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The Pharma Brand Planners’ Blog: Part 2

Part 2: Local Brand Planners – Put the Moose on the Table

Stephanie Hall

This month’s blog is focused on local brand planners – leaders and cross-functional team contributors – who have an important job to do in translating global and / or regional strategic guidance and plans at a local level.

There are inherent tensions in this endeavour: – on one side, the global team wants to ensure their carefully researched strategies and global programmes achieve global reach and deliver a consistent brand and customer experience. From the local team’s perspective, they have to grapple with to grapple with local market / access / customer / competitor differences, a complex picture which often doesn’t closely resemble that global vision.

So how do you get started on local brand planning for a pharma or biotech brand?

Step 1: Plan the plan

  • Check you know your company’s brand and financial brand planning timeline, process, frameworks and expectations – some companies have a very structured process and others are less so.
  • Assemble your cross-functional team and plan contributors including your trusted agency partners who can input to strategy and can therefore create better solutions for your team and brand. Engage professional training or facilitation help for your brand planning working sessions if needed – they (we!) can provide invaluable help in tackling the big strategic challenges, gaining team alignment and support for the overall process.
  • Create a ‘Brand Plan Plan’ – define a series of working sessions, assign roles, mini-deadlines to get you and your team to where you need to be at the right time. You may need to deprioritise some operational activities or delegate them.

In my work with client teams across the industry, I am often asked for brand planning ‘hacks’, quick tricks and short cuts to creating a great local brand plan. This is a tough ask, but there are a few tips:

  • Invest in your cross-functional brand team so that they are skilled in the company brand planning framework, process and fully commit to their role in delivering a strong brand plan.
  • Allocate short time slots to do some uninterrupted thinking on the key questions to tackle, the big strategic questions, collating creative ideas.
  • Write up your brand plan ‘story’ on one page – what intuitively is the story you want to tell about your local market, your brand, about the challenges you face and how you will tackle them. It doesn’t matter if this isn’t perfect, but this will give you a compass and a starting point. If you had to, how would you create you brand plan on one page – it can be done!

Step 2: Gather your analysis and insights

  • The first question to ask is what’s changed since your last plan – what’s different about what you know about the environment, competitors, customers and your brand performance?
  • Next, what are the implications for this year’s brand plan? Be honest; if you are doing well, could you be doing better? If you are not doing well, how could you do better? As one pharma company says ‘Put the moose on the table!’ This is the time to ask tough questions.
  • As a team, work through all your latest performance data, market research and observational data to form the latest view of the market. This is a great time to list the questions and information gaps you have and fill as many as you can.
  • Now start to ask the question ‘why’ again and again as you review your analysis and create an insight map of the key insights by patient / physician / payer. Don’t rely on global research and insights – these need to resonate at the heart of local patients / physicians / payers and be better than the competition. Create an insight map for each key customer and add to it as you build on your collective team knowledge.

Step 3: Create a robust situational analysis and SWOT

  • The best tip here is not to ‘wallow in analysis’ – what are the top 10 charts and pieces of analysis that show what is happening in your market and that you are going to use in your brand plan? No 100 slide decks of research and or performance data here!
  • A SWOT working session is a great cross-functional team activity but worth engaging a strong facilitator to ensure the integrity of the SWOT is adhered to. It’s easy to create a mediocre SWOT by committee. This is the platform for your whole brand plan, so do ensure the points are prioritised, specifically articulated and represent a true picture of your market position – your SWOT may be imbalanced in one or more quadrants.
  • Having created your SWOT, it’s worth moving forward with the 3-4 key implications that you will take forward to address in your strategies. Consider this as a funnel – what are the most important SWOT issues to bring forward and act as the logic backbone to your whole brand plan.

Need a break? Take a break as the next phase of your brand plan is even more important to your future brand plan performance.

With a strong SWOT and resulting key issues and strategic implications, the ‘so what’s’, you should now be ready to tackle the objectives, strategic mix and segmentation, targeting and positioning.

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