This month I joined a secret pharmacy club. A pharmacy club is so secret I can’t tell you its name let alone its rules.
During my initiation conversation the topic got onto the concept of branding and the benefits it brings. I’m not talking red-hot bits of metal, but the shiny boxes and snappy logos that pharmacists are well versed in: explaining to patients that ibuprofen in a 16p pack is the same quality as the stuff in a £3 box of Nurofen and all that, though if people say they’re happy with the cheaper one it appears that when you’re not looking they’re snapping up the expensive stuff.
This conversation got me thinking why is branding so influential, and importantly, what is the brand power of ‘pharmacists’?
If we take the advertising wizard David Ogilvy‘s definition of a brand, it’s
The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.
So if we put aside physical attributes – name, packaging and price – and bluntly try to apply the rest of this definition to a profession, what do you get? Ask this about doctors and the public ‘brand’ them as the most skilled and focused of professionals and consistently rate them highly on trust.
In healthcare, trustworthiness is arguably the most important perception we can ask for, however whether this continues to apply to doctors after 2013 when they become the front of NHS cuts and service closures is not certain. Throw into the mix their industrial action over their pensions and an ineffective mixed stance on the NHS Act, then unfairly or not could this see the start of full-scale public distrust of doctors and destruction of their ‘brand’?
Personally I doubt it, but some reputational damage is probably unavoidable and so it begs the question who will become the new most trusted profession in healthcare – and can pharmacists step in here?
It’s hardly surprising that our largest retail pharmacy chain currently uses trust as its strap-line, but is this the pharmacist’s ‘brand’ or just corporate marketing? A true brand requires many things, but firstly it requires a unified approach to how it’s presented. Research suggests that pharmacists perceived as an ‘expert’ have improved patient satisfaction and loyalty, but it appears we have a long way to go before we’re fully there and can push things forward. I’ve blogged before that pharmacy needs to be more unified than it currently is, and I wonder whether this fragmentation is a reason for the current mixed perception of pharmacists.
So do we need to reconsider how we advertise our ‘brand’? Or should we instead ask whether our profession exhibits ‘expertise’ to our varied consumers each day?
In fact should we start with each pharmacist asking that same question of themselves?