlier in the product development process. Building a strong understanding of customers and brand positioning is vital, which is why we always advocate involving market research as early as possible. The global teams, comprised of cross-functional and cross-regional members, need to be established during the early commercialization stage. Typically, clinical, brand, market research, pricing, and forecasting need to work cohesively along with a regional champion to build a global commercialization strategy. As the brand progresses through the advanced development stage, more tasks are transitioned to the commercialization or launch teams. Phil Deschamps CEO and President GSW Worldwide We are seeing a harmonization of how marketing can be done across countries. There are fewer differences than we thought when we look through the lens of what unifies these people. Global branding campaigns are not about global sameness; 80% is about a campaign or program that shares significant and recognizable elements, while allowing the other 20% to be customized on a local basis to maximize the impact on the local market. George Glatcz President and Chief Branding Officer Vox Medica There are four things that really can drive a global brand. First, create a consensus around the ideal that transcends culture and create a hierarchy of supporting reasons to believe. Conduct interviews with clients and their audiences to understand their cultural biases and their audiences’ differences and from that create a continuity of the mindset of how each country thinks about the product. This helps develop a common ideal. From that common ideal, the position can be executed. Then, secondly, clearly establish a definition of intent. This means defining what the intention is to building a global brand and how the strategy is to be executed. This is necessary because often people walk into the first meeting with the belief that a global brand won’t work because the ideas are so different, so this approach helps to establish the commonality that the group shares. Third, establish the boundaries that are going to exist. In other words, identify what restrictions the global team will need to function within. And fourth, inspire and instill the freedom to express in their culture. These four steps will create a hierarchy and a continuum necessary to deliver a global brand. Jonathan Kay Head of Brand Management TNS Healthcare It’s important to focus on consistency across markets to define standards. Likewise, marketers need to focus on variations across markets and exploit local insight to differentiate in ways that are meaningful to physicians, patients, and payers. Carleen Kelly President Surge Worldwide Healthcare Communications Early involvement from the global community is essential. And this begins with a commitment from a company to create an internal communication network where all countries believe they have a voice in the creation/decision process. Providing communication tools that can be customized to local ethnicity — and allowing some freedom of message flow based on market need — helps ensure continued global participation in building the brand. Alfonso Ugarte Senior VP, Global Marketing Stiefel Laboratories Marketers need to understand the tangible and emotional needs of their customer base as well as the competitive offering from the branding standpoint, as in: what are those brands about? They also need to understand and define the unique value proposition of their own companies and their products. I suggest brand executives need to make a strategic choice that will not only set them apart, but will energize their organization. To ensure sound and consistent execution globally, marketers need to be ready to invest meaningful time listening and persuading, but also sticking to the agreed-upon strategy. Michael Parisi • Altum In the world of healthcare communications we must continue to look at restructuring partnerships, redefining innovation, and realigning resources and agency staff to provide results-driven solutions.