Decommoditizing a global pharmaceutical business unit

The situation

A global vaccines business unit of a leading pharmaceutical company faced a serious business and competitive challenge: the commoditization of vaccines. Once a vaccine was approved for use, healthcare professionals viewed it as not being any different from competitors’ vaccines. This left the value of the individual vaccine brands in the business unit undervalued. As an additional consequence, the thought leadership of the business unit’s vaccines research, the quality of its manufacturing processes, and the business unit’s world health initiatives went under-appreciated. Thus, the commoditization of vaccines left the business unit struggling to achieve its business goals.


SIGNAVA’s Corporate Identity Performance Index® (CIPI®) was fielded with 360 pediatricians, primary care physicians, internal medicine physicians, travel medicine specialists, OB/GYNs, nurse office managers, and practice managers in the U.S. and select countries in the E.U.


The CIPI® found that the strategic outcomes of the business unit’s identity were poor: While the business unit performed well on matters of vaccines supply, the business unit was not a leading performer among its competitors. The global image of the business unit also lacked sufficient differentiation to compete effectively. Furthermore, the business unit was not positioned well for the future – its profile was found to be farthest from the stakeholder-defined ideal.

These data formed the foundation of a new business unit identity strategy. A new vision, mission, archetype, positioning, value proposition, and master narrative were developed. A single organizing principle was globally implemented to ensure everyone from leadership to the sales force knew who the business unit was, what it stood for, and why their individual roles in delivering on its promise of value and patient centricity was critical to the success of the business. Customer experience mapping and planning were used to quantify and validate the moments of truth along the customer journey where the business unit could make a significant difference. Resources were applied to ensuring those moments of truth were delivered consistently, and sales representatives’ bonuses were now going to be based on customers’ (physicians’) perceptions of how well the sales representatives were “living the identity of the business unit” instead of volume of vaccines sold.

The result

One year after implementing the strategy, the image and reputation of this global vaccines business unit significantly improved. Twenty-six percent (26%) of customers’ decisions to do business with this unit were now found to be based solely on the business unit’s image, which was 53% higher than prior to implementation of the new franchise identity strategy.


Corporate Identity Performance Index (CIPI) is a registered trademark of Camille DeSantis. All rights reserved.

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