Brand Linkage in Pharma Branding

What is the generic definition of Brand Linkage?

When you are viewing your favorite serial on the small screen and during the breaks, you see a flurry of ads. what do? Start browsing other channels. Or mute the TV. You see a lot of mundane ads on TV these days.

And do you know who is the most sought-after personality as a brand ambassador currently? Of course, undoubtedly Amitabh Bachchan. And if my count is correct, at least one in every five features Amitabh Bachchan as Brand Ambassador. But once the ad is over, say 30 minutes later or when you want to make a buying decision, do you recall the brand he promotes? At least I do not.

This is a case of Brand Linkage failure: “Saw a great ad – don’t remember which brand it’s for –”

David Aaker defines Brand Linkage as “the degree to which the consumer understands a commercials message is for a specific brand of product”.

If you extend this to pharma brand promotion in India, I would define Brand Linkage as:

Brand Linkage is the degree to which the prescriber understands that the brand message is for the specific brand of the company and not of the generic product nor the category or the segment.”

For instance, if you are promoting Storvas, the promotion should be for Brand Storvas and not for atorvastatin.

If the doctor remembers and prescribes Brand Storvas, the Brand Linkage is very strong.

But after you promote Storvas the doctor links it to any other brand of atorvastatin, and then prescribes Atorva, Atocor or Aztor the Brand Linkage is a dismal failure. This is also called ‘antes’ or ‘table-stake’ promotion.

Strengthening Brand Linkage

Here are the three principles on which you can strengthen brand linkage.

  1. Attention

As David Ogilvy says: “A headline must grab the reader’s attention in a fraction of a second”. Is your headline able to do that?

Your promotional material too should stand out in the clutter. Take a risk and do something creatively different from what your doctors expect.

In 2017, one of my clients launched a new drug for cognitive dysfunction. The doctors were requested to play a game of draughts on a Tablet- which the medical representative carried with him.

The draughts board was configured in such a way that the medical representative lost the game in just two to three moves.

And then the medical representative went on to say “For people like me with cognitive dysfunctions, can I introduce…?”

The headline synced with the game of draughts and made the brand recall very high.

  1. Communication

The best communication for your brand occurs when you

  1. Personalise it
  2. Focus on its Unique Selling Proposition
  3. Have a single-minded positioning
  4. Top it up with emotion.

Personalized communication with a focus on its USP is robust communication. Garnish it with single-minded,  bulls-eye positioning. And top it with emotional communication. This can help your prescriber to create a distinctive place for your brand in her mind.

This can also effectively deter competition.

Emotion is the potent glue available for branding. It addresses the ‘WHY’ of your brand as it tickles the limbic system.  Your doctor prescribes emotionally and later justifies her prescription decision with a rationale. Obviously, this is because emotional benefits are powerful as they work beyond the awareness level of the doctor.

Begin your story with emotion and then move to logic and rationality.

  1. Stickiness

According to Harvard Business Review, “consumer brand stickiness involves consumers purchasing or trying the brand, continuing to use it over time, and maybe even advocating it. In other words, sticky brands are tried out, used over and over again, and touted with others”.

In the pharma space, brand stickiness is the repeat prescriptions behavior shown by your prescriber.

If your prescriber has to stick to your brand, she has to perceive that there is no viable alternative to your brand. You may also induce in her the fear of trying a new brand.

And if you are able to do this with your key opinion leaders, “Ah, Ah”! What more do you want?

This is where digital media can help in the rapidly changing world. Facebook Page, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Instagram can be used. Besides, portals for doctors like Docplexus serve as excellent media for increasing brand stickiness.

To conclude, the best BRAND LINKAGE comes when your promotional material is able to grab the doctor’s attention towards your brand through your crisp, personal, and emotional communication. Blend it profusely through phygital media, to enhance its stickiness.

Written by:

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Vivek Hattangadi – Chief Mentor at
PharmaState & The Enablers

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