Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Case Study: Reolysin, a Cancer-killing reovirus

Pharmaceutical branding is a delicate balance between creating likeability and communicating scientific viability. That’s why it is so important that the consultancy who develops your branding understands the scientific concept of your product.

The case of Reolysin, a virus that attacks and destroys cancer cells, is a perfect example of a product that achieved this balance. In essence, administering this drug involves infecting the patient with a virus, and when you are talking about infecting a person who is already sick with cancer, it is a tough pill to swallow.

Oncolytics Biotech, the company that makes Reolysin, understood the difficult position they were in. They conducted extra long clinical trials to prove more conclusively that the product not only worked, but also that it was safe.

One of the major differences that comes with pharmaceutical branding is the target audience. For the most part, the audience is scientifically savvy. But drugs also have a public persona. And with all of the recent “Big Pharma” scandals of late, controlling the brand identity of products, especially new products that utilize new science, is vitally important.

Read more at the PharmaExec website.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Branding clinical trials -- promise doesn't mean bravado

Amid the torrent of media attention to failed drugs, mislabeled drugs, and drugs that do not do what they say they do, there are increasingly calls for more clinical proof. Everyone from insurance companies to doctors, from medical journals to patients -- they all want to know they are getting what they are bargaining for.

So, the pharmaceutical industry is responding with more new trials that attempt to make the case for their products.

Two recent head-to-head trials are apropos for discussion: Bristol-Myers Squibb’s PROVE-IT trial in 2003 and Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceutical’s ENHANCE trial concluded earlier this year. Both are examples of drug-versus-drug comparisons, and both suffered from the same fatal flaw.

The financial danger of a comparison study, of course, is that your drug fails. That is not a position you want to find yourself in. Failure is one thing, but what this brings beyond the immediate consequences is a raft of attention – and not the kind of attention you want.

Both PROVE-IT and ENHANCE set themselves up in a bet-the-farm proposition. Their trial campaigns carried with them extreme overconfidence. While I'm not qualified to comment on the study design, I can critique the brand design. We would never recommend branding a trial, head-to-head or otherwise, with such bravado, arrogance, and potential over-promise.

Read more about both these cases: ENHANCE Trial; PROVE IT Trial

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Case Study: Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development

The advances of the Pharma industry mean very little if the drugs don’t get to the sick people. And in third world countries, crushing poverty and rampant malfeasance often prevent proper distribution of drugs to the people who need it.

Recognizing a need, Novartis has created a foundation that focuses on providing “pioneering health projects in developing countries aimed at achieving specific goals in the fight against poverty and disease as well as at inspiring and improving development policy and practice.”

One of the ways Novartis achieves their goals is through educational events. They recognize that the efforts must be taken to the people, into the remote villages. It is not just about drug costs and drug supplies. Access is an important key, as is education.

Events are a powerful tool in energizing a group to action. By creating a compelling presentation -- using language that is meaningful to your audience -- you can achieve maximum message effect. The impact of groups can be felt through a powerful personal connection, and this method is often more meaningful than print materials or visual representations. Involvement is a key aspect to the power of group events.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Case Study: More than a logo

Xerox recently changed its logo, hoping its visual brand would help the public company identity catch up with the philosophical changes the modern Xerox represents.

The Xerox case illustrates a couple of points. First, forging a brand identity is a scientific process of learning what is meaningful to your customers. According to a January 8th article in PharmaLive, Xerox “spent more than 18 months interviewing some 5,000 people around the world about their associations with the Xerox name. Then they set about figuring how they could best retain the nice things it stands for (dependability and stability), jettison the not-so-nice (formal, somewhat stodgy) — and, most important, add attributes like modern, innovative and flexible.”

Also important to note with the Xerox case is that a brand identity is more than a change in philosophy and it is more than a logo. Xerox has not been a “copier company” for years, having grown beyond that and into networked printing solutions. Their philosophies had changed, but their identity stayed put.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that brands are about the entire package. As my Forward. Fast.® tool suggests, the brand links together the qualities of industry reputation (Likeability), visual impact (Logo), caliber of products (Quality Offering), connections to meaningful partners (Associations), brand personality (Attitude), and product interactions (Quality Experience). The way customers analyze all of these elements as a whole is what they perceive as your brand identity.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Good, the bad, and the ugly: line extensions of 2007

According to, a line extension is a “Multiproduct branding strategy whereby a firm markets one or more new products under an already established and well known brand name. The objective is to serve different customer needs or market segments while taking advantage of the widespread name recognition of the original brand. For example, maker of a popular perfume may introduce shampoos, bath soaps, body powders, etc., under the perfume's name. Line extension is encouraged by some marketing experts and frowned upon by others. Also called brand extension.”

A recent web survey listed out some of the best and worst examples of line extensions gone awry:

“The brands that did it right found a way to create innovative, succesful extensions that are in harmony with the core brand.” Ranking according to survey results showed the top 4 line extension of 2007 as:

1. PetSmart PetsHotel
2. Huggies Little Swimmers sunscreen
3. Disney's Fairy Tale wedding gowns
4. American Idol camp

On the other hand, the worst had some commonalities. “Too often new products stray from their core values "to the point where there is no relation to the brand at all," said Ries.” The three worst extensions were:

1. Precious Moments coffins
2. Humane Society Do Lovers Wine Club
3. Girls Gone Wild apparel

Read more about it at Brandweek.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Customer Research and Insights Analysis

If you’re tired of those endless customer service phone trees, check out this article from the December 3 Brandweek:

People Uproot Customer Service Woes By 'Weeding'

If you've ever tried calling a customer service department to complain about a product or service, you know the drill: Dial the phone number of the customer service department, navigate an endless maze of automated voice prompts, reach a live human and, finally, begin to explain your situation. If you zapped an entire lunch hour doing this, you're far from alone.

But there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it's not a train steaming in your direction. According to Yankelovich, Chapel Hill, N.C., more consumers are taking control by finding and mastering ways to circumvent such problems as customer service obstacle courses. And, perhaps more important to retailers, more consumers have taken to "weeding," meaning they have a willingness to drop trusted products to go with companies that are substantive, accountable and honest.

According to Yankelovich's Consumer Empowerment Ratchets Up Expectations:
• 82% of consumers think it's important to speak with a live company
representative when seeking customer service.
• 27% are willing to pay extra for this.
• With more people shopping via the Internet, and with so many companies based
overseas, 71% say having customer-service reps in the U.S. is important.
• 25% are willing to pay more for this.

Consumer Empowerment also offers tips for retailers:
• Give customer-facing employees the flexibility to craft customized solutions.
• Give employees the opportunity for more impromptu dialogue and creative
problem solving.
• Provide automatically updated status reports to consumers seeking information
on where their case stands.

Still frustrated? Go to, a list of more than 500 companies, customer service numbers and details on the fastest way to reach live company reps.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

McDonald’s is taking on Starbucks with their McCafe

They’ve been working out the kinks with this latest brand innovation overseas, and now the biggest change in McDonald’s product offerings in 30 years is coming to America!

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Starting this year, the company's nearly 14,000 U.S. locations will install coffee bars with "baristas" serving cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and the Frappe, similar to Starbucks' ice-blended Frappuccino.”

McDonald’s has apparently learned from Starbucks’ successes: “The program attempts to replicate the Starbucks experience in many ways -- starting with borrowing the barista moniker. Espresso machines will be displayed at the front counters, a big shift for a company that has always hidden its food assembly from customers. McDonald's says it wants customers to see the coffee beans being ground and baristas topping the mochas and Frappes with whipped cream.”

Do they smell blood in the water? “McDonald's is entering the sixth year of a successful turnaround, while Starbucks has begun struggling after years of strong earnings and stock growth.”

This is a risky move, though. “It could slow down operations and alienate customers who come to McDonald's for cheap, simple fare rather than theatrics. Franchisees say that many of their customers don't know what a latte is.”

From the horse's mouth...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Book Review: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, by David McCullough

I fully expected to enjoy reading McCullough’s historical overview because I liked his style in 1776 and other books.

What was unexpected was the story’s value as a business book, too.

McCullough uses frequent mentions of actual companies and brands to remind us of the important contributions of the private sector in this engineering innovation.

From Chapter 1
Stowed below on the “Guard” was the finest array of modern instruments yet assembled for such an undertaking--engineers' transits, spirit levels, gradienters, surveyors' compasses and chains, delicate pocket aneroid barometers, mercurial mountain barometers, current meters--all "for prosecuting the work vigorously and scientifically." (The Stackpole transits, made by the New York firm of Stackpole & Sons, had their telescope axis mounted in double cone bearings, for example, which gave the instrument greater rigidity than older models, and the introduction of a simplified horizontal graduation reading allowed for faster readings and less chance of error.)

In the midst of appreciating the construction highs and lows, he also sheds revealing light on the level of ineptitude, malfeasance, and amazingly blatant lies told to early investors. Clearly, the vision was large and the leaders charismatic in selling it. But the headline from THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 22, 1892 shows the collapse to be on a scale of Enron in its day:


Monday, January 07, 2008

Not such a small world anymore

No, I’m not talking about The World is Flat. More like the world is fat.

The "It's A Small World" ride at Disneyland will shut down the ride this January for 10-months so they can make the water canals deeper and build stronger boats. People are fatter nowadays and are causing the boats to bottom out in the middle of the ride.

Waist-lines are getting wider - the Los Angeles Times reports that the average sized man weighed 166lbs in 1960. In 2002 the average man weighed 191lbs.

Where else are you seeing the “growth” of America? Post a comment.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Alvaro Fernandez: 10 Brain Fitness New Year Resolutions

See this post on an interesting blog...

You have survived the 2007 shopping and eating season. Congratulations! Now it's time to shift gears and focus on 2008...whether you write down some New Year resolutions or contemplate some things that you want to let go of from last year and set intentions and goals for this year - as is a friend's tradition on the winter solstice. To summarize the key findings of the last 20 years of neuroscience research on how to "exercise our brains", there are three things that we can strive for: novelty, variety and challenge. If we do these three things, we will build new connections in our brains, be mindful and pay attention to our environment, improve cognitive abilities such as pattern-recognition, and in general contribute to our lifelong brain health. With these three principles of brain health in mind - novelty, variety and challenge - let me suggest a few potential New Years resolutions, perhaps some unexpected, that will help you make 2008 a year of Brain Fitness: 1 ...

Read the rest at

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Brand Innovation Graveyard

For every world-transforming innovation, history is littered with notions that promised much but delivered little. In this month’s GOOD MAGAZINE, we’re reminded of the cautionary lessons in our capacity for folly. Some ideas that never quite made it include:

The Segway: Few products could survive the hype of the Segway’s debut. And yet still the faithful persist, whizzing past with their “I’m-traveling-at-four-miles-an-hour” grins. And all along we wonder: Isn’t this what bikes are for?

Pan Am Moon Ticket: Here’s a ticket to the moon, said Pan Am. Come back to us in 50 years. Fifty years later, no flights to the moon and, more important, no more Pan Am.

Y2K: A boondoggle of the first order. Governments and companies burned $300 billion to correct a problem caused because computer geeks failed to remember that time, in fact, continues.

Dymaxion House: For all of Buckminster Fuller’s genius, he failed to account for taste. Definition of a tough sell: an aluminum house built in the manner of a grain silo, with a bathroom that shrink-wraps your waste.

Oxygen Bars: It’s hard to look cool when you’re spending a dollar a minute sucking down a tube of otherwise free air. Also, the oxygen bartender is secretly laughing at you.

Alex Rodriguez’s Contract: $175,370 per game. $47,528 per at bat. There is such a thing as too much money, but apparently this wasn’t it, since A-Rod opted out to search for an even larger windfall.

Jet Pack: In a crushing disappointment to successive generations of Popular Science–ogling boys, this one never really, er, took off. What’s so hard about thermodynamics and jet propulsion?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Time again for another installment of the Bloggies! We take aim at food branding (for what are the holidays without food?). So, here’s a summary of our opinions expressed in blogs over the last few weeks.

►► Marshmallows in hot cocoa (it was unanimous)

◄◄ Starbucks: New TV Ads

◄◄ McDonald’s: WiFi in the Restaurants

►► McDonald’s salads (and “fresh” green billboards)

◄◄ KFC: Getting on the Healthy Bandwagon

◄◄ Pizza Hut: Double Deep pizza

►► FoodShouldTasteGood chips

►► Mayte’s cooking on our Mexico trip