Rx for Impact: 4 Strategies for Modern Life Sciences and Pharmaceutical Branding

By Michael Ruby

We stand at the precipice of a new golden age of medical innovation. New modalities like mRNA, precision medicines, and AI-driven healthcare have the potential to irrevocably reshape our world in the next decade. It all begs the question: how do we create modern brand stories for modern life sciences and pharma brands?

Best practices for life sciences and pharma branding 

At Park & Battery, we’re blessed with a front-row seat for the healthcare revolution. Our clients have directly contributed to the COVID-19 vaccine and cell and gene therapies that have saved the lives of countless people. They’re helping advance health equity and ensuring that every person who requires healthcare has access to the treatments they need, receive that treatment, and stay on therapy. And they’re empowering scientists – from discovery to the clinic and beyond – to bring real life-changing innovations.  

A new age of products and services demands new considerations for successfully positioning and selling these brands. That’s where we come in at P&B – and where we’ve been able to create significant value for our clients (not to mention earn ourselves recognition from MM+M as an Agency to Watch and Newcomer Agency of the Year, and for yours truly on the PM 360 ELITE 100 list). Here are four cornerstone recommendations and real-world examples to bear in mind when positioning and messaging your modern life sciences brand. 

1. Think outside-in, not just inside-out

Data drives decision-making in life sciences. Clinical trials ensure that treatments and diagnostics have the highest likelihood for success with the lowest risk of harm. Your branding efforts should similarly be guided by insights. 

Too many life sciences and pharma brands have historically (and sadly) failed to listen to the voice of the customer. Strategies are developed from the inside out, based on subjective opinions and company-first, rather than customer-first, perspectives. The best solution is not to look within, but to ensure that the most important people are involved in the process: your customers, prospects, and partners.

Consider the recent repositioning of Maravai LifeSciences. Working with Maravai and its brands, we supported them through conducting and analyzing extensive quantitative and qualitative research to surface the brand’s narrative and the pillars upon which their story is built. More than a partner, Maravai acts as a catalyst for novel vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics – they are the difference maker between success and failure. That powerful, practical and emotional promise came directly from gleaning the experiences of customers and partners.  

2. Ante up beyond the table stakes

Maravai is also a model example for digging deeper to create a uniquely ownable, defensive and dynamic brand positioning. The inside-out approach described above – exercises in navel gazing and conversations in echo chambers – tend to not only deliver muddier, less relevant, and less resonant brands, but they also yield a veritable sea of life science brand sameness. 

We often play a game with clients where we show them competitors’ positionings and remove the names/logos associated with them. Then we dare the client to identify who said what. This elicits a laugh, but it’s also pretty sad. Life science and pharma brands delivering the greatest innovations of our time deserve and demand better. 

Our client Ascential Technologies is another example of a brand that is brave enough to take a different point of view. Rebranding the 18 companies of the former Burke Porter Group as a unified entity, Ascential recognized the need to define what the promises of “efficiency,” “innovation,” and “acceleration” truly mean for them and their customers: it means unlocking mission-critical performance. It’s a promise that still conveys the table-stakes benefits of the category, but with greater specificity and relevance. Which leads us to…

3. Find specialness in specificity

Life sciences are complex, often filled with intricate scientific concepts and technical jargon. And, amid the genomic and artificial intelligence revolutions, there are also more buzz words than ever. Your brand should provide clarity that overcomes complexity. Encapsulate your core message in a clear and concise manner. When someone encounters your brand, they should instantly grasp what you stand for and what you offer. This clarity simplifies decision-making for your audience and fosters a sense of security.

I often advise my creative and strategic teammates that there is specialness in specificity. Speaking a customers’ language, and demonstrating empathy and understanding, means everything. People – especially scientists and clinicians – can sniff out imposters. And life sciences/pharma professionals are allergic to hyperbole and superlatives. 

Hours of conversations with our clients’ customers testing positioning and messaging language have revealed an instant, visceral disdain for language that describes anything as “the best” or “the most.” Naturally, real-world examples and data that substantiate claims work best here; these are scientists and doctors, after all.  

Amid the often monumental and misunderstood claims about AI, it should be no surprise that AllazoHealth was challenged with clarifying what their artificial intelligence platform is (and isn’t) when crafting their brand. We dug deep with them to get to the heart of their differentiation and crystalizing their value proposition into three words that tell their story from end to end: “Predict. Personalize. Maximize.” Three words, three steps, three concise ideas that, when explained together, have vivified the power of AI to personalize healthcare for their clients. What’s more, we’ve made data part of the story – creating ROI calculators and robust case studies that power account-based marketing (ABM) efforts, making the value even more specifically relevant to each individual prospect.  

4. Remember scientists are humans, too

In a field that can sometimes feel cold and clinical, inject a dose of humanity into your brand. Share stories of the scientists behind the scenes, the unsung heroes working tirelessly in the lab, and the real people whose lives your work impacts. Remember, your audience isn’t just interested in test tubes and lab results; they want to connect with the people behind the discoveries and those who benefit from their work. 

At the same time, don’t be afraid of color, emotion, heart and, sometimes, even a little humor. There are too many examples for me to share of brands that rely on the same sterile language and visual tropes for establishing their brands. With every client we engage, we seek to find the human connection in words and images to drive the brand forward. 

After all, that’s what this is all about – extending, enhancing, and saving lives. Ignoring our humanity in life sciences and pharma branding is to deny the DNA of the products and services we sell. Now that’s not very scientific, is it?

Michael Ruby President & Chief Creative Officer

Named the 2021 Best in Biz Creative Executive of the Year and part of the 2018 DMN 40under40, Michael is the President and Chief Creative Officer of Park & Battery. In his role, he is the company’s head of global brand strategy, creative and content. Michael’s work has been recognized by The One Show, Webby Awards, Global ACE Awards, B2 Awards, Content Marketing Awards, numerous awards from The Drum, and his favorite: “Best use of the word ‘boo-yah’ in a b-to-b ad ever,” according to Ad Age.

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