The pharmaceutical industry and why 360° reputation research matters
The pharmaceutical industry has experienced the highs and lows of the reputational impact of the pandemic like no other industry. The vaccine roll-out raised the public perception of the healthcare sector to all-time highs in early 2021, however the consequent multiple doses and the falling short of the general expectations of the Covid-19 vaccine brought the sector down from this peak within a year.
Furthermore, the industry is moving towards a tumultuous period of time requiring many of the large players to re-consider their profit sources and operational models, for example the hubris around biotech slowing down. To survive and thrive in this environment, understanding the impact and risks around reputation are as important as ever.
A unique characteristic of the pharmaceutical industry is its position as a provider of products and services that everyone has a personal stake in. Both the current users and potential future users share an interest in the industry, and the concern and care extend to the family and loved ones of individuals. Health is a deeply personal and an emotional area of interest to people and the successes in product development in the sector benefits us all and the society at large. Subsequently, the stakeholder landscape for the industry is exceptionally extensive and includes overlapping interests with, for example, investors simultaneously being financial beneficiaries and potential users of the goods. These circumstances call for a 360° view of the stakeholder landscape and a deep understanding of the relationships and conflicts between the expectations of the different groups.
The pandemic has left a lasting mark on consumer behaviour and expectations from corporations. The increased demand for transparency has meant that companies can no longer rely on the halo effect of their hero products and sweep supply chain issues under the rug.
The pandemic has left a lasting mark on consumer behaviour and expectations from corporations. The increased demand for transparency has meant that companies can no longer rely on the halo effect of their hero products and sweep supply chain issues under the rug. In the pharmaceutical industry, this can be seen in the growing focus on access to medicine – it is not enough to develop effective and safe products, but companies are also responsible in ensuring that patients have access to them regardless of geographic or economic barriers. Another industry trend is the increasing importance of real-world evidence (RWE) and the inclusion of patient journey data in research and treatment decisions. This has further deepened the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the end-users of their products and services.
Where will the pharmaceutical industry turn to next now that the sprint for the covid-19 vaccination roll-out has slowed down (although not expected to fully stop anytime in the near future) and the M&A activity driven by biotech has started its decline? There can already be seen a move towards a heavier focus on digitisation and ESG by many pharmaceutical companies, but this will not provide a sustainable long-term competitive advantage for any one company. The real winners of the next era of pharma will be the companies who are able to best map their full stakeholder landscape, recognise the perceptions of and expectations that key stakeholders have from them, and integrate these insights into their business strategy.