The 10 immutable ‘laws’ of pharmaceutical brand planning

Posted in November 2022

You might find this controversial, confirmatory or somewhere in between, but here are our 10 immutable ‘laws’ of pharmaceutical brand planning:


1. Most teams see brand planning as a chore

  • Team members have other things to do (or that they would rather do) and brand planning gets in the way
  • The inclination might be to dust off templates and change the date – but that won’t cut it: templates are there to support thinking
  • Creating a great brand plan is a core part of being a marketeer – this should energise and excite you!


2. The rationale for doing brand plans is often poorly sold internally

  • Plans should be exciting and engaging – all too often they are seen as a template completion yawn fest required to get the budget to do what you want to do
  • Plans (or derivatives of plans) are used to:
    • Engage and align a team
    • Secure funding
    • Act as a repository of information
    • Force discussion and critical thinking
  • Senior leaders should engage the organisation on the importance of brand planning


3. Shiny toys take precedence over solid strategic planning

  • Teams bend over backwards to demonstrate ‘innovative thinking’ – this is great and to be encouraged, but not at the expense of doing the basics well


4. No-one ever, ever, checks whether you implemented what you said you would the previous year

  • Start plans by saying what was implemented last year, what you learnt and how it informs this year’s plan
  • But just like they say in investing, past performance is not an indicator of future success: because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will work again this year
  • Agile working can mean that implementation is checked on a regular basis, baking in the checking process


5. Ownership of the brand plan is diffuse

  • …and the owner should be the most senior person on the team – sorry


6. The strength of, and alignment within, the cross-functional team determines the strength of the plan

  • Great brands are not the product of one person, it’s a collective effort. Coordinating input from cross-functional team members and affiliates is critical for success
  • Building relationships and understanding individual strengths is key to this
  • Be purposeful and planned when you get together – there is nothing worse than pointless meetings


7. If it’s not included in the plan, it hasn’t been thought about enough

  • All the relevant components of the plan to be included somewhere (even if it’s in the appendix) – if it’s not, then it hasn’t been thought about enough
  • Just saying ‘we know the competitor landscape hasn’t changed and we don’t need to include it’ is lazy and could catch you out


8. Marketeers are not around long enough to see the impact of the plans they create

  • Marketeers are an ambitious bunch and are likely to have moved on to a new role before the plan is fully implemented
  • The team that did it last year will be 50% different this year
  • Given the churn, brand planning should begin by bringing the team together and aligning on team strengths, weaknesses and ways of working


9. Senior opinion trumps junior opinion

  • You might have really put in the hours on your plan, but your boss or boss’s boss can over-rule your elegant thinking on a whim
  • Bringing senior stakeholders on the journey as the brand plan is developed is critical for success


10. It takes a lot longer than you think

  • Engaging a cross -functional team is a concerted effort – coordinating diaries across the globe can be a nightmare – start early!
  • You need to make time to think about the plan – and to understand what it is actually for at the start


The 11th law for launch products…

11. Launch plans always say that the product will be no. 1 and/or a blockbuster

  • Check your ego and be realistic