Marketing and Branding for Pharmaceuticals


Over the last few editions, we had focused on the basic universal concepts and principles of marketing. In the first part, we had discussed (and defined, where necessary) terms and concepts such as marketing itself, need, wants, demand, exchange, transaction, market, and other related issues. In the second part, we treated value chain and distribution network, product, price, promotion, distribution, the four Ps (plus the corresponding four Cs) and the marketing mix.

In the last edition, we treated marketing orientations (product, production, selling, marketing and society orientations), segmentation, market targeting, differentiation and ideas associated with them.

However, specifically for the pharmaceutical industry, it is essential to point out the following:

The pharma industry is uniquely different

Medicines and pharmaceuticals generally are very different from other goods and services in many respects. This uniqueness impacts how pharmaceuticals are marketed, especially with respect to marketing communications and distribution. How is the pharma industry, as discussed earlier different from FMCGs?

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Specifically, the patient, in terms of his or her needs is, at the centre of the pharmaceutical sector. What the patient gets in the final analysis is influenced by:

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Primary service providers – as in, hospitals, healthcare facilities, laboratories, etc.

Third parties. Though yet to be popular here, insurance companies are the payer of the services enjoyed by the patient in search of good health and restoration. The government, as payers, have considerable influence.

Healthcare professionals. Unlike the other markets, the end-user has little influence over what he consumes. Rather, it is the doctor and the other healthcare professionals that decide the specific product and brand to be consumed by the end-user.

Pharma companies are the primary vehicle for research into new products and innovations. They are also the manufacturers, distributors and marketers of the products. Needless to say that in the Nigerian environment, most players are only into importation, sales and distribution.

Employers as full or part payers

Regulators, of HCP and of the importation, manufacturing and marketing of medicines

Discovery-to-market is long and expensive

The pyramid of influence is depicted below:

We already noted that the patient is the sun around which other stakeholders in healthcare revolve. But the patient is not a “constant”; that is:

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Each patient is different from the other in terms of needs, wants and rights.

Buying decisions are more complicated; buying decision is sometimes beyond the payer.

The extent to which the patient adheres to the professional advice/instruction of HCPs has a huge impact, from the pharmaceutical marketing perspective. Furthermore,

30 per cent of Rx are never filled

50 per cent of patients don’t follow the dosage

Reasons for non-compliance include complexity of dosage regimen, perception of disease, family influence, age, and poor communication.

Clinicians and other HCPs are never constant, as their behaviour is influenced by:

Pros and cons of current treatment available

Technical ability to understand the drug, heavily influenced by marketers and their efforts.

Knowledge of standard practice that helps how patients are viewed and treated by physicians

This enables the brand manager to develop SWOT analysis

Pharmaceutical selling

Selling actualises marketing effort and strategy. In the pharma industry, selling is also uniquely different in a lot of ways, such as:

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The key customers type, especially for ethical or prescription medicines are the healthcare professionals – doctors, pharmacists, nurses, laboratory technologists, physiotherapists, etc.

The physician and other healthcare professionals, as the customers, have three aspects to their personalities – an HCP, a businessperson and a human-personality

In selling to them, these personae must be considered.

“Needs” in pharma marketing has a special lingo, based on the science of human health and wellness. It is originally clinical as in efficacy, safety, tolerability, speed of action, quality, cost, side effects, etc. However, new paradigms have extended it to include patient lifestyle, quality of life, redefining the patient population, redefining disease yardsticks and consideration for personal needs (security, social acceptance, self-esteem, self-actualization, etc.)

Tunde Oyeniran, a Sales/Marketing Strategist, Selling/Sales Management Trainer and Personal Sales Coach is the Lead Consultant, Ekini White Tulip Consulting Limited, Lagos.  We deliver Training, Recruitment, Online Medical Communications Service and Field Force Management Solutions Feedback. Channels 080-2960-6103 (SMS/WhatsApp) / or check out


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