Commiting Brandicide.

Imagine this scenario:

After ten years of marketing an orange soda drink, say one that has become one of the most famous brands in the world, the patent runs out and another, almost exactly the same, orange soda drink is launched by a rival manufacturer at 25p cheaper a can.

The company that manufactures it thinks: there’s hardly any difference between our product ‘Orangyfizz’ and that other Orange Soda drink ‘Orangytang’ and theirs is much cheaper. So they conclude; we’ve had a good run…we’ll just cut our losses, trim the marketing spend right back and let it slowly die. Clear your desks everyone and go away and develop a Raspberry fizzy drink.

Excuse me…but Orangyfizz is a world famous brand?!

Yes, but Orangytang is exactly the same and 25p cheaper. The public aren’t stupid.

Fair enough. It was good while it lasted.

Okay, okay, spare me the ‘but-pharma-is-different-this-idiot-doesn’t-understand-anything’ hurrumphing I can sense seeping through the screen.

You’re right of course, but this is a column about creativity and brand and all that unmeasurable stuff.

Stop wagging that sciencey finger, there are no graphs here.

It just seems weird to me that so many of the clients we work with still don’t see their brands as..well..brands. Or if they do, they don’t see the value in what they have created.

Look at what happens when a big consumer brand stops spending.

In the 1980’s Reebok, believe it or not, was the ‘sneaker’ everyone wore. ( I refer to it as a sneaker as some of our readers are from the colonies)

Nobody had heard of Nike back then, and even when the Nike Air began to sell big, Reebok’s basketball pump action sneaker was outselling it and at twice the price.

The thing about a reversal of fortune for a brand is that sometimes it can be overnight (Brazil team-shirt anyone?) and sometimes it can be a slow process of neglect. Call me old fashioned but neglect seems the inexcusable option.

So in the early 90’s recession Reebok decided to cut back on their marketing budgets, they were after all Reebok and there was pressure to save costs.

Luckily this cessation of advertising budget turned out to be very good for business.

For Nike’s business, to be exact.

In the same recession Nike started to spend like a teenager with a stolen credit card. Without any competition the floor was open, it took Adidas years to attain the same kind of cool, and due to their nonchalance Reebok never really did again. In fact in a recent poll Reebok was voted the world’s least favourite shoe brand. They just withdrew from the game and the game carried on without them.

Marty McFly would be horrified.

Now, obviously this a lot to do with new products, endorsements and all the stuff that goes beyond mere advertising, but nevertheless the correlation between cutting ad spend and being superseded within the market is there. It’s not rocket science.

But this happens all the time in biological science. Clients underestimate the power of the brand and therefore after a patent has expired seem to just pull the plug.

Maybe they’re right to do so logically, but people aren’t logical. Ok, so drugs get superceded, beaten on price etc but so do phones. So do trainers, so does everything.

Can you write down the big differences between a Nike shoe and a Reebok?

Neither can I.

But there’s a difference right? and it’s not really about the stitching.

I think if you believe in creativity then you have to believe a brand has equity. Surely when a patent is about to expire that’s the time to massively up the spending?

Let’s look at the Reebok of Pharma.


After four years of zero above the line investment in the US, and fifteen months since it’s patent ran out in the UK, Pfizer are relaunching in the States with a campaign by BBDO NY using a woman to front the campaign.

New Viagra campaign

As probably the most famous pharma brand in the world, Viagra could, and probably will, transcend competitors who can beat it on cost and remain the ED drug of choice for patients who don’t wish to be palmed off with a generic or a competitor. (It’s almost impossible to refer to Viagra without innuendo).

But Viagra also seems to me to be the best example of a powerful pharma brand that has been left to almost wither, sales dropped 8% last year to $1.9 billion ( okay, its not exactly withering but another 8% of 1.9 billion is approximately…a lot of money) so as an old adman I am heartened that they are reviving it on the TV front, hopefully that will help get it up. The sales. Help up the sales. Help the sales go up.

(Almost as testament to its brand prowess, one of it’s main competitors is from illegal online counterfeit versions, complete with rat poison and washing powder for that cleaner, rat-up-a-drainpipe erection. Like a shop in an Egyptian holiday resort selling ‘genuine’ Rolex watches for £50, counterfeiters know the brand still has selling power.)

In the meantime Cialis and Levitra have carved out their own slice of the market and generics won’t be far behind.

If it succeeds beyond the patent expiry, it will be an example to other marketers that all that guff we tell them about brand adding value isn’t total crap.

And if it fails to create a tent in the spreadsheets, maybe it will serve as a reminder that even a brand as established as Viagra still needs nurturing to continue to bear fruit.

Either way, isn’t it better to let the HCPs and patients decide when a brand is dead before we commit brandicide?







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