The First 3 Commandments of Internal Branding


In the last blog post, I promised to bring greater detail to how pharma companies should brand a product internally before reaching out to the public.

The first three “commandments” generally occur during Phase II of a planned drug launch, and provide a company an initial chance to brand a drug prior to market entry.

First Commandment: Name or “brand” a new medical condition to enable professional education and discussion about human disease states that may invoke social sensitivity or stigma.

This is the first step necessary to introducing a potential product that will be intended to treat an unknown or sensitive condition. Using this tenet, a company can educate employees and then the public about the causes and treatments of a disease. This can be very helpful when the discussions can become uncomfortable or sensitive.

Think back to before Pfizer launched Viagra. At that time, the term erectile dysfunction didn’t exist. Instead, the word used was impotence. However, Pfizer and subsequent companies positioned the condition as a medical rather than a lifestyle issue and created the prejudice-free clinical term, “erectile dysfunction,” now known as “ED.”

Executives that Best Practices, LLC, spoke with recommended that the naming or branding start before pre-launch education. This allows investigators and thought-leaders to use the term when first writing about the condition, and later when reviewing clinical studies.

Second Commandment: Put a human face on the medical condition.

Successfully communicating the severity of a disease to employees requires more than providing statistics about the number of patients affected.

Top-class brand teams “put a human face on the disease.” Showing the suffering that a disease causes offers an exceptionally powerful communication strategy. The benefits of humanizing the disease include:

  • Demonstrating to employees that a new condition is “real” to drive empathy. Sharing patient stories with employees and gathering patient testimonials creates better understanding.
  • Fostering professional behavior by encouraging respect for patients and families. As one interviewed Executive Director said, “Professional behavior [such as refraining from off-color remarks] is driven by respect for patients and what they’re going through.”
  • Building job satisfaction. Another director shared that, “Once you get the patient insight and you can kind of step into those shoes and walk around, you feel good about the work you do and you’re proud to be associated with that.”
  • Helping employees to retain the science. Matching the science to a patient story gives employees a grounding in what challenges an individual faces.

Commandment Three: Use a structured approach to effectively communicate and educate regarding the disease state.

Effective internal disease state communication includes clear education objectives, tight processes for message control and prepared responses to product questions or challenges that employees encounter in social situations.

Veteran pharmaceutical leaders stressed the need for a plan before launching an internal communication program. The original message is what people will remember, so avoid mistakes while trying to prepare for launch.

Unfortunately, this tenet gets overlooked often and causes a lot of needless stress to

The best practices for setting internal communication objectives include:

  • Understanding and aligning communications with the positioning, goals and market definition that have been established for the brand.
  • Coordinating with the brand team to set communication objectives that support brand goals.
  • Creating consistent terminology. For example, if the brand is to be positioned as a treatment for a condition, make sure messages use the word “condition” rather than “disease.”
  • Testing message effectiveness on groups of employees before general internal (or external) release.


Author: Cameron Tew (Executive Director of Research Services)

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