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5 Questions with Merck SVP Adele Ambrose

As a pharmaceutical industry leader for 125 years, Merck & Co., Inc. of Kenilworth, N.J., USA, has just been ranked at #3 in InterbrandHealth’s inaugural Best Pharma Brands report. brandchannel spoke with Adele Ambrose, the company’s Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, about what pharma brands need to do to continue growing and thriving.

brandchannel: Best Pharma Brands demonstrates that the influence of the corporate brand in biopharma is on the rise, stating that “leading companies are clearly starting to appreciate the value of their corporate brand as a powerful business asset.” What factors do you believe are contributing to this?

Adele Ambrose: We see three factors contributing to the rising influence of the corporate brand in biopharma: the role of social media, the increasingly high stakes for investment, and the global sociopolitical environment.

The value of having a cohesive company voice across various product social media channels is clear. A centrally-driven approach helps us share and celebrate good news and advancements globally and respond quickly in a unified way.

Having a powerful corporate brand can help us more effectively communicate the important contributions to health that have been made throughout our 125-year history. Tens of billions of dollars are invested each year by companies in the biopharma industry in search for solutions to the most pressing medical needs, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We represent hope—hope that these investments will create new cures that turn debilitating and often fatal diseases into manageable conditions, just as medicines have already done for HIV, diabetes and hypertension.

And finally, we’re operating in a challenging sociopolitical environment. Having a strong corporate identity allows us to tell our story of who we are and what we stand for even in the face of rapid change and uncertainty. We remain focused on our mission to save and improve lives.

BC: As an industry leader for 125 years, Merck has seen many changes in the biopharma industry. Looking ahead, what will companies need to do to maintain a leadership position in today’s volatile market?

Ambrose: Since 1891, Merck has been committed to delivering scientific advances to solve the most urgent medical needs around the world. From our breakthrough vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella, hepatitis B, rotavirus and HPV as well as for infections that threaten pets and livestock, to our pioneering treatments for HIV, hepatitis C, cardio-metabolic disease and cancer, Merck has a long track record of inventing products that improve lives and make a positive impact on humanity.

From our long experience, we get that to remain a leader in today’s volatile market, companies need an unwavering dedication to and deep expertise in research and development, a compelling core mission and a clear vision for the future. Not to mention a high tolerance for risk, because the science of invention isn’t predictable. Our industry must invest in research and development because the world needs a cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and so many other diseases that contribute to widespread suffering and loss.

BC: Have you found that corporate citizenship initiatives like Merck for Mothers have impacted your reputation and relationships with HCPs?

Ambrose: Our research tells us that the more people know about the work Merck does, the more they like us. So it’s no surprise that we’ve seen a positive reputational lift from awareness of our corporate citizenship initiatives, particularly our flagship program Merck for Mothers. In 2011, we launched this $500 million, 10-year initiative that applies our scientific and business expertise—as well as our financial resources and experience in taking on tough global healthcare challenges—to reduce preventable maternal mortality worldwide. It’s hard to believe that every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy and childbirth. That’s 800 women, every single day. And it’s great to know that Merck and others are there, working hard to tackle this global epidemic.

Through this corporate citizenship effort, we’ve been able to engage in a different dialogue with healthcare professionals—one involving our shared concern about significant global health challenges and how Merck is helping to develop sustainable solutions. We want healthcare professionals and others to know about Merck’s broader story—it’s a good one.

BC: What can biopharma learn from other industries that successfully use their corporate brands to drive stronger emotional connections to customers?

Ambrose: Strong, values-based corporate brands like TOMS and Warby Parker have done a fantastic job of executing on their commitment to corporate citizenship by “living” their brand every single day. The companies’ social consciousness is evident in all of their operations. As a result of showing their commitment through each interaction and transaction (a pair of shoes/eyeglasses are donated for each purchase), TOMS and Warby Parker have won the hearts and minds of their customers.

BC: What would you want HCP’s to be saying about Merck five years from now?

Ambrose: Merck’s history of inventions have changed the world for the better and I feel more hopeful about the future because Merck remains committed to scientific invention.

This article originally appeared on brandchannel.


Executive Director, Brand Intelligence & Experience