Skip links

The Pharma Brand Planners’ Blog: Part 3

Part 3: Local brand planners – creating bold not bland strategies

Stephanie Hall

This blog, part 3 of our series, is focused on creating bold not bland strategies to create competitive advantage. What does it take to do that? Almost certainly you’ll need to do something creative or disruptive in order to accelerate the growth of your pharma brand in the coming year.

When working with pharma brand teams, I find that the strategy sections of the brand plan vary enormously – some companies have clearly defined strategic frameworks to help work through the key strategic choices for the brand for the coming year, and others have weak or even non-existent strategy sections.

A useful framework to use when creating the strategy section of your brand plan is to use the 10 Ps model to ensure all key elements of strategy are considered.

The 10 strategic Ps are most often defined as: product (profile, packaging, formulation, dosing), place (distribution, homecare), promotional mix (which promotional channels and which patient/HCP/payer segments), price (and discounting, value and access), processes, people (roles and resources), physical evidence (tangible promotional or educational materials), positioning, purpose (personality, emotion, the reason your brand exists) and partnerships (advocacy, technology companies, alliance partners).

There are also lots of good strategy models to help you think through other decisions and to present different options in a visual way within your brand plan:

* Whether to expand your market (new patient or customer segments or geographic markets) vs further penetration of your existing market – Ansoff’s matrix is the one for this

* Which countries to target in your region – Abell and Hammond’s investment matrix works well here

* Which products and which markets – GE or multi-factor matrix can help you assess the higher performers on market/segment attractiveness and competitive advantage combined.

It’s also worth making a few distinctions: strategy does not mean tactics! If you find tactical programmes coming to mind, create notes for these ideas for later. Strategy is often defined as the ‘how’, the decisions that will drive the allocation of tactics and resources and create sustainable competitive advantage for the brand or company.

Ingredients of a bold strategy section

1. Clear decisions on the 10 Ps with a rationale and link to insights and the SWOT

2. Strong understanding of the current and future competitive environment and likely strategies and tactics of key competitors

3. Strategic decisions taken in a particular clear direction and not just ‘middle of the road’, ie what we have always done

4. Clarity on ‘Where to play to win’ and ‘Where not to play’ across the 10 Ps – we can’t win in all segments and channels vs all the competition.  There’s a great book on this by AG Lafley called ‘Playing to Win’ if you’d like to read more

5. Evidence shown of some innovation, creativity and that much quoted concept, ‘disruption’, in your strategy.

How do you build your strategy?

One of the key inputs to building your local strategy will be your global or regional strategic plans and guidance – ideally but not always delivered to you in time to create your local strategy.

You may also want to formally document your current strategy using the 10 P model and then explore how/where it could evolve to drive growth. Gather together your cross-functional team and also your best strategists to review current strategies and brainstorm different combinations of strategies.

I often find there are 3-4 different strategic mix options or scenarios that emerge. You may wish to give each strategic mix option a name and then to agree as a team the 5-6 criteria on which to evaluate and finalise your preferred option. Some of the more notable strategic mix option names that come to mind are: With/Without Patient Education, Specialty Focus Only, Go Hell for Leather!, Value Focus, Digital Only, Superiority Shown…

Testing your strategy? You may want to solicit internal stakeholder and senior management feedback on your recommended strategy and rationale in order to gauge the likely level of buy-in. You may also want to conduct some informal key opinion leader or customer interviews or focus groups to sense-check with an external perspective.

Depending on the level of anticipated change and risk in your strategy, you may want to commission some market research and/or conduct a pilot in a small locality and measure the results.


And finally… the strategy section wouldn’t be complete without a quantified, time-bound set of objectives. I recommend a set of 4-5 linked objectives relating to some of sales, patients, competitive share, breadth and depth of usage, customer engagement and experience and advocacy.

A recent audit of ten brand plans across different companies and disease areas showed that only two out of the ten contained clearly defined and quantified business objectives.

Good luck! If you have completed your Situational Analysis, SWOT and created a robust brand strategy and quantified objectives and you have the alignment of your cross-functional team, you’re ready to move into the next phase: multichannel tactical planning.

Available on PMLive

Follow the links to find part 1 and 2:

Part 1: Calling all Global and Regional Brand Planners

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