Beers pushes pharma to stand up and fight critics

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Charlotte Beers, the former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, called for pharma companies to confront their critics and stand up for their industry.

“I'm mad as hell and I want to do something about it,” she told delegates at the Pharmaceutical Brand Leadership conference in Chicago last month. The enemy, Beers said, “comes clothed in all kinds of righteous wardrobes: it's the rampant politician, it's the singer, it's the star, it's the elderly, it's charities, all of whom seem to have permission to treat the industry as a whipping boy.”

Beers, who was charged with reshaping America's global image when President Bush began waging war on terror, was equally critical of pharma's largely invisible response. “Why are you willing to tolerate this virtual silence?” she demanded. “Is it so far gone that you think there is no way to rescue it? Or do you not have any idea how you might marshal your resources and do something about it?”

Beers, the former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, urged companies to market brand experiences instead of products, and to “bond together” and speak with one voice. “In your kit are amazing stories,” she said. “There is a veritable army of people in the world who depend on, and benefit from, this industry.”
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