Jay Carter
SVP, AbelsonTaylor

At least once a month a pharmaceutical executive tells me that creative doesn’t matter anymore. Today, they will say, it’s all about either managed care access (for a poorly differentiated product) or KOL’s (for a high-specialty product) or the customer experience (for a horrendously differentiated product) or long-term meaningful functional differentiation (when the client needs venture money.)

Here’s what I say: brands matter.

My wife drinks Aquafina bottled water. Exclusively. It’s water. H20. The pharmacist in me shudders at the price premium my family pays for water. But brands matter. So I buy Aquafina.

I challenge you to think in your own life. Somewhere, there is a brand that you revere, and that you are willing to spend a premium for. Being charitable, I’ll allow that there could be some functional benefits that support your reverence for the brand. But, if you’re honest with yourself, you won’t see many.

If brands matter, then how the brand is portrayed to its customers is vitally important. Managed care respects brands that doctors favor, because it is easier to drive greater use of a popular brand than to build pull-through with a less popular one. KOL’s, as so many of us in the industry have learned, are people too, and respect well-executed brands. Customer experience is really all about the brand, as Steve Jobs taught America. And if your brand has a meaningful functional difference, great branding magnifies that difference. That’s true whether it’s a silly millimeter longer, a fewer dropped calls, or a full day of pain control for patients with PHN.

While DTC spending is down from its megabrand highs of a few years ago, it will continue to play a role “post-patent cliff” as select marketers seek to educate patients about the opportunities that new and more effective medications can offer them. The power of creative to integrate messages and imagery can offer high ROI in an era when the velocity of post-launch sales is critical.

I believe that our opportunities as marketers to better personify a brand and better drive a brand’s business offers more opportunity today than it ever has. Where once we had only a picture and a headline to communicate with a physician, today we have video and sound and animation using iPads. I can’t wait to see how brands communicate with healthcare professionals in the future.