3 Common Myths in Pharma Branding Busted

Case Study  

Abbas and Mustafa are brand managers in V & V Pharmaceuticals. While on the way to a new product launch they were discussing myths and why should they be busted.

Said Abbas, while picking a book on Greek mythology from the bookstore at the airport, “Greek mythology has left us with a huge treasure of tales; with envious gods, courageous heroes, epic adventures and stories of vengeance and love.”

“Yes,” replied Mustafa, “The corpus of Greek mythology is immense and we would need several volumes of books to cover most of the stories.”

“And we have so many myths in healthcare too,” smiled Abbas, “and perhaps we wouldn’t have been living today if these myths had not been busted. And the worst of them is about how diseases are caused by the imbalance of four humors in our body”

“What!!! Can you tell me a bit more no this Abbas?”

“Humoralism is an ancient myth which said that good health came from the balance between the bodily liquids termed humors. This theory, or rather a posited that there were four key humors, or liquids, in the human body and those imbalances in these humors were responsible for many physical and mental illnesses. The humors were phlegm (water), blood, gall (also called black bile), thought to be secreted by the kidneys), and choler (or yellow bile) secreted by the liver. The humoral theory existed much before Hippocrates, and myth was busted only in the 19th century, 1858 to be precise. (Reference https://www.medicinenet.com/humoralism/definition.htm, Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD Reviewed on 3/29/2021 Medical Definition of Humoralism)

“And the worst fall out of this was bloodletting, the practice of withdrawing blood from a person’s veins for therapeutic reasons — was common for thousands of years.”

“And bloodletting even had a medical term – phlebotomy”

Mustafa burst out laughing. “It’s not a laughing matter Mustafa, On December 14, 1799, President George Washington died at his home after a brief illness and after losing about 40 percent of his blood. So what killed the 67-year-old President George Washington? Washington fell ill and died in a 21-hour period. But the illness as diagnosed by his physicians isn’t one of those likely causes of death. It was acute epiglottitis and the symptoms were fever and a sore throat. And it was this same group of physicians that let massive amounts of Washington’s blood in an attempt to cure him!” (Ref: https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/the-mysterious-death-of-george-washington)

Responded Mustafa, “It looks like the truth is that physicians of George Washington did the best they could, against a pathologically implacable foe, using now antiquated and discredited theories of medical practice”

“Absolutely Mustafa, and today there are several myths in pharma marketing which need to be busted and the surprising truths need to be discovered.” 

As a pharma brand manager, you are constantly bombarded with best practices for branding. To help you find truth in the chaos, here are three common pharma branding myths and the surprising truths behind them.

Come, let us discover the surprising truths!

Myth #1 – Digital is the Ultimate in Pharma Branding and Brand Managers should become Experts in Digital Marketing.

The Surprising Truth – Digital is just another medium of communication – an alternate to print media like medical journals, printed scientific material, books, and many more.

What you require is a strategy for driving digital branding. Develop a consistent brand strategy to use as a guide for successful growth.

Pharma India should deploy a separate digital marketing team led by the CDE or the Chief Digital Executive

It is almost next to impossible for a brand manager to duplicate as a digital marketer. The skill sets required are different for a brand manager and for a digital marketer.

But it is proper that a brand manager must have full knowledge of digital marketing and the capabilities which a digital marketer should have. They have to work in tandem. He should be the virtual leader of the digital marketer; even leading the CDE through his influence.

And finally, let me quote David Aaker: “Digital investments, like any other use of capital, should only be made when companies are clear on how they will serve the largest purpose. Addressing just the digital possibility in a siloed view is a sure-fire way for a business to fall short in today’s reality. It is the combination of instilling a human-focused process with digital capabilities and prowess that sets up a business for customer-centric success.” (1)

What he talks about is Phygital Marketing. 

So, the truth – It is Phygital that is going to drive pharma marketing in India in the 21st Century. Two separates, but closely aligned, brand management and digital marketing teams are required to drive Phygital. (2,3)

Myth #2 – Brand Managers alone are responsible for building powerful pharma brands

The Surprising Truth – The close alliance between the strategy crafting teams and the strategy execution teams has seldom been emphasized in Pharma India. It is next to impossible for a pharma brand manager to build a brand without active support from the sales team in general, and the medical representatives and first-line managers in particular. (4)

The brand manager may craft a Nobel Prize-winning strategy but what’s the use of that strategy if it is not executed?

And who is responsible for strategy execution? The sales team, with the first-line manager being accountable. Why the first-line manager? Because the strategy implementers, the medical representatives, report to the first-line managers!

I hope at least the pharma business schools educate this aspect of strategy crafting to their students.

For superior execution, using the Fair Process (also called the 3 E process) should be adapted to build strategy execution in the strategy. (5) Besides the first-line managers should also be made conscious that is the field extension of the corporate brand management team, nay, an integral part of the brand management team.

So, the truth – Powerful pharma brands cannot be built without active support and participation by the sales team.

Myth #3 – The current Transactional Marketing Model will stay.

The Surprising Truth – This myth is spread by those in brand management and sales management teams who do not wish to come out of their comfort zones.

The reality is the awareness of the patients of the disease and treatment is increasing day after day, with all information available with Almighty Google. People believe more what they read on social media. Doctors and the pharma industry too are aware of this and very few in the future will dare to put their online and offline reputation at stake or under the scanner of the National Medical Commission.

Patient-centric marketing will become a fundamental pillar in the future of pharma branding.

No decision about me, without me, (6) will soon be the norm; if not today, maybe in the next five years. And that’s a certainty. And this will be all along the patient journey, before a diagnosis, a referral, and after a diagnosis.

And once the patient-centric marketing is adapted the role of medical representatives will evolve into knowledge workers. The training teams will have to be geared up to keep in tune with future trends.

So, the truth – Transactional Marketing Model will pave way for a patient-centric Marketing Model. And this is what Phygital marketing is all about!

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceTake home points from Deliberation-15

Good Marketing Practices and Ethical Practices by hospitals and doctors will make way for building trust. Blend this with a patient-centric approach. No doctor or hospital will put their online and offline reputation at stake or would like to come under the scanner of the National Medical Commission.

The future will see the doctors resonating with your brand and becoming your brand advocates

Written by:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Vivek-Hattangadi-Photo-comp..jpg
Vivek Hattangadi – Chief Mentor at
PharmaState & The Enablers

One Comment

  • PharmaState Academy

    Very insightful Sir

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