What is the “purple pill?” Most people can instantly identify this as the core branding identity behind one of the best selling prescription drugs: Nexium. But would the science behind the drug command a similar reaction of immediate recognition?
Branding the science is just as important as building the brand, and may in fact be a part of its core foundation. The unique scientific attributes of the compound are key to differentiating the brand from its competitors and establishing its overall value. Before there are platforms, positions, and brand personalities, there is a molecule that has to be called something by the press, publications, investors, investigators, and the competition.
Often, the terms used to describe new market entrants are arbitrary, focus on a particular aspect of the molecule, and are commonly predetermined by medical researchers. Scientists may excel at science—but communication of the benefits of that science is often not so clear and meaningful. Science is rife with arbitrary labels that have little or nothing to do with the key properties of the thing described, or why we should care about the molecule in the first place. Even in the most well documented content areas, such as the hepatitis C virus, labels for fundamental drug properties are essentially random. NS5a? NS3a? The labels for protease inhibitors simply reference the proteins identified in a laboratory assay. There is something here, but naming an entire class of drug over something as banal as “non structural protein 5a” seems like an enormous lost opportunity to talk about the truly differentiating properties of the drug.
However, a strong scientific lexicon is the first critical step to introducing a new product or brand long before it actually comes to market. It must accurately reflect the scientific elements of the story and be clear, concise, and simple. The scientific lexicon must also be differentiating, sustainable, ownable, and must create a unified value proposition across a broad range of stakeholders. Most importantly, the scientific lexicon must be evocative and memorable.
The foundations of a clear scientific lexicon are not inherent in dense academic jargon, and must instead be strategically constructed. To do so, the linguistic landscape of the compound or disease state must be analyzed, while the competitive issues facing the brand and its unique scientific attributes must be identified. Class designation, molecule name, or disease-related language can be built and delivered via virtually any medium.
Once established, the opportunities to leverage the scientific lexicon for a new brand are nearly limitless. However it is essential that marketers begin by saturating internal communications and ingraining routine use among the people who work with the brand every day, such as commercial and clinical teams as well as MSLs.
As pharmaceutical marketers, the opportunity to signal that what is coming now is different from what has come before should not be overlooked or squandered. Once a drug looks reasonably certain to launch—with the amount of talk generated about it by analysts, the medical community, and advocates—it is time to establish significant differentiation in the minds of readers. A strategically crafted scientific lexicon has the potential to be as iconic as bold colors and a catchy tagline. Let’s give products the language that does the molecule justice.
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