Big pharma gets a big brand boost

Many pharmaceutical companies are choosing this moment to rebrand, and the results signal a welcome new creative direction for the industry.

Until a year ago, pharma was the one of the last bastions of safe, characterless branding. The only thing distinguishing most companies was the name.

And why not? Pharmaceutical companies barely needed to promote or differentiate themselves from their competitors. Most industries live and die by how they respond to changing times, but people will always get sick, people will always need medicine.

Then the pandemic hit.

Frustrations that had been building for years came to a head. There was the build-up of misinformation among some patient groups, the failure to adapt to the rapidly evolving technology landscape and changing healthcare systems, as well as new competition for talent in the industry.

Change was coming. The industry could no longer afford to be insular – it needed to redefine the narrative, regain trust and rebuild its reputation. The resultant course correction is proving a creative breath of fresh air, with many pharmaceutical companies at different stages of revitalising their brand.

So, what can the creatives who work with these businesses look forward to?

  1. Differentiation
    In the world of pharma, products are known but not necessarily the company. The need to properly differentiate from competitors has been recognised. Anonymity is no longer an option. Pharma brands will no longer look anonymous, because the focus has shifted from the need for customers to trust an industry to the need for them to trust the brand.
  2. Humility
    The industry can no longer keep shouting ‘science is great’ when patients and healthcare systems are under such pressure. We are now seeing an industry accepting that they are only as successful as the partnerships they make with healthcare professionals, regulators and patients. This is apparent in the tone of voice and messaging now used by pharma companies, with an increased focus on building trust and deepening relationships.
  3. Emotional impact
    There is a new focus on how to best convey the emotional impact of medicine on people’s lives. Moving beyond clichéd approaches to photography and illustration – scientists in labs and patients attentively listening to their GP – towards more creative approaches to showing how lives are better lived.
  4. Colour
    The cool, emotionless colour palettes long associated with the industry are being replaced with bold new colour systems for a reimagining of how a pharmaceutical company can present itself.
  5. A greater emphasis on engaging employees and new talent 
    It is not enough to live by the mantra ‘If you build it, they will come’. A business needs to properly articulate its purpose and values. How this is articulated has become more important than ever in attracting and retaining staff.

From a brand perspective, pharma is having a revolutionary moment. As the aftermath of the pandemic and technological advancement move healthcare into a new phase, pharma companies are having to rethink their approach.

Here at FleishmanHillard and Ensemble Studio, we’re working with some of the world’s leading pharma companies on their brand activations. If you’re a pharma business and want to invigorate your brand or how you express it, get in touch.

Leo Cooper, Creative Director, Ensemble Studio, Fleishman UK