Dispelling the 5 myths of biopharma brand planning

Many biopharma marketers have worked for more than one company during their career. One of the great benefits of doing this is that the marketer can see the ways different companies address common industry needs and processes. Take brand planning for example: Standard outputs include brand strategy, an operational plan, and a budget, yet the paths that companies take to these deliverables can vary widely.

Because we work with dozens of leading biopharma companies and their brand teams, GoodRx has learned a thing or two about the annual brand planning process and the way various companies manage it. We’ve also discovered that marketers can sometimes fall prey to certain common myths and bad practices around brand planning. Here are five of the most common brand planning myths that experienced marketers tell us everyone should avoid:

Myth #1: Terms and labels mean the same thing across the industry.

While the goal of having a successful brand plan is the same for every team, companies often use very different terminology and labels to describe their goals or processes. We’ve even seen two teams within the same company use different terms to describe the same thing, a situation that often arises because of past mergers and acquisitions. Simply, labels and terms can mean different things to different people.

At GoodRx, we often talk about our platform helping brands with awareness, access, and adherence. However, we make sure to discuss these seemingly obvious terms with each of our brand team customers and their agencies before we help them design and launch a program. It’s a good idea to do this within your own team and with each member of your agency teams to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language throughout the planning process.

Myth #2: External partners shouldn’t be involved before tactical planning.

Agencies and other external partners are often boxed into tactical planning instead of being included in trend analyses, competitive landscaping, goal setting, and strategy development. Yet external partners work with a range of clients over many years, and their senior personnel have often learned best practices that can be shared without compromising another company’s confidentiality. They can therefore provide broader perspectives and experiences to the brand team, much like the sound advice you can obtain from an experienced attorney, accountant, or other advisor.

The account managers at GoodRx can often help a brand team set and achieve more ambitious goals for reach and utilization of their marketing and copay programs, but only if they are brought in early enough to offer their expertise during the initial planning stages. GoodRx’s ability to deliver ‘results-plus’ is due to the deep relationships and trust it has earned valuable with HCP and consumer audiences over the past 10 years.

Myth #3: Starting from scratch is a good idea.

Many brand leaders, especially if they are new to their role, want to ‘make their mark’ by creating next year’s plan from the bottom up. That’s almost never a good idea. While it’s important to have a fresh perspective and try new things, you can’t just erase the past. A better approach is to build on whatever you inherited from your predecessors, even if much of that work must be quickly retired to make way for your team’s great ideas.

Unless you’re planning for launch, you often have access to historical plans, assets, and programs, including data that tell you how well they are performed. Doing more of what works – and less of what doesn’t – is usually a better plan than trying to build everything from scratch, even if your ‘brand renovation’ ultimately involves a complete replacement. Just don’t try to change everything at once, or you may find yourself bogged down, overwhelmed, and unsure where to place your bets.

Myth #4: The planning process has a clear beginning and end.

The fact that many companies send a planning calendar each year with clear milestones makes it seem as though planning is a finite business activity. That’s just not the case. Yes, there are deadlines for a handful of deliverables, but truly exceptional brand planning happens continuously.

The best brand managers simply use the annual planning cycle as an opportunity to seek additional funding and resources. The reality is that they’re course-correcting the current year’s plan and budget while using those lessons to build an even stronger plan for next year. To them, there isn’t really a beginning or end to planning – there are just some due dates and scheduled times when they can showcase their ideas.

Myth #5: The final plan will speak for itself.

A work by Picasso can stand on its own, but as great as it may be, your brand plan cannot. You’re going to need to sell it, both formally and through countless hallway conversations, over and over and over. Clear and frequent communication through a variety of channels and with both internal and external partners is essential.

Managing up and stakeholder engagement with partners and peers are unwritten elements of any successful brand planning process, and you need to ensure you’re devoting significant energy and resources to maintain these important relationships. It’s also critical to collaborate with external partners to make sure they understand the context of your plans and thinking, including how your brand plans are created, presented, evaluated, and ultimately approved and funded.

Brand planning is a core responsibility of biopharma brand managers, and doing it well is often one of the steps a senior executive masters on the climb up their career ladder. However, each company approaches it somewhat differently, and those differences matter. Part of our job at GoodRx is to help each of our brand team customers balance the tried-and-true with the new and exciting, so that our copay assistance, patient support, and expanding suite of messaging and engagement solutions work seamlessly within the brand’s larger plan. To learn more about the ways GoodRx can help you and your brand, click here.

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