The Patient-Industry Connection: Building Brand Loyalty
Many patients don’t know which pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the medications they take.
What Patients Say About Their Relationship With Industry
Over the last two years, Inspire’s Annual Survey illustrates this insight with little change from year to year. Despite regular medication usage, the majority of respondents had limited, if any, knowledge of the manufacturer of their treatment(s). At most, 14 percent of responding patients and caregivers reported having a ‘relationship’ with these companies, characterized by utilizing such resources as educational materials or financial assistance or communicating with them directly. Of these individuals, less than half reported that they would consider it to be a good ‘relationship’.1,2
This disconnect may be a major missed opportunity for pharmaceutical companies in their attempts to engage with patients and build lasting, loyal relationships.
Does it matter that patients are unaware of specific pharmaceutical companies? Do patients need to have a relationship with pharmaceutical companies?
Some marketers say yes with social media being the reasoning behind this stance. Consumers used to talk in small circles about the products they used, if they worked, and if they liked them. Today, those feelings can be shared with thousands of consumers in 140 characters or less or even through the use of social ‘reactions’. The speed of social media sharing and the impact of patients’ opinions going viral can extend not just to a product but to a whole company.
Drug Versus Brand Identity
Presently, pharmaceutical companies focus on promoting their brands as the one and only treatment for a given illness. This focus on products can be seen in direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA). Pharmaceutical DTCA has grown from $3.1 billion3 to $5.17 billion over the past 3 years.4 Studies indicate that DTCA increases disease awareness,6 which in turn, motivates people to make appointments with their physicians and review their treatment options with them. 7 In this gatekeeper-driven environment, simply getting people to the gatekeeper (physician) is a positive outcome.
But this gatekeeper-driven sales environment can be tricky. A recent study from the Wharton School comparing DTCA campaigns of Lipitor, Crestor, and other non-advertised, anti-cholesterol drugs showed that, although people go to their physician to discuss the advertised product, they might end up with a prescription for a drug in the same class, but with a lower price.8
In cases where multiple products are similar, could corporate reputation and brand loyalty overcome price considerations? What if awareness, and even a relationship with a corporation, were forged before illness? Would it make a difference in the decisions made by engaged patients?
The Mayo Clinic has developed its brand through providing preventive health information and research publications on an authoritative website. Post-care, they provide gatherings for patients like the WomenHeart Science and Leadership Symposium that educates women with heart disease on how to lead patient support groups in their communities.
In the pharmaceutical arena, Novo Nordisk has tried associating the industry with health and healthy living with chronic conditions to build its corporate brand, including the sponsorship of patient-athlete teams.
For many years, consumer goods manufacturers have been using their corporate names as “umbrellas” like Nike shoes, gym bags and jerseys, but this approach could also be used in the pharmaceutical industry with success.9
Patient-centric strategizing and incorporating the patient’s voice in corporate brand development as well as product naming and packaging could bring about a needed competitive edge.
Inspire offers a trusted community to patients and caregivers. Our goal with this blog, this website and our content is to provide the life science industry access to the true, authentic patient voice. In so doing, we support faithful operationalization of patient-centricity. Take a look at our case studies, eBooks and news outlet coverage.
9Schuiling, Isabelle ; Moss, Giles. How different are branding strategies in the pharmaceutical industry versus fast moving consumer goods?. IAG Working Papers ; 2003/101 (2003)