Brands hold an almost mythical ethos in modern life, built to establish a memorable spot in our collective consciousness. The ones that successfully secure a place as a household name represent more than a product.
Like it or not, brands come to define us and our lifestyle, and the ones we look up to say a lot about our personal — and professional — choices. The same goes for pharma leaders who are running companies or departments of their own. Looking outside the pharma world for inspiration is important to them as they develop drugs, fight for health equity, market a product and so much more.
When we asked this year’s class of PharmaVoice 100 honorees, “If you were a brand, what would it be?” many pointed to companies that demonstrate strong values or a new way of thinking — or even just fun — in the corporate world.
Here are some of the brands life sciences execs relate to — and how they can inspire the work they do.
Just do it
“I’m a big Nike fan! Nike is the Goddess of Victory, and the ‘swoosh’ is intended to symbolize speed, movement, power and motivation. I hope to see victory in the quest for health equity and empowerment for women and underserved populations and I’m dedicated and motivated to do all I can to ensure change happens as speedily as possible.”
Dr. Elizabeth Garner, chief scientific officer, Ferring Pharmaceuticals
“I have always gravitated toward brands that live and breathe their guiding principles. Patagonia is a great example. Their unwavering commitment to our planet underpins each action the company takes and is never something they are willing to compromise. In fact, it has only continued to grow over time. In the same way, our unwavering commitment to patients, their families and communities drives the work we do each day. Ahead of each action we take, I try to ask myself, how will this benefit the patients we hope to serve? If the answer doesn’t align, it’s often time to consider a new path forward.”
Dr. Raymond Sanchez, chief medical officer, Cerevel Therapeutics
“Lego's brand personality is built around creativity, learning, and fun, with a focus on quality and reliability. Lego's brand personality resonates with me as a leader because Lego's emphasis on creativity and imagination can be a source of inspiration for those looking to think outside the box and approach problems in new and innovative ways.”
Lauren D'Angelo, chief commercial officer, Alpha Cognition
Failure is not an option
“I always visualize an entrepreneur like ‘a dog in a human body,’ one on a mission to hunt in a limited life time. I think that sort of focused mindset best captures my personal brand. I believe in my personal work, failure is not an option as NASA Flight Controller Jerry Bostick once said: ‘When bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them.’ I can certainly relate to that.”
Zhi Hong, CEO, co-founder, executive director, chair, Brii Biosciences
The pillars of Apple
“Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you the answer — Apple! I may be a bit biased as a self-proclaimed ‘super user,’ but their product design and marketing is truly the gold standard in my eyes. I always think back to the marketing of MP3 players vs. the iPod. Although Apple wasn’t the first to market, they were the first to really connect with consumers with simple messaging that really resonated: ‘1,000 songs in your pocket.’ I see our roadmap and go-to-market strategy modeled after their key pillars of success. Put your customer first. Push the boundaries. Make your products simple to understand, and simple to use.”
Peter Kirk, CEO, Sermo
Be all you can be
“The one that comes to mind for me is so much more than a brand, because it’s the U.S. Army. I am immensely proud to have been part of the tradition of service to our country, and I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences and values from that tradition that helped shape the rest of my life. The U.S. Army’s tagline, ‘Be all you can be,’ sums that up well. And it reminds me of something my mother always says, which I’ve always taken to heart: ‘iron sharpens iron.’ It means that taking on the biggest challenges brings out the best in us.”
Reshema Kemps-Polanco, executive vice president, U.S. head, Novartis Oncology
Mastering the winding road
“Peloton. As a business leader and avid cyclist, I understand the challenges of the road and the parallels we experience in driving a successful company. When getting on the bike, we individually face the challenges of hills, recovery on the flat roads and the thrill of sprints and speed. In many ways the endurance, fortitude and strength cyclists build though various terrain is similar to what we face and experience in the pharmaceutical industry — and that we at Novavax have faced over the past few years in addressing COVID-19. I admire the community Peloton has built around the world and their innovative approach to bolster their platform and propel their brand into the future — much like what we’re trying to achieve.”
John Jacobs, CEO, Novavax
Doing the right thing
“If I were to describe myself as a brand, I would align myself with a brand that represents integrity, transformation and innovation. I would choose a brand that embodies a strong vision for the future, embraces change, and seeks to make a positive impact in people's lives in small but meaningful ways. The brand that resonates with me is Proctor & Gamble (P&G). The P&G brand represents a company more than 180 years old with a consistently strong culture and a workforce passionate about problem solving and motivated by helping the world be better. Their consumer brands are among some of the world’s most trusted household brands which speak to a core part of their purpose to deliver quality and to always do the right thing for their customers.”
Christine Miller, CEO, president, Melinta Therapeutics
The big impact of small improvements
“Burton revolutionized mountain sports with its innovation in snowboarding and brought alpine joy to millions of people. Recently, I was gifted a pair of Burton goggles from a friend of mine — a wild, crazy and dedicated snowboarder who has tried to jump off nearly everything he can. I love these goggles, and they are a testament to how smart companies incorporate innovation into their products. Not only do they have removable lenses, but they also have a magnetic neck warmer that pops on and off, keeping your neck warm when needed while also being easy to open and close. It’s not the sexiest innovation out there, but Burton goggles represent the sort of practical and impactful innovation that I think is great.”
John Oyler, CEO, co-founder, BeiGene
Bringing hope to communities
“My favorite brand is Red Cross. The support and service they provide worldwide is unmatched. They are limitless and impact lives of millions of people regardless of geographies and varied backgrounds to ease the suffering of humanity. Our work in pharma is similar as our goal is to bring potentially innovative medicines for life threatening diseases to patients and to bring hope to the people and the communities we serve.”
Syed Rizvi, chief medical officer, Caribou Biosciences