The Evolution of Brands

by Mark Sales | Jul 5, 2017

Brands evolve; they have to and always will. I can't think of a single corporate or product brand that hasn't followed Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

I'll discuss two types of brands in this blog, both close to my heart and both with more in common than you may think. Also, in the spirit of openness, I suggest Kantar Health's recent Edge of insight report for a more in depth read. Click here

I've lived in and around the city of Manchester in the UK and consider myself at least an honorary Mancunian. It's a city I studied in, and like many of my friends at university, I instantly yearned to return to. It’s a special city. I liken it to Portland on the West Coast of the United States. It’s a city that gave the world the industrial revolution, the first ever railway station, iconic music like the Smiths and the Stone Roses, plus two of the world’s largest sports teams - Manchester United and Manchester City. Yet, it’s a city that for all the ups has had some of the biggest lows. From being decimated by the Luftwaffe in World War II, the IRA and most recently the terror attack on a concert venue full of children. Manchester is a city based on itself. The people are proud and brand Manchester has one of the strongest corporate reputations of anywhere I know. Its size to share of global voice is amazing. Whenever I get into a taxi in Singapore I only have to mention the M word and there's instant recognition.


But it’s been a lifecycle, where the city has had to course correct at many points. There have been many external events where the city has had to very quickly understand how to plan and react, and through which channel. The recent riots and terror attack have been the catalysts and drivers for one of the smartest branding campaigns I've ever seen - the iloveMCR campaign, which has turned extreme negatives into strength. 

While this is a whole other world to healthcare, I personally see many parallels to how we need to start looking at our own industry. For too long we have believed an alleged truism that you just get the first six months right and the trajectory is set, peak sales.....everything. I would argue, and we go into a lot more depth in the white paper, that you need to break out your brand, corporate or product, into the stages of its life cycle and understand your messaging, resourcing, channel mix at each stage. This can lead to course correction of strategy and a completely different outcome across the whole life cycle. I like to think of a pharma brand's life cycle as a ship leaving New York - a half degree course change at various points can have a drastic effect as to whether you land on a canary island beach or the north of Scotland.

Throughout the life cycle there is an opportunity to evaluate the way the brand drives access, how the brand is perceived, and how you execute your strategy. Each one of these will have a greater or lesser effect depending on the market environment and how you deliver tactically. But think about the big ship, it may not seem a big change now but the end point is very different.

Brand MCR has course corrected, optimised its channel strategy and driven a global brand to global heights that far outweighs the city's population and spending power. Brand MCR accomplishes this through an understanding that you can always course correct. Can you do the same by breaking out of the obsession  of "launch or nothing" in pharma?

I must sign off with an unbelievably moving poem read at the vigil in Manchester.


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