How to implement pharmaceutical/biotech brand integration as M&A deals proliferate

How to implement pharmaceutical/biotech brand integration as M&A deals proliferate


Kavya Paul, Ian Doubleday

Large pharmaceutical companies are increasingly positioning their brands to lead the charge in developing holistic solutions to complex global health concerns. Fueled by the success of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and other medications, many are acquiring or reshaping biotech companies to harness the power of innovative new technologies and drive their brand value higher.

This growth has the potential to reshape the health and wellness industry. But it also means that marketing leaders must navigate the unique complexities of brand integration on a global scale.

Truth be told, brand change is more challenging and intricate in the pharmaceutical industry than in most other sectors. From defining multi-level brand architectures to wading through the red tape of numerous regulatory guidelines, there are countless considerations to stay on top of.

This is no easy feat. But it’s all achievable if you build a thoughtful implementation plan that takes the following considerations into account.

1. Obtain C-suite endorsement to communicate the importance of brand integration

If your pharmaceutical company is acquiring biotech and other life science assets, you’ve undoubtedly mapped out a solid brand strategy to drive your business forward. Whether you’re positioning your pharmaceutical company as a champion for public health or as a crusader against disease, your growth is happening for good reason.

Still, mergers and acquisitions are inherently fraught undertakings. And because of that, you’re likely to encounter a variety of opinions about your evolving brand identity from shareholders, colleagues, employees, and your external audience.

In every decision you make, balance your desire for speed with practical ideas to make your plans a reality.

That’s why your internal and external audiences need to understand where you’re going and why. A clear endorsement from your CEO and other members of the c-suite signals that brand change is a high-level priority that everyone needs to take seriously.

2. Recruit stakeholders from acquired entities to assist with implementation

Successful brand change starts with c-suite support, but it certainly doesn’t end there. To achieve the impact you desire, it’s also crucial to invite stakeholders from acquired entities into the brand integration process.

These essential partners have valuable insights and knowledge to offer. Therefore, give them the opportunity to:

  • Weigh in on your ideal brand architecture as you evolve your shared brand identity and positioning
  • Share background information about their legacy brand’s history, market position, and equity
  • Participate in defining the scope, timeline, and priorities of your rebrand implementation plan
  • Shed light on any unique regulatory or legal guidelines their legacy brand must adhere to
  • Help create shared brand governance guidelines and training opportunities so employees at all entities follow the same standards
  • Work with you to set expectations around roles and responsibilities, approval processes, and other operational and organizational details
  • Discuss what it will take to implement a consistent brand identity across all entities and locations

Thinking through all these considerations in a holistic way is key to achieving a cohesive brand that’s more than the sum of all its parts.

3. Deploy central resources to bolster regional and global implementation efforts

Combining and refreshing multiple brands and sub-brands after an M&A can be messy, convoluted work. And in situations with numerous locations spanning multiple states and/or countries, it’s not typically a good idea to simply delegate brand change to each affected business unit in a hands-off manner.

Rather, your corporate marketing office should take an active role in helping your regional, national, and global locations roll out your shared brand identity through centralized decision-making, budget, and education on the new brand with guidelines for its use. The reality is that corporate marketing may not have the required insight or influence at the local and product level to ensure brand consistency. So, it’s your responsibility to prepare local marketers and product owners.

Once you’ve created a clearly defined organizational structure outlining who is responsible for each part of the implementation process, consider designating central and local implementation teams for each location to:

Your centralized expectations and budget paired with local teams equipped for implementing change will ensure a seamless and consistent result at all your regional locations and entities. But without these safeguards in place, your rebranding efforts could slow down or even come to a complete halt.

4. Be mindful of the impact regulatory and legal requirements will have on your timeline

Speed to market is a critical factor for pharmaceutical companies after an M&A. Achieving the payoff you’re looking for in terms of brand value and market impact requires you to implement brand integration quickly.

However, regulatory and legal requirements will slow you down — especially if you’re changing corporations’ legal names as part of the brand change. So, before you create any hard and fast implementation timelines, take time to conduct a Policy & Procedures analysis with stakeholders from all entities. That way, you can identify all the critical regulatory and legal implications that will impact your brand integration plans.

Rebrand roadmap - from development to implementation

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For example, converting branded assets like products and packaging is tricky because regulations may differ significantly depending on the country or state you’re operating in. One way to mitigate this is by proactively communicating with regulators to let them know that product integrity will not be altered or compromised by your brand change.

In every decision you make, balance your desire for speed with practical ideas to make your plans a reality.

5. Carefully orchestrate your brand launch for maximum impact

A big bang brand launch — in which you announce your M&A and the resulting brand integration in a splashy way to external audiences — can be very attractive. From well-timed social media campaigns that get people talking to grand-scale media events that command attention, a well-synchronized launch is a surefire way to generate buzz around your company’s direction and elevate your brand equity.

However, pulling off this kind of launch on a global scale can be incredibly challenging, especially if you want to transition physical assets before launch. Deploying central resources (as discussed in point #3) is one way to ensure your plans go off without a hitch. Another is to prioritize the high-impact assets first and transition the remaining touchpoints over time.

For example, prior to launch, you might focus on converting:

  • High value, quick-to-update digital assets such as your website and social media, and critical collateral
  • Signage on sites that have historically had the most traffic
  • Newer products that are still in production so that they represent your new brand from day one
  • Workwear and ID badges for employees to generate excitement and enthusiasm from your internal audience

Lower priority assets can then be transitioned over the following years. This allows you to take advantage of operational cycles and capital spending policies to reduce the impact on your bottom line. This is especially advantageous when converting your products and packaging, which can cost millions in design, engineering, and tooling costs otherwise.

BrandActive can help you navigate the complexities of pharma/biotech brand integration

Rebranding is never for the faint of heart. But navigating brand change in the complex, highly regulated pharma/biotech industry can be downright overwhelming.

That’s why you need an expert partner at your side.

BrandActive has helped some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies achieve high-impact brand change amid challenging circumstances. We can help you, too. Just reach out.