I’m passionate about the value the pharmaceutical industry brings to patients…but I never cease to be amazed by just how bad the industry’s reputation is.

The media, members of the public and even some healthcare professionals themselves tend to view the industry in a negative light. In the last few months alone there have been two major high-profile articles in the lay press about ‘rip off pharma’ increasing the prices of anti-epilepsy and oncology drugs. These almost certainly reinforced the negative views of the industry in the minds of the general public!

The industry does so much that is good. The level of investment in research and development (R&D) is colossal and the failure rate at every phase of the clinical development programme punishing. Companies continue to focus on areas of high unmet clinical need. The research landscape in littered with dementia trials. So far all have failed to alter the course of the disease, but with time effective treatments will be found. How much of this do we communicate?

There have been so many major wins in the last 20 years, let alone the last 100. To highlight but a few of these: as a result of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) HIV is now seen as a chronic condition rather than a death sentence; the introduction of effective treatments for wet age-related macular degeneration has saved the sight of many older people; and there are an ever-expanding list of available treatments for haematological malignancies. Why doesn’t the press pick up these stories?

In part it is our own fault. As an industry our image management is poor. We don’t invest in it, we don’t prioritise it and as a result you could argue that we get what we deserve.

Perhaps we need to take a lead from the consumer sector. Bodyform’s CEO Caroline Williams witty ‘apology’ video to Richard Neill who had complained that the company was misguiding people into thinking that women’s periods were ‘happy’ times of the month may not be directly relevant to pharma but it does demonstrate just how important consumer companies take their image management. We need to more actively manage the press and continually work with the media to seed the positive stories.

So, what we need is more ‘Breaking Bad’ to turn negative publicity around. Don’t wait to become ‘the’ news, talk about the good things your company is doing. Get out more and shout about your great achievements and products. In short, get into the press and the press off your back.

To talk to us about how we can help you to manage your corporate image and improve the image of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, why not drop us a line david.ballard@insight2implement.com or sandra.laird@insight2implement.com. Alternatively give us a call on +44 1252 702850.


What is it that gets you, as a marketer, excited? Are you all about the strategy or all about the tactics? Do you get excited about where you’re going or how you’re going to get there?

George Patton famously said “good tactics can save even the worst strategy, bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy”. So, it’s all about the tactics, right? What George Patton forgot to say was that even excellent, innovative, impactful tactics are of no use if they are not strategically aligned.

So, we need to get both the strategy and the tactics right….and they need to work together. Alas, that is sometimes where it all goes wrong.

If I had a pound for every tactic not aligned with the brand strategic objectives and CSFs….well you know the old adage! But why does it happen and how can you stop yourself falling at the tactical hurdle?

  • Take the Technology Challenge . We used to have our heads turned by the pretty pictures and the ad men’s engaging strap lines. Now, we are seduced by the technology. The app that will engage the patient. The virtual meeting that will ensure high attendance. It all sounds fabulous….and it sometimes it is! But no matter how fabulous….it needs to help you to achieve your goals, to operate one of the key strategic levers. So, stop, think. Are you excited by the technology or what the technology will do for your brand?
  • Use 3 honest serving men – why, what and how! Ask yourself simply why am I doing this, what will it achieve and how will it achieve it? If you can’t answer all of these with clarity and conviction, the tactic should be shelved.
  • Come back to the strategic objective. CSFs should be aligned with strategic objectives but sometimes they suffer from drift. So, come back to the strategic objective. If your strategic objective is to drive market share is a tactic that drives earlier diagnosis really appropriate? If you are not market leader then the simple answer is no. No matter how you try to justify it, the answer is no!

Let’s leverage the power of AND. Let’s develop a clear customer-focused strategy and aligned tactics. Then and only then is success assured.

For all the buzz around social media, we still keep coming across people who say “It’s not for us” or “we don’t think it’s important” or “do me a favour – this organisation hasn’t even got its press releases right yet.”

But it really doesn’t matter whether you’re into social media, ready for social media, or just plain indifferent to social media.

Because chances are many patients and healthcare professionals, are already using it or working on how to use it. In their spare time, your staff certainly will be, now three-fifths of the UK population have Facebook accounts.

In today’s world the best way to keep a finger on the pulse of public opinion about medical issues is to monitor social media. Patients are increasingly making their views known on it and can drive the market from user level.

There’s no ‘mystic art’ to doing this, we use a variety of internet tools to keep an eye on Twitter, Facebook, relevant blogs and the myriad other applications that make up social media networking.

The key that makes a successful monitoring job is intelligence. For example, what interests a company most will not necessarily be seeing its own brand names. Senior managers may be just as interested in specific competitors or products, or happenings in other market sectors.

It’s all about being close to the client, knowing his or her aims and needs, and working closely with in – house teams to ensure they know what the buzz is in the vital areas of interest .

Monitoring is not an expensive commodity, but the cost of not monitoring; not knowing what’s coming out of an internet-blue sky could be immense.

The dictionary definition of ‘benefit’ is ‘an advantage or profit gained from something.’ Although we may be clear about the benefits of our product, it doesn’t mean that the same benefits will be perceived or valued by our customers.

So what is the secret to communicating value? The starting point must be to understand which stakeholders have a need for your product. It’s easy to assume this is always the clinician, yet often they are only one of several stakeholders. We’ve known this for a while, yet we continue to rely too much on communicating clinical messages. It’s understandable, because we are accomplished as an industry in developing and effectively communicating those messages. We excel at it! Yet, we continue to struggle to communicate value when the primary need of a particular customer may be broader than the direct clinical benefit.

Think like your competitor would think…what value do they see in your brand? Think like your customers…what challenge does your product help address? Use an external expert to play devil’s advocate and challenge your assumptions.

To excel at value communication we must do more to understand what the customer is trying to achieve beyond just the clinical outcome. What are they struggling with? What are the day to day operational challenges different stakeholders face? How can your product help to address those challenges? Don’t assume that you know all you need to know from reading national policy documents; you need to understand the local issues.

Having established the value from the customer perspective make sure you target the right value messages to the right customer. There is little point informing a customer in an acute trust that your product reduces the need for primary care follow-up. It’s not relevant and has no value to them.

Job done? Not quite! To be effective in delivering your value message you must be: consistent, relentless, and innovative. Make sure value is communicated consistently across all departments, media and customers groups. Be tireless in your execution and continually seek new ways of effectively engaging with customers.

To find out how we work tirelessly to help you effectively communicate value, why not give us a call on +44 1252 702850?

The NHS and the pharmaceutical industry are often quick to criticise each other; the NHS for not funding a new therapy or only allowing use in a limited patient cohort; the pharmaceutical industry for ‘over’ pricing a new drug or ‘over selling’ its benefits.

There is an increasingly mature relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS and strong evidence of joint working to meet health service and industry goals whilst achieving that best possible outcome for patients.

We need to continue to foster open and honest dialogue at a product level to maintain momentum and accelerate change. Where does the pharmaceutical company believe the trade off between benefits received and price charged lies? Where do NHS stakeholders draw the line? We need to be open enough to accept that neither party truly understands the holistic value of the product in the real world practice.

Much of the value of pharmaceutical products to the NHS is not characterised and assessed in clinical trials. The use of real world evidence (RWE) and real world practice need to form part of the future narrative. RWE is increasingly becoming a part of medical and marketing plans, but more could and should be done to elaborate the wider value to the NHS at the outset.

Value for the patient, value for the company, value for the NHS – that’s what both the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS should be striving for. At i2i that’s our raison d’etre. If you’re interested in hearing more about how we have supported companies in developing effective strategies and delivering successful programmes why not give us a call on +44 1252 702850.

There was a time when planning was easy. We undertook a robust internal and external analysis, developed our OTSW, identified the major opportunities and threats and bob’s your uncle the marketing plan evolved. Alas no more!

We have started to adjust to a world in which rationing really bites, a world in which cost constraint is the new reality and a world in which the value of our brands is decided for us, but are we ready for the next evolution?

The CDF and Patient Access Schemes have become almost accepted as the default funding mechanism but for how long? The latest policy developments clearly indicate that we cannot afford to reply on the current status quo being maintained.

As we immerse ourselves in the strategic brand planning process for another year how do we plan for the unknown unknowns? For example, does your brand plan include a contingency for potentially catastrophic change to its funding? If not it ought to.

With increasing budget deficits it is clear that the health service is no longer truly affordable. The writing is surely on the wall. Funding devolution is coming, first in Manchester and now Cornwall. What might this mean for your brand? Do you have the plans in place to manage it?

Only by integrating customer intelligence into your planning will you have any chance of seeing and planning for the future. It’s time for marketeers to really get in touch with the customers, to listen like they have never listened before and to partner with the NHS in developing solutions.

We need to reinvent the pricing model and explore lifecycle, portfolio or patient lifetime pricing strategies. We need to go even further than that and consider how our brands would measure up under co-funding. If patients really did have control over ‘their NHS spend’ would they choose your product? If not, why not? What could you do to change this?

We need to be part of the solution not part of the problem. We must develop more creative, customer and patient centric pricing models.

Only those that are prepared to think the unthinkable and plan for it will be the winners. Will you be one of them?

Value propositions are, to use a colloquial term, all the rage! So why are marketeers not always happy with them? Why do they not always do the job?

A bit like SWOT analysis, the challenge with value propositions is to develop them with the customer in mind. It is easy to develop a SWOT analysis from your own perspective and list your entire product / company’s strengths and weaknesses. But, perception is reality and if the customer does not see these features as strengths or weaknesses then, in reality, they’re not.

So what about value propositions? One definition says they are:

‘A business or marketing statement that summarises why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.’

The real challenge lies in ‘value’ itself. Value is a subjective quality, or as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary ‘the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth or usefulness of something’.

Whether through lack of time, a passionate belief in the brand or a perception that customer needs are well understood, the development of Value Propositions in many organisations is a very internally focused activity. They become a major programme of work to pull together every last piece of clinical and financial data into a compelling ‘story’. But the question remains, compelling for whom?

The real issue with value propositions is that there is a danger that they become a synthesis of how the company sees the ‘value’ of the product. What they really need to do is capture and communicate ‘value’ from the customer’s perspective. The messages need to resonate, they need to reflect the customer’s reality and fulfil a need or support delivery of a key objective. Anything else is selling us and our products short.

What do customers really think about your value proposition? Have you asked them?

Whatever your definition of marketing, the 4 Ps of product, price, promotion and place are ‘where the rubber meets the road’. Philip Kotler says that the “Marketing Mix is the set of controllable variables that the firm can use to influence the buyer’s response.” But do we as pharmaceutical marketeers leverage the ‘mix’ as well as we could?

There is no doubt that many organisations have become more marketing led in their R&D activities, with active marketing involvement in shaping the Target Product Profile at an early stage. But how good are we are carrying this thinking through the lifecycle? After we’ve launched, do we tend to just accept the product we have or do we think about how our customers and consumers could have a more positive experience? Is our packaging convenient? Is our product easy to use? What do our patients think? Are we focused on asking and answering these and similar questions? If, not maybe we should be!

Enter the consumer market and you expect to see price used as an active lever. You expect to, and usually do, see the price of products reduce as they extend from a small group of early adopters to reach the early and late majority. Now turn to pharma. Do we even think about price as a changing part of the mix through the lifecycle? Generally speaking, in Primary Care markets the answer is no. Is this a luxury we can continue to afford?

At first glance the ‘place’ has changed little, if at all, for POM products. But think again, in the last 10-15 years we have seen the emergence of the home delivery market, the move of retail pharmacies into hospitals and a whole plethora of internet pharmacies. Have you really considered how to incorporate these changes into your marketing plans?

Read the average pharma marketeer’s brand plan and you might be forgiven for thinking that the marketing mix is in fact the promotional mix. How to get key messages delivered to the target audience, whether via direct selling, PR, advertising, direct marketing or sales promotion will be explored in minute detail. The question is are we missing a trick?

Could we be getting more from our brands by stepping back and redefining the mix? Should we be thinking about more innovative use of pricing strategies? Do we need to think about what place ‘place’ has? We think the answer to all of these is…yes.

By all means perfect your promotional mix, but use all of the tools at your disposal to maximise your brand’s potential. Be first to change the pharma rulebook and the world is your oyster.

What is marketing? There are a myriad of definitions but few would question that the very essence of marketing is to be found in the understanding and fulfillment of customer needs. Getting the right product to the right customer in the right way and at the right price. But, how does the pharmaceutical industry measure up in the way that it markets its products?

By its very nature, the pharmaceutical industry is research driven. The industry invests billions of pounds in the quest to deliver solutions to unmet medical needs. But is this enough? Perhaps the answer was yes, when independent prescribers held the key to decision making. But in a multi-disciplinary decision making environment where cost effectiveness and budget impact are just as important as clinical effectiveness, the simple answer is no!

Just as the NHS needs to embrace a brave new world, so too must the industry. There is a pressing need to stop paying lip service to customer focus and bring the customer to the centre of the brand planning process. In these cost constrained times we must work harder to identify the segments that we can truly own…and where the customer is willing to pay. If it ever was, then ‘first line in all patients’ is no longer a viable option in most circumstances.

So, what does he industry need to do? Firstly, accept that the world has changed; stop living in the past and talking about payers and commissioners as ‘new customers’. Seek to understand the needs of all of the key stakeholders and be brave. Share your strategy openly with customers or even better co-develop it with them. It can deliver powerful results.