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Uncovering the emotional components of brand equity in health research

It’s really no surprise that physicians’ decisions on drug choices are not reached through rational thinking exclusively. Although healthcare professionals (HCPs) will tell you that facts determine their decisions, we all know that emotional and social effects play a crucial role as well. That’s why you might want your ATU tracker to move beyond measuring only awareness, trial and usage to offering insights for a better understanding of brand equity. The problem is that most ATUs track brand health by measuring intended behavior or using an index that combines both measures. These more traditional brand KPIs often fail to differentiate between brands, do not provide valid information on the emotional and social bonds HCPs form with brands and provide only limited information on a brand’s future potential. Thus there is a need for more sophisticated and holistic brand health metrics. What is essential is a valid equity evaluation. Further on in this article, we’ll discuss the importance of distinguishing latent and active brand equity.

Recently, we instituted what we call customer brand relationships (CBR). Based on a well-proven qualitative research technique that uses metaphors, CBR unveils how consumers form relationships with brands. This new metric focuses on nine relationship types that can be clustered in three classes: strong relationship types, weak ones and those at risk.

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We assumed that physicians also develop relationships with specific prescription drugs. Obviously, emotions and social elements play an important role in their choices. Therefore, our metaphorical approach might also be used to measure the future potential of branded prescription drugs. To prove the concept in the health Rx world, we initiated a global validation study among physicians in a competitive category with newly launched “me-too” brands. Despite clinical similarities, strong preferences existed for different brands. The objective was to understand the underlying equities of the brands by exploring the preferences and relationship strengths physicians have with brands. The clear outcome was that strong relationship types are associated with higher prescription levels and market shares across countries and categories.Because of these findings, we applied the approach both in the Rx and OTC markets.

In more complicated scenarios, where different types of treatment options are available (e.g., oncology where you might have branded therapies, generic and combination treatment options), the evidence is clear: There is a strong correlation between intensity of relationships with treatments and prescription behavior across different therapeutic areas and the applied technique helps uncover differences in brand bonding based on emotional elements.

Our global R&D process is utilized among physicians only to “translate” the current set of relationship types into those that resonate better with the healthcare market. Based on a survey with 600 US and UK healthcare professionals and brands from six different prescription drug categories, we identified nine healthcare-specific relationship types.

The importance of distinguishing latent and active brand equity

By combining CBR with traditional and well-proven brand KPIs like brand preference, new brand KPIs can be built with a proven link to future business outcomes. Active brand equity, in this context measuring the number of HCPs with strong relationships and preferences for a specific brand, signals to what degree the brand has a potential to increase loyalty. Latent brand equity, measuring the number of HCPs with strong relationships but preference for other brands, illustrates the brand’s potential to be used more often in the future. Both KPIs together measure the brands potential to grow further in the future and generate a greater number of prescriptions.

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This approach is based on emotional connections consumers, or in the health context for example, HCPs or patients form with brands. It’s a crucial stepping stone to creating new strategies and prioritizing marketing activities that help improve the strength of relationships, thereby resulting in long-term brand equity.

This article was co-authored by Jan Guse in Health.

For more information, contact Oliver Hupp.

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