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Marketing, brand, and big pharma’s real consumer targets

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Health providers and branding

One of the unique features of the pharmaceutical industry is that the end user, or consumer, is separate from the influencer, the health provider. The consumer has no choice but to get the drugs prescribed by the health provider. This makes branding and marketing in big pharma different relative to other industries.

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Consumers

Big pharma mainly deals with patented drugs, generally prescription drugs used for the treatment of diseases like cancers, hypertension, cardiovascular ailments, etcetera. Companies spread awareness about their drugs using a marketing network that includes print media, online media, TV, hospitals and clinics, health providers, etcetera.

Yet marketing to direct customers is less effective because prescription drugs are, after all, prescribed by a health provider. As well, consumers have no bargaining power because they are scattered, and so the regulators control the prices.

Marketing and brand

Brand plays the most important role in marketing. A brand carries the trust, authenticity, and genuineness of a drug. As a result, big pharma now operates in many segments such as consumer healthcare, medical devices, and diagnostic products. This allows these companies to increase their basket of branded products and heighten brand awareness.

Marketing activities depend on the product type. Marketing specialized products and prescription drugs to health providers or hospitals is done using one or two methods:

  • pharmaceutical sales representatives – these may provide drug samples to health providers
  • continuing medical education – companies sponsor live events, written publications, online programs, audiovisual or electronic media

Marketing general products such as generic and over-the-counter drugs and consumer healthcare products involves print media, electronic media, banners, etcetera.

Big pharma spends a fair amount of revenues on marketing to create and encourage awareness of products and brand. Companies including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), Actavis, and Allergan (AGN) are among some of the trusted brands in the industry that widely market their products through different channels.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK) and Gilead Sciences (GILD) combined form 30.34% of the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV).

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