Pharmaceutical Branding: What Does ‘Good’ Positioning Look Like?


Effective positioning is critical to the success of pharmaceutical brands. Yet, defining ‘effectiveness’ and implementing processes to ensure effective positioning is often elusive for many brand teams. In working with pharmaceutical brands, we have developed a set of 6 success criteria for developing positioning concepts and optimizing those concepts through market research:

  • Singular: Good positioning conveys a focused, single-minded idea. While this sounds obvious, this is often a sizeable challenge for pharmaceutical marketers. Identifying a single idea forces marketers to decide what not to communicate, which is always more difficult than deciding what to communicate.
  • Relevant: Good positioning addresses an unmet need in the market. More importantly, good positioning addresses unmet needs on both the emotional and functional levels. Too often, marketers overlook the emotional aspects of positioning, which leads to dry and lifeless positioning.
  • Unique: Good positioning differentiates the brand from its competitors. Too often, marketers focus their positioning on ‘table-stakes’ attributes that are critical in the category, but don’t necessarily differentiate their brand from others.
  • Credible: Good positioning is believable given the current brand perceptions in the marketplace. The best brands strike the right balance between aspirational positioning that grows the brand in the future and credible positioning that is realistic in today’s marketplace.
  • Durable: Good positioning is viable over a 3 – 5 year horizon. It’s important for marketers to differentiate between long term strategic positioning vs. short term tactical messaging. Of course, if the ‘positioning’ is changed every 1 – 2 years, then it’s not truly positioning.
  • Actionable: Perhaps most importantly, good positioning is an internal rallying cry to motivate the sales and marketing organization. Too often, positioning is seen only as an external-facing communications effort. However, truly effective positioning impacts both external customers and internal teams.
Dan Callahan is the Founder and President of Vivisum Partners. He specializes in creating multi-phase research programs that combine quantitative, qualitative and strategic facilitation methodologies. Email Dan at dan.callahan@vivisumpartners.com