Building Purposeful Brands

Our new column focuses on building great healthcare brands: strong, tangible brands with a clear purpose, anchored to customer needs and the relevant market.

At Strategic North, we spend our working lives alongside our pharma clients doing just that, building purposeful brands.

For us, the human element is where it starts because in the end it is a human being who makes a decision about what they will do and if and how it will include a specific product. Knowing what those key human beings need, want, value, are concerned about is critical to truly understanding how any product becomes a brand. A client recently commented to us that we spoke to more customers in a week than most of his colleagues did in a year and we do and before we label them as customers, patients, payers etc. we think of them first and foremost as human beings.

Our insights into the views, motivations and behaviors of those human beings in their roles as physicians, nurses, patients and payers allied to our knowledge of multiple pharma companies and healthcare systems around the world, gives us a unique perspective of the healthcare world and of what is required to build brands on a foundation of human (the customer) and scientific understanding.

You need to approach the product, the data, from the perspective of the human being.We love working in the pharmaceutical industry: the value it brings to patients and wider society. If we can play our small part in helping to build brands that engage with people and provide greater or quicker access to the brilliant innovations the industry develops then that is truly motivating for us.

You need to approach the product, the data, from the perspective of the human being".

So why brand building in healthcare?

All the time we hear things like “it is all about the data” and to some extent that is true because no data, no proof and no proof, then no reason to believe. Right there is the crux of it: ‘believe’. You need to approach the product, the data, from the perspective of the human being.

As an example, let us say that human being has a role as a physician. That physician gets to the hospital at 8am, after having breakfast and making the packed lunches for their children for school. They need to see the ward nurse and their physician colleagues. They then do a ward round before going to run a clinic. They need to review patient notes, they need to add to patient notes and then deal with correspondence from other physician, patients, ward managers etc. At some poin,t they need to go home and fulfil their roles as mother or father, husband or wife and then, if they are lucky, they find some time to just be who they are as a person. How much time in all of that do they have to internalise the data, to put it into context and to apply it to their world? The answer is very little.

Instead, they do what human beings have evolved to do over tens of thousands of years. They create mental shortcuts; based on their experience, their knowledge, their beliefs, what they do already and the experiences of others around them. They construct a place for new information and apply a relevance and a value for them. The most important bit is they do 90% of this subconsciously, without awareness. This is the role of brand, if you do not build a brand for a product then the human being who uses that product will build their own and they will build lots of different brands depending on what they see, hear, do and feel.

Whether you choose to invest in building a brand for a product or not, a brand will always be built because the human being who uses the product will define what it means to them. Building a brand provides continuity and commonality in the real world and consistency in where and when the product is used, by whom, for whom and most importantly why it is used.

What next?

In the coming blogs, we are going to explore how to build those brands with examples of how we have supported clients in building brands and we will share some of what we have learned on that journey. These include:

  • How your customers are making decisions, every day: customers make judgements and decisions about your brands, using ‘fast thinking’ and ‘slow thinking’. Why does this matter and how it could be applied to your brand?
  • An integrated journey: treatment pathways and patient journeys are often treated in silos but are inextricably linked, so an integrated approach is far more powerful.
  • Jobs to be done: identifying and mapping your customers’ jobs to be done as a tool to identify true customer unmet needs.
  • The power of push and pull: In order for customers to change their behavior, there must be a drive, belief, or a reason to do so. Considering the factors that will be weighed up in favor or against changing behavior is crucial to building your brand.
  • Why the future is important to your brand today: often the future is deemed too distant, too scary or too vague to consider in building your brand today, but nothing could be more short-sighted.
  • Do you know your brand’s road to prescription? How considering the journey taken by the drug, from the point of regulatory approval to the prescribing decision being made, can identify new opportunities for your brand.

In addition to sharing insights on healthcare brand building, we also aim to stimulate thinking and debate with our peers. So, if by reading our column you learn something new, change your perspective of healthcare brand building in some way, and act on at least one idea you never had before, then we will have done our job. We hope you enjoy it and if you can offer feedback, share your experiences or suggest other topic areas of interest, we’d really like to hear your thoughts. You can reach us via email at and

David Coleiro and Michael White are Directors at Strategic North. Both have around 20 years of global experience within pharma insight, brand and commercial roles.

In their ‘Building Purposeful Brands’column, they share their unique insights on the world of healthcare and healthcare brands. Strategic North is a healthcare marketing agency that works with clients in the pharmaceutical industry around the globe to build the successful brands of today and tomorrow, grounded in human insight and scientific understanding. David, Michael and their colleagues tweet @StrategicNorthand blog at

Since you're here...
... and value our content, you should sign-up to our newsletter. Sign up here

Latin America Awards 2015

May 7, 2015 - May 7, 2015, Miami

The eyeforpharma Latin America Awards recognize those in the pharmaceutical industry who are driving pharma forwards not just with higher short-term profits, but with better customer innovation, value and outcomes leading to longer-term success.