Marketing and Branding for Pharmaceuticals


We touched on the following key issues on pharmaceutical marketing and branding in the last edition:

Market segmentation – in which a market is broken into smaller manageable, accessible, profitable segments. This is driven by the facts that doctors and patients are not identical; differences in patients response to same drug; and variations in Doctors/HCP  attitude to various aspect of drugs clinical/pharmaceutical responses /collateral effects

Market targeting was described as the process of evaluating each market segment’s attractiveness, with a view to selecting one or more segments to enter/focus on, bearing in mind immediate and long-term profitability and contribution to inflow.

Positioning the near-permanent intended place of the product in the mind (or better still, practice of the HCP) which is based on real and perceptual product attributes.

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Pharm. Tunde Oyeniran

Now, we shall discuss marketing mix as it applies to pharmaceutical branding. Positioning, relentlessly maintained by marketers, is often translated to reality or “perceptual reality” by deft use and manipulation of the marketing mix. Recall that we said that the use of a marketing mix is the excellent way to help ensure that “putting the right product in the right place” will happen and is sustained.

The marketing mix is most commonly executed through the four Ps of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. The relative and absolute quantity, (read emphasis, amount of effort, level of importance) of each of the four Ps, depends on the product attributes, environment, price, target market, access strategy, cost, profitability, value, available resources, etc., and can be “mixed” in virtually infinitesimal ways and proportions —  the firm’s specific “blend” to produce the response it wants in the target market.

The table below summarises the marketing mix as it pertains to pharmaceutical marketing and branding:

Pricing in the mix

The eventual price at the point of use is driven and affected by the following:

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Brand versus generic. As stated elsewhere, the cost of discovering new drugs is very heavy and of long duration. The competitive environment and culture indicate that a new drug is filed for patent rights long before it gets to the market, thus shortening the monopoly period during which the company strives to recoup its investment and “make money”. The net effect is that product prices are high at introduction for the reasons stated, in addition to the cost of marketing, only for it to fall drastically at the end of the patent-monopoly

Competitive landscape. The market price is not only affected by research cost/patent period, it is also affected by price by competition. Competition in this sense include drugs/previous product in use and those newer ones providing same/similar therapeutic outcome, including products in the same class, slight differences in efficacy, dosage forms, side-effect profile, etc.

Dosage form on its own exerts its effect on the retail price, as it has  significant costs, associated with logistic, packaging, usage, etc.,

Cost of API is at the core of the usual COGs, as most are manufactured and supplied by third parties. In the same vein are the excipients and production technology and equipment.

Place in the mix

This has to do with where and how the patient gets the product, in addition to how it gets there. Considerations include:

Is the product mainly stocked and or dispensed in hospitals/healthcare facilities  or at the retail end? For example, OTCs are mainly sold at the community pharmacies, while  products for oncology use are usually obtained in the tertiary institutions

Whether the item is a controlled substance or non-controlled impinges on the point of sale and price.

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Special storage and transportation system requirement often result in higher costs and therefore higher prices.

Dosage forms formulation and presentation affect pricing. For instance, Paracetamol suppository costs more than the tablet or syrup in general.

The choice of the market – be it select market or global launch – affects the cost. This is often related to regulatory and marketing costs

In setting the price, these things are important:

You most make money, which is the essence of being in business. This implies the prices must cover cost and leave something

There must be alignment of strategy and pricing. You can position your product as ‘premium’ and sell it cheap

You must keep an eye on competition, especially if what you sell is generic.

There is really no cap on your price, if you can get away with it!

Promotion in the mix

The following are the main issues and items concerning promotion in the marketing mix:

ATL/BTL. Above-the-line activities, like radio/TV commercials, are not permitted for ethical products. But they are an important part of the tools for OTC. Still, they are regulated. Below-the-line items include reminder/leave-behind printed materials and other strategies like biros, prescription pads, stickers.

Personal selling: This is the main tool for awareness and brand building efforts for PoM. It is the in-person presentation by medical representative with a view to persuading HCPs, using the features and benefits of the drug within the approved indications and in alignment with the product’s positioning.

Sales promotion. Short-term trade marketing tool to fill the channels and encourage above-usual stocking level by distributors, wholesalers, retailers, etc. It is usually with direct or indirect discount

Target audience. The target audience for PoM are usually doctors, pharmacists, nurses, etc. It is forbidden for such messages to be directed at the patients/end-users

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Product in the marketing mix

The product unique selling proposition and positioning can focus on one or more of the following:

Dosage: the frequencies of usage impacts seriously on compliance, which in turn affects clinical outcome. This has had huge positive effect on commercial success in many instances

Formulations. Age, patients’ preference, physical and mental state, appropriateness of route of administration, as well as onset of action have continued to drive product formulation which has been used to drive prescription habit and number.

Drug delivery/technology. Slow release formulations, injectable, dispersible tablets, soft gel presentations, etc., have been used to create a positioning strategy targeted at taking commanding heights of sales or differentiation in the market to place the product in the premium class

MOA. The better the understanding of the mode of action of a new pharmaceutical product entrant, the more respect it commands and the easier it is for it to acquire market share and acceptance by the HCPs.

Drug-drug Interactions can also be used as an effective USP.

Overall safety profile. The overall performance of the drug in this regard is extremely important to most physicians and affects its rate of adoption.

Safety in children and pregnant women

Product class. Certain classes are known to have some peculiar advantages or drawbacks that can be used to advantage or to displace them through communications.


Onset of action


This piece concludes the basics of marketing and branding as well as its specific application to pharmaceutical products. If you have followed this series from the beginning, let’s say that you have learnt a lot, but I must state that this is just the start of the knowledge you need to succeed as a pharmaceutical marketer


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