Brand Insights from the 37th J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

January 2019

By Michael Watras, Chairman & CEO

There is no better place to get a read on the healthcare industry than the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. While this year may not have featured a glut of high profile deals, the cautiously optimistic tone taken by both presenters and attendees reveals an industry that understands that it is in the midst of a great shift. It felt prescient that the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference took place at the same time as CES. Technology is poised to not only transform treatments, but also the way people interact with the healthcare ecosystem. As hospitals become platforms for care and pharmaceutical companies offer personalized solutions, the organizations that will thrive are those that are able to create a connection with their employees, customers, and investors, communicating both their transformative solutions as well as the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing industry environment.

As I reflected on the event, I identified several key takeaways that highlight the important role brand will play for healthcare, biotech, and life science companies in the coming year.

Repositioning around key therapeutic areas

With Bristol-Meyers Squibb acquiring Celgene and Eli Lilly acquiring Loxo Oncology, I see major pharmaceutical brands with the opportunity to reposition themselves around key therapeutic areas rather than simply being holding companies for a collection of product brands. By refining their focus, companies will be able to build additional brand value while optimizing their marketing and sales functions and increasing operational efficiencies.

Optimizing brand portfolios for digital transformation 

Many companies are occupied with building out their digital capabilities and will need to evaluate their brand architecture strategies. I’ve noticed three key shifts:

  1. Moving from product-centric to service-focused through innovations such as healthcare apps dealing with trial management and wellness monitoring
  2. Moving from a focus on transactions to relationships
  3. Moving from the traditional definition of a healthcare provider (HCP) to one that reflects the evolution of HCP into a platform for patients’ health and wellness

All of these mean that the role of the corporate brand is changing. The historic benefits of a house of brands is declining and does not provide the opportunity to build a strong relationship between the corporate brand and the full range of products and services.

Giving brands purpose to reach employees

There was very little talk about employees at the conference. As top talent becomes an increasingly scarce resource, investors will be looking for organizations to communicate the value of their human capital. In order to do this, organizations need to ensure that their brand is infused with a sense of purpose that both attracts and retains the increasingly diverse range of employees that need to be engaged with the brand.

In the coming year, I will be interested to see how mergers materialize and what impact digital technologies have on the shape of brand portfolios and brand strategies. I look forward to working with healthcare leaders to develop the best brand strategy for their business.

If you’d like to learn more about how we successful branded the merger of two major life science companies, you can read about it here.




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