Sunil Ramkali, account director at strategic and creative communication agency W, presents 7 rules for the successful local implementation of centrally driven global pharma brand campaigns
How can the ‘square peg’ of a global brand campaign be shaped to fit the ‘round hole’ of local market needs? How often do global brand teams hear the cry from affiliates “My market is different”, “Those key messages won’t work here” and “Do you really understand my market?” With shrinking marketing budgets and the need to consolidate, can affiliates continue to ‘re-invent the wheel’ and develop local brand campaigns when global marketing has invested significant time and resources in developing a centrally driven ‘global’ brand campaign?
For many global marketers it can often feel that much of their time is spent trying to convince their affiliate counterparts to implement global brand campaigns. In such a situation, the first question we must ask ourselves is why are we in this situation. Why is the affiliate marketing team not as convinced as the global team of the brand campaign’s value?
Global marketers must see their affiliate counterparts as a key customer; i.e. listen to their needs and offer solutions to address these needs. This lack of buy-in is often due to global teams not viewing an affiliate as a customer, resulting in a lack of engagement and collaboration. This may be simply due to a lack of understanding of working in an affiliate from the global brand team, or due to the organizational structure between the global and affiliate marketing teams. If it is the latter, global marketing must understand its relationship with local affiliates in order to develop and strengthen it.
Understanding the global/affiliate relationship and being able to adapt your working style will significantly affect the local implementation of global brand campaigns. Does your organization use a ‘parent-to-child’ or ‘parent-to-parent’ model when collaborating with affiliate marketing? For organizations using the ‘parent-to-child’ model, the relation is more prescriptive—affiliates have little room for questioning or challenging the brand campaign they have received from HQ. Whereas, the ‘parent-to-parent’ model allows for increased dialogue between global and affiliate marketing.
To sum up: ‘one size does not fit all’. It is critical that the global marketing team understands its relationship with local affiliates and is able to adapt its approach if consistent local implementation is the goal. Adoption of the ‘parent-to-parent’ working model with local affiliates is likely to lead to increased success. However, getting to this point may not always be easy and will require global marketing teams to adapt their working styles, listen to affiliate needs and, most importantly, create a sense of camaraderie and team spirit with their affiliate counterparts.
So how can we achieve this and what are the rules for engagement? Firstly, understand your customer’s needs.
Think globally, act locally
If you are to successfully adopt the parent-to-parent model within your organization, you must firstly be able to understand the opportunities and challenges facing local marketers in their quest to increase brand adoption. Invest time to better understand the affiliate markets, from the national regulatory process, requirements for achieving pricing and reimbursement to customer prescribing dynamics. Of course, the global marketer cannot be an expert on all markets, but you may be surprised how similar markets are and will become over time. This increasing trend towards homogeneity will help global marketing teams to better use their decreasing resources more efficiently and deliver communication solutions that are likely to work across multiple markets.
As the European pharmaceutical landscape evolves, the drivers for the adoption of new therapies across markets will become increasingly similar. A clear and increasing trend towards homogeneity is the way healthcare systems across Europe determine the value of new therapies for reimbursement.
The need for reimbursement decision makers and budget holders to manage increasing healthcare costs is a real and unavoidable situation for the pharmaceutical industry. Manufacturers that can address this need and convince decision makers of the incremental clinical benefit of their products versus standard treatments will increase their chances of reimbursement success.
The new AMNOG healthcare reform in Germany—‘early benefit assessment’— requires manufacturers to submit a product dossier and quantify the level of incremental clinical benefits versus the German standard of care. This need for clear value demonstration vs. standard therapies will force more and more manufacturers to generate comparative clinical data, and, more importantly, effectively communicate the data in order to influence funding and prescribing decisions. This approach to reimbursing new therapies is to a large extent already used in France and being considered in the UK. (For more on comparative clinical data, see Pharma marketing and comparative effectiveness research, Health data and comparative effectiveness, Why Comparative Effectiveness Research is a market opportunity, and How to build value through comparative effectiveness research.)
This increasing homogeneity of payer needs in Europe has been established amongst European regulators for some time. The vast majority of new brands are approved via the Mutual Recognition Procedure (MRP) at the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The MRP by definition results in therapies having a standard European Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC). As the SPC is the core reference document for promotional claims or key messages, a common SPC across markets will result in similar brand messaging across markets. This will also apply to competitor brands, enabling manufacturers to consider implementing similar counteraction communication strategies across different markets.
As markets across Europe become increasing homogenous, this will allow global marketing teams to deliver brand campaigns that are implementable across multiple markets while still addressing local differences and needs.
Increased understanding of the affiliate’s competitive landscape and future trends will go a long way in developing the global/affiliate relationship. However, this is not enough if we are to achieve consistent implementation of brand campaigns across key markets. Global marketers must also involve their affiliate counterparts early in the brand campaign development process. Following a few simple rules could help global marketers achieve consistent implementation of brand campaigns across markets.
1. Buy-in to the brand strategy is vital
A common mistake made by global marketing teams is to update or develop a new brand campaign without first revisiting the overall brand strategy, e.g. vision, mission and positioning statement (who, what and why). Global marketers need to make sure they don’t put the ‘cart before the horse’, i.e. buy-in to the overall brand strategy is essential before developing your brand campaign.
Consider a brand strategy review process with your affiliates before developing the brand campaign. This may take the form of a joint global/affiliate marketing workshop or a questionnaire to assess the understanding of the brand strategy: Is the strategy still relevant? Have we identified the key strategic issues for driving sales growth? Does our strategy address the changing competitive landscape?
Affiliate understanding of the brand strategy is critical, or you risk being defeated before you start. Once you have established that the brand strategy is endorsed and supported by your affiliates, consider internal marketing activities to ‘sell-in’ the brand strategy. It is important to minimize ‘strategic leakage’ within your organization. Therefore, aligning the whole organization to the brand strategy is critical before you begin to develop your brand campaign. Failure to minimize internal strategic leakage will be amplified at the prescriber, patient and payer level, resulting in ‘off strategy’ messaging and a fragmented brand.
2. Choose the right terminology
A brand campaign is not owned by the global marketing team, even if you are the ones who drive the project. A brand campaign should be owned by the whole organization and must be clearly understood by all internal stakeholders whose day-to-day work will be influenced by brand communications, e.g. the publication team responsible for reinforcing brand communications through peer-reviewed publications. Terms like ‘International’ or ‘Global’ should be avoided to prevent the perception that the brand campaign is owned by the global team. Consider terms like XXX Brand Campaign or Sales Campaign.
3. Set up a ‘core’ team of brand advocates
Before creating the brand campaign you should consider creating a forum where the global marketing team can listen to the needs of the affiliates and vice-versa. When establishing your brand campaign core team, ensure you involve the markets that will drive the majority of brand sales and/or will have a significant influence on other markets. Failure to have these markets on board will limit the commercial success of your brand, due to low adherence to the final brand campaign.
You should not underestimate the amount of customer insight and knowledge within the local sales teams. Make it the responsibility of the affiliate marketing members in the core team to liaise with their sales counterparts and to collect key customer insights.
The core team can use this customer insight in developing the draft sales story flow and supporting key selling messages. The draft sales story flow should be shared with all other affiliates for comments prior to testing. This approach will help to engage those affiliates who have not been part of the core process. It may also highlight any ‘show stoppers’ that may have been overlooked by the core team before finalizing sales materials for testing.
The core team is responsible for final ‘sign off’ of all core sales materials prior to marketing research. Achieving this level of engagement and ‘buy-in’ with affiliate marketing members of the core team will enable the global team to use them as spokespersons when launching the brand campaign to all affiliates. Don’t underestimate the power of peer-to- peer communications amongst affiliates!
4. Agree on the brand campaign objective/s
At an early stage in the brand campaign development process, reach agreement with the brand campaign core team/affiliates on the project objectives and how success will be measured. Consider adopting the SMART objective setting approach, i.e. ensure these objectives are S – specific, M - measurable, A – achievable, R – realistic and T – time-based.
When formulating your objectives, make sure they are clear, concise and challenging, while being achievable. Within the core team continue to refine the objectives until everyone is happy that each objective meets the SMART criteria. It is critical at this early stage of the brand campaign development process that all stakeholders understand the objectives and their role in ensuring the objectives are delivered.
Again, use the right vocabulary when defining your objectives – use words like us, we and our, to communicate joint accountability and responsibility. What do we want this brand campaign to accomplish? How will the brand campaign help us achieve this? With whom do we want to accomplish this? How can we measure a successful brand campaign and by when? Will our objective lead to the desired results? When should we complete the objective?
5. Mandatory or optional: Finding the right balance
The brand campaign core team should also decide which elements of the brand campaign are mandatory and which are adaptable. This will ensure when the brand campaign is implemented by the affiliates, that there is complete agreement between global and affiliate marketing on what can and cannot be changed. There are two approaches for developing a brand campaign.
- Standardization Develop the same brand campaign for multiple markets. Why: across markets customers share the same common values, beliefs, and needs; Outcome: consistent brand communication and branding, and avoids the need for additional activities/spend at a local level.
- Adaptation Modify the brand campaign to reflect local market characteristics or customer needs. Why: Customers are not the same, their needs vary from market to market; Outcome: Improved fit between the brand and local customer needs.
In the standardization approach, the core key selling messages remain unaltered across markets, as these are driven by the brand positioning statement, i.e. who, what and why. However, if specific local market research supports an alternative approach, adaptation should be considered.
In the adaptation approach, core key selling messages may be altered and supplementary key selling messages implemented to address market specific needs. However, any changes must not compromise the who (target physician or patient), what (the brand) and why (reason to use) within the brand positioning statement. Branding components must remain unaltered, regardless of which approach is adopted, e.g. brand visual identity, logo type, font & colors.
In my experience a hybrid of the two approaches will increase the likelihood of consistent implementation of a brand campaign.
An example of a standard approach being adapted to local customer needs is the availability of Maharaja™ Mac™ from McDonalds™. Beef, the main ingredient in a hamburger, is not sold in India. The Maharaja Mac made of mutton (lamb) is available as an alternative. It may sound obvious, but this adaptation of a standardized strategy has enabled McDonalds to minimize fragmentation of its core strategy.
6. Involve affiliates during the testing process
Testing is a key part of the brand campaign development process and will help the global and affiliate brand teams identify if the brand sales story flow and key selling messages will resonate with potential prescribers. Even if the testing process has been thorough, the results may be challenged by affiliates if they have not been involved in the testing process. Therefore, it is important to involve affiliates at this stage of the development process.
The local affiliate should be involved in markets where the testing will take place. They should review the physician screening criteria to ensure the demographics and the profile of recruited physicians match those of target physicians in their market. When briefing the market research moderators on the sales materials and the brand, involve the core team and local affiliate/s. The affiliate should review the discussion guide/interview questionnaire and sales materials to be used in the testing to check translation, vocabulary, ‘tone of voice’ etc prior to testing.
Ask the affiliate marketing team to attend the market research and watch the interview process. Share insights after the interviews. Use affiliate sales representatives to communicate the new sales materials. It is important the sales representative does not know the customer/s involved in the testing process. Consider developing country-specific reports to highlight country-specific issues/opportunities (if budget allows).
7. Provide support materials for implementing the brand campaign
In order to minimize ‘strategic leakage’, the global brand team should develop a package of implementation materials to be used by affiliate marketing when briefing the sales teams. Such an approach will help to maximize resources, as it avoids the duplication of locally developed sales training/support materials.
As a bare minimum to support the core sales or detail aid, the global brand team should develop a sales aid implementation guide, which should include:
• A summary of the brand campaign development process
• Key customer insights from the testing process
• Guidance on which elements of the brand campaign process are standard and adaptable—sales story flow and key selling messages, data visuals, branding, etc
• Evidence to support the inclusion of each key selling message within the sales story flow: Why is it important? How should the key selling message be communicated? Potential objections to the key selling message and response from the sales representative
Other support materials that will help ensure consistent implementation of the brand campaign might include:
- Sales aid script: a script to help the sales representative find the appropriate wording to communicate the brand sales story flow and key selling messages.
- Objection handling guide/Q&A: potential objections to brand adoption and to the key selling messages will have been raised during the testing process. These should be noted and answers developed to overcome these objections.
- Speaker slide set: this is simply a more scientific version of the sales materials/aid to communicate the brand sales story flow and key selling messages at scientific forums, such as advisory boards and symposia.
These simple steps may sound obvious, but with declining marketing budgets and an increasing workload for global marketers, these steps can sometimes be overlooked. Following these simple rules will help global marketers fit the square peg in the round hole or at least ‘shave the edges’. It may require you to adapt your working style or even your organizational approach when working with affiliates. Whichever it is, such changes will only help to develop your relationship with this key internal customer and ensure the cries of “My market is different”, “Those key messages won’t work here” and “Do you really understand my market?” will soon fade away.
Sunil Ramkali is account director for the Strategic Pharma business unit at W, a strategic and creative communication agency based in Malmö, Sweden.
For more on brand campaigns, join the sector's other key players SFE Europe and eMarketing Europe on March 27-29 in Barcelona, SFE USA on June 12-14 in Somerset, NJ, and 6th Annual Sales & Marketing Excellence Latam Congress on June 28-29 in Miami.
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