Managing a Brand Under Fire

Even though is dealing with pharmaceutical industry branding, I spotted a very intersting article, over BrandWeek, that deals with how to manage your branding when your company, or even your whole industry is under fire, and has to face negative reactions to some aspects, whether from the public or the media.

Strategically, a shift is needed throughout the industry—from corporate brands to their agency partners—toward a better understanding of consumers. The industry must know how consumers truly feel (as patients, as caregivers and as family members), what they want, how they react and what drives them to action.

Well so far, is a little general, but here is a list with some practical strategies ideas that help:

1. Actions speak louder than words.
An industry action plan must be developed. That’s a prerequisite for some other steps.

2. Retool to facilitate the desired outcome.
The independent brand approach must evolve to focus on consumers, with an understanding that they have multiple and changing needs over time. No longer can brands within the same company function as independent businesses.

3. Champion the skill-sets that will drive the next generation of marketing.
Brand managers should understand how marketers outside the industry approach similar challenges. Some companies are strengthening their marketing teams by hiring ad execs and relationship marketing pros with other diverse backgrounds. Better preparing new brand managers to drive innovative customer-focused strategies, and leveraging talent from outside the industry, are perhaps the most fertile opportunities for moving things forward.

4. Make the corporate brand stand for something.
Winning companies need to stand for something specific and occupy a certain space in the consumer mindset. It is absolutely essential that they also build strong corporate brands with which people personally identify. Consumers react well to brands and companies they know and trust.

5. Think long-term.
Brand teams typically plan year-by-year, and may miss or ignore opportunities because an initiative doesn’t fit into an annual plan. Turnover among brand teams also can limit long-term planning.

6. Support consumers meaningfully.
Don’t worry about forcing a “connection” with them. Consumer packaged goods companies know smart ways to facilitate connections, through product packaging and customer support to help build relationships and create satisfied customers. Learn from their tactics and adapt them appropriately.

7. Understand the interaction between brand and direct marketing.
There’s a tremendous body of work on branding—from image building, to portfolio extensions, to direct channels, to promotion—to guide your journey.

8. Commit to and trust your partners.
You must shift away from buying marketing services as if they are office supplies. Find the best partners, period. And give them the proper tools, funding and respect to do their best work.

9. Think and act like a leader.
Building corporate and product brands is essential, and requires time and money. And first impressions count. Leaders recognize these facts. One common lament among pharma brand managers is that they’re still dealing with the consequences of a launch that suffered from a poorly conceived plan and/or inadequate budget. Stay the course and try again.

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