Pharma reputation reset with COVID-19 means regaining science and innovation halo: expert

Pharma companies have a unique opportunity to reset individual and industry reputations during the COVID-19 crisis. Positive consumer sentiment is way up, and people are rediscovering the value of the industry.

But how do they capitalize on that and sustain it going forward? One branding executive says the time has come for pharma to reclaim its science, innovation and do-good reputation. 

Christina Falzano who last year joined Havas’ Conran Design Group as managing director, spent years working on big tech brands including Google, Wikipedia, Uber and Spotify in her career including as COO at Wolff Olins. Her job change has her thinking about the way tech brands are now perceived as the world's do-gooders, a mantle once held by pharma.

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“Not to be opportunistic, but pharma brands need to think about why they seem less human than tech, and why they get less credit than tech for doing good in the world,” she said. “There’s a lot of talk today about purpose-driven brands, and that’s at the heart of pharma companies.”

The reward for creating purpose-driven brands is they are more meaningful. Americans are more loyal to and feel more emotionally connected to purpose-driven brands, according to a Cone/Porter Novelli study. Further, more than two-thirds (67%) said they'd be willing to forgive a purpose-driven company if it makes a misstep. 

Pharma companies in general, however, haven't been transparent or proactive enough in communicating their purpose, Falzano said.

She advises moving focus away from products and instead spotlight the people and the good work of the company. Pharma companies should work to craft purposeful brand strategies that take into account product names, visual identity, packaging and supporting digital technology, she said.

RELATED: Pfizer, Moderna and Gilead's reputations climb on COVID-19 vaccine and treatment news: poll

With the rare opportunity that COVID-19 presents as a reputation reset, it’s important that companies don’t waste the chance, Falzano said.

The pandemic "provides an opportunity to demonstrate, not only remind people but demonstrate, what is at the heart of what they do which is improving people’s lives and applying science to do that,” she said.