Create Your Own Brand Challenge – or Spring Clean the one you already have

Starting with a blank sheet of paper gives you a sense of having a fresh and clean starting point, but no sense of who you are, what you do or where you are going.
That requires a bit of thinking, planning, decluttering and logical projection.
It’s the same process whether you are designing a brand for your new paradigm pharmacy, or re-branding your existing pharmacy.
Your brand must reflect your values, communicate directly and be simple in design.

In last weeks’ editorial, Gerald Quigley posted a comment at the foot of the Editorial page, which said:

“Eating the Big Fish (How Challenger Brands can compete against Brand Leaders) is a great text to help understand how we can re-establish ourselves in the primary care role.
ISNB 978-0-470-23827-1
It’s a very relevant read in the current environment”

I was able to obtain an author summary ( Challenger-Credos-2015-Eating-the-Big-Fish-Summary ) which outlines sufficient detail for you to get a sense of the quality of this book, and I can say that I will be definitely purchasing the full text copy for my own reference library.

Many references to branding issues suffer from having major segments of branding not being named succinctly or vaguely defined, which results in confusing and faulty communication.
“Eating the Big Fish” definitely addresses these issues and discusses the concept of “Challenger Brands”.

In a sense, if we are going to start a new paradigm pharmacy we are going to be a challenger brand, and that is all about having a state of mind, no matter what market share you currently own.
As the author puts it:

“Being a Challenger is not about a state of market; being number two or three or four doesn’t in itself make you a Challenger. 
A Challenger is, above all, a state of mind.
It is a brand, and a group of people behind that brand, whose business ambitions exceed its conventional marketing resources, and in consequence it needs to change the category decision making criteria in its favour, to close the implications of that gap.”

I like the concept of “business ambition exceeding its conventional marketing resources” because that immediately positions you as a challenger and your “state of mind” as being your primary asset.

So what needs to be represented under a community pharmacy brand and who do we have to challenge?

I would think the simplest description would be that the community pharmacy market embraces the following segments:

1. Dispensing and patient logistics with a significant care component.
2. Patient-centred clinical services with a major care component and dealing in primary health care (minor ailments and other patient services)
3. Retail of professional products that complement or form part of 1 & 2.
4. Retail of commercial products that have some health or strategic significance.

Segment 1 encompasses standard dispensing services leading into volume dispensing.
To challenge leader brands will eventually mean embracing automated technology and a sophisticated e-commerce site.

It may also mean embracing Internet Technology to service patients in their own home, in a nursing home or hostel, or in a private or public hospital system.
Or it may involve going down a specialist dispensing pathway involving individualisation and compounding.

Segment 2 encompasses developing professional partnerships with skilled clinical pharmacists who are prepared to invest in their own training, IT systems and electronic equipment.
It also requires the establishment of clinical spaces and keeping clinical functions separate.
For example, a treatment room for wound dressings or other forms of examination would be different to a room for consultation interviews.

Segment 3 involves the sale of S3 products or other medicinal products or medical appliances able to be sold over the counter.
You might also include products detailed to other health professionals through your own development of an internal pharmacopeia.

Segment 4 involves careful selection of nationally branded products (or their generic equivalents).
These products are products that are readily available through a wide range of highly competitive outlets, and price or value is a dominant factor in consumer choice.

The consumers that will traffic this segment are customers – all others are patients.
Pharmacy customers will receive treatment that is exceptional and not usually found in other brand leader environments.

The reason for attracting customers is for conversion to a pharmacy patient – this is the main differentiator.

Being a brand challenger, according to the author of the book, involves broadly following and adopting a number of self-evident credos:

The First Credo: Intelligent Naivety

Adopt a child-like wonderment in imagining (perhaps within a “think-tank” group of pharmacists) at what you might be capable of achieving.
In past years I knew this as creative market positioning e.g. was I an accurate and fast dispenser offering helpful advice or was I a health logistics provider outreaching beyond the pharmacy four walls, drawing in new patients and providing experiences they found illuminating and helpful.
Was I involved with health or illness?
Ask Why? and then Why not?

The Second Credo – Build A Lighthouse Identity

An identity that acts as a beacon, has a high profile in the communities in which it is active and one that is driven by three factors – a point of view, beliefs that are genuine and seen to drive business momentum, and a foundation of values that is rock solid.
Building an identity impacts with every aspect of a pharmacy and this is more than “image” which is a communications strategy.

The Third Credo: Become The Thought Leader

Becoming a thought leader involves constantly planning ahead of the pack.
Thought leadership involves the delivery of ideas that consumers can identify with and where your values are the ones they come to admire and respect.
Often ideas that challenge can be totally disruptive to other pharmacies in the same market category and often involve Internet technologies.
Style, design, packaging, communication of messages all reinforce good ideas.

The Fourth Credo: Create a Symbol of Re-evaluation

The author uses a number of illustrations here. One was the promotion undertaken by chef Jamie Oliver when he compared the average cost of a school child’s lunch compared to one delivered for prisoners.
That got immediate attention.
The other was that a moon rocket uses half of its fuel just to leave earth’s gravity and find its critical momentum.
The same is true when getting a brand off the ground – the real effort lies in the initial effort invested to gain optimum momentum.

The Fifth Credo: Sacrifice

Here the author talks about being single-minded in your marketing approach and that you may have to leave off parts of an offering that may risk offending other consumers.
This has to be done to focus attention and financial resources.
Otherwise there is a risk that as market share grows it loses momentum because of the sheer weight of trying to service an entire market.
In an earlier life this was called “rationalisation” where you might keep one size of a product where four may exist.

The Sixth Credo: Over-commit

Over-commitment really means the pursuit of excellence and the provision of consumer service to an exceptional degree, unanticipated by the consumer who is simply delighted.
Another word used to describe this credo is “quality” for all that is done in a working environment.

The Seventh Credo: Enter Popular Culture

Social media and other forms of online communities have become totally disruptive for traditional media.
Therefore a departure from the norm should always be anticipated.
For example, you may need the convenience of drive-time radio to advertise your own website and online catalogue because the offering message would be too big and would get lost.
Simply publicising the website with a short “values” message would be more effective and economical.

The Eighth Credo: Become Ideas-Centred

Ideas that continually stimulate consumer imagination are the driver of momentum based around your core identity.
Failing to continually change in a bid to remain a constant “same” is the difficulty for most challengers.
It takes dedication and stamina.

The Lighthouse Keeper

Is of course, the keeper of the brand – the brand manager.
This person’s job is to identify and feed all sources of consumer energy surrounding the brand.
The consumer must be actively engaged at all levels and at all times and constantly fed the brand qualities encompassed by your vision and values.
Our back stories that build and promote our culture need to be told and re-told.
Challengers always stand for “something” in the popular imagination of energetic communities.
Tapping into that energy will propel you towards being a market leader, but it is first necessary to become thought leader.
Having both side by side creates a strong fortification that is readily defended and thus stable.

Eating The Big Fish

How Challenger Brands Can Compete against Brand Leaders is written by Adam Morgan.
It can be obtained by visiting the site

Taking responsibility for your brand is the first requirement for survival.
If you allow others such as franchised marketing groups to dominate, interfere or control your brand in any way, you leave yourself open to be destabilised and weakened.
Franchise brands have to be positioned as part of your total offering – never dominant or the main component of the offering.

To be an independent community pharmacy you need access to thought stimulators (consultants or energetic pharmacist counterparts) and a buying group.
The buying group is only necessary to ensure competitive prices and should be located within your region, if possible.
Doing your own thing keeps local staff gainfully employed and under your personal control.

The bulk of your marketing exercise relates to personal delivery of professional activity.
Letting others handle these income streams will eventually lead to commoditisation and low (or nil) profitability.

It is time to take responsibility for your own survival.

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