Building a Global Brand: Creating a Foundation Built on Global Commonality

—David J. Winigrad, President
—Maureen Winigrad, VP, Marketing & Strategy

The globalization of America’s consumer culture makes it easy for world travelers to get a familiar taste of home. Feeling homesick in Bangkok? Just stop and smell the latte at any of the city’s 34 Starbucks. You won’t need your English/Danish dictionary to order your favorite sandwich at a McDonald’s in Copenhagen–just say cheeseburger. And no matter where in the world you might be, chances are excellent that you’ll be able to quench your thirst with a locally obtained Coke or Pepsi, and it will taste just the way you expect it to.

While it’s easy to come up with examples of successful global branding in the consumer world, even pharmaceutical industry veterans have a hard time listing equivalents from their own industry. The reason is simple; there have been very few global branding successes in pharma.

While it is nice to be able to order a familiar-tasting latte in a familiar-looking cup during a visit to Bangkok, the availability of that latte is not a life or death proposition. That is not the case in the fight against HIV/AIDS, for example. In this context, effective global branding moves from being a “nice-to-have” tactic driven by bottom-line concerns to a “must-have” strategy driven by a desire to increase awareness of, and access to, medicines that alleviate human suffering.

Before Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s 2003 launch of Reyataz, a protease inhibitor used in combination with other antiretroviral agents for the treatment of HIV-1 infection, physicians and patients worldwide were demanding a chronic therapy that was effective, tolerable, and easier to live with. With Reyataz, the company knew it had a drug that met those clinical challenges and that could help physicians manage HIV/AIDS as a chronic disease. The goal was to create a global brand identity and communications platform for Reyataz to convey consistent positioning and provide instant brand recognition throughout the world.

Developing a launch strategy and a global brand identity with the following principles in mind should result in a consistent and successful worldwide introduction for your brands; it worked for Reyataz.

Make “global” the operative word. Everything that is done–from the formation of a “global coalition” to global market research–should be undertaken with that operative word in mind. Too often, the word “global” is simply stuck in front of “planning” and only after all the actual planning is complete. This can result in ineffective and nonstrategic “shoe-horning” of branding elements into other markets.

Determine universal commonalities rather than differences. The focus from the outset should be to seek out and build on commonalities shared by customers and markets around the world, rather than zeroing in on differences that made individual markets unique. This approach ensured the universal applicability of Reyataz’s position, hallmarks, and message. This approach also reduces the likelihood that any of the critical brand elements would be “tweaked” at the local level, at the risk of adulterating the global strategy.

Be sensitive to the internal challenges within the client’s organization. Experience with global branding has taught us that internal hurdles within the pharmaceutical organization can prove more daunting than external challenges. Therefore, it was imperative to involve those who might see the global initiative as an invasion of their turf as early as possible. A brand manager who is brought into the process late will not have any sense of ownership and is likely to focus only on why the initiative can’t work in his or her market.

Moving from macro to micro on implementation is critical. While it was important to never lose sight of the global objective, it was also critical to understand that implementing the strategy was going to require switching from a macro view of the overall situation to a micro view of individual market segments, specific challenges within those markets, and other issues as they arose. A strategy built on a foundation of commonality will be easily adaptable in local markets.

Original publication date: March, 2004; VIEW on Advertising
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