The Top 75: Core-Create/Brandkarma

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With the economy stuck in neutral and the regulatory environment as smoggy as ever, Core-Create/Brandkarma had plenty on its plate over the last few years, even before everyday nuisances were added to the mix. And then a bunch of its biggest clients were swallowed up by larger firms.
Genzyme, ZymoGenetics and Coria Laboratories were bought by, respectively, Sanofi, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. In such situations, the marketing partners of the acquired companies often find themselves on the receiving end of a brusque handshake and a “fare thee well.” Core-Create/Brandkarma, however, managed to avoid such a fate, owing to the strength of its client relationships.
“It's been a positive for us,” says Core-Create/Brandkarma president and CEO Ken Ribotsky.
According to Ribotsky, Coria's recommendation went a long way toward validating Core-Create/Brandkarma in Valeant's eyes. The agency survived the ZymoGenetics deal owing to a strong past relationship with BMS's brand teams. As for the relatively recent Sanofi/Genzyme deal, Ribotsky says initial discussions lead him to believe that Sanofi will take a hands-off approach toward Genzyme's existing marketing relationships. “I wish I could say we were brilliant in managing all this, but we really didn't have to do very much,” he adds. Other than deliver high-quality work and service, you mean? Ribotsky laughs. “Of course. It's difficult for an organization to change partners when the relationship is working really well.”
Beyond the merger theatrics, Core-Create/Brandkarma spent the last year focusing on what Ribotsky calls “the polar ends of our capability range.” It grew the amount of work it did on rare diseases, but at the same time handled a high-profile launch for an over-the-counter product. It's a testament to the diversity of the firm's skills that both efforts were well-received. “We'd like to nurture this and keep offering that wide range of services, everything from clinical and professional communications to more consumer-oriented projects,” Ribotsky says.
The OTC launch was for Valeant's Dr. LeWinn by Kinerase, a skin care product. Key to the program's success was the firm's approach differentiated Dr. LeWinn from competing products—many of which shared a similar marketing formula. “You know, insert photo of woman here, no lines or wrinkles anywhere,” Ribotsky says. The firm chose instead to celebrate the product and its users, emphasizing joyfulness.
Other new business included organic growth from Genzyme (a patient-relationship program for Pompe Disease along with work on the company's two products to treat it, Myozyme and Lumizyme). Valeant also tapped the firm for another OTC product. As for business lost, Ferrer Therapeutics' CerAxon, an OTC dietary supplement in the US, came to an end. “They decided to spend the money in other ways,” he shrugs.
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