Licensing A Pharmaceutical Brand

Robert StrandJuly 8, 20163225 min

Selena Gomez Celebrity Endorsement

Pharmaceutical companies make substantial marketing investments across the life cycles of their products to build brand power and value in the market. As a result, today’s major pharmaceutical companies have significant equity tied to their brands, making them valuable assets. Layer on positive consumer relationships, said asset takes on even greater value.

It would appear these brands are prime candidates for licensing. Can they be licensed? I spoke with the FDA to find out if there were any issues around using a brand primarily associated with a regulated product on complimentary non-regulated products. The only concern that the FDA shared would be if the general consumer thought that the regulated product could be an actual ingredient of something – so for example, Lipitor, a drug that reduces cholesterol and may reduce the risk of angina, stroke, or heart attack could not license a line of heart healthy snacks (as people may mistakenly think there is Lipitor in the snack), but could license branded heart rate monitors.

Pharmaceutical companies are in a unique position whereby their products are designed to help people feel better, and given the emotional connection that patients today develop with brands. What’s more, with their symptom’s branded solution in hand, consumers today are taking personal responsibility for their well-being – for example changing diet in addition to taking blood pressure medication, and taking steps to reduce allergen’s in one’s home and office in addition to taking allergy medicine. For a trusted brand to help the consumer better deal with their symptoms beyond selling them a box of pills can help them be seen as a good citizen and as a company that cares…adding to brand value. And through strategic and thoughtful licensing, it can create powerful revenue streams.

Pharmaceutical Brand Licensing Strategy

A Pharmaceutical Licensing Opportunity

If you are a pharma marketer this is where licensing and it’s opportunities will make you think. According to, one in five people in the U.S. have either allergy or asthma symptoms, pet dander reaches 100% of US households, and with global warming, the number of weeks by which ragweed pollen season has increased is from 10 to 15.

Recognizing a licensing opportunity, in 2010 an over the counter allergy brand and an anti allergen product manufacturer teamed up to help the people of the U.S. better cope with their allergy symptoms.

At the 2010 fall Home Textiles Market, London Luxury, a leading manufacturer of innovative and premium home products, announced that it had signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the makers of Claritin®, the leading non-drowsy, over-the-counter allergy brand, to use the Claritin® trademarks across a full line of allergen barrier fabric products.

The collection is uniquely engineered to function as a barrier to dust mite, pet dander and other allergens, while still maintaining the comfort, breathability, and luxury that consumers expect from top-of-the-line bedding.

“This is an opportunity to extend our brand and reach consumers in new, innovative ways,” said James Mackey of Merck Consumer Care. “We are eager to partner with London Luxury, as they are a best-in-class textile manufacturer and marketer of premium allergen barrier bedding.”

New customers were in fact reached – with new innovative products, and by 2012, Bed Bath & Beyond had grown their Manhattan flagship stores Claritin bedding sku count from 2 to 7 products, and today in 2016, Bed Bath & Beyond lists 12 sku’s online – many with positive customer feedback.

There’s More To Be Done

Somewhere along the line though, opportunities to create a unified brand experience have been missed, and it feels like silo barriers went up and the “extended reach” desired is rather limited to the products themselves. It strikes me that no one at Claritin is playing the role of brand ambassador and connecting the dots – as Claritin is now an anti-allergen solutions brand.

For example, if you look at the first Claritin licensed product on Bed Bath & Beyond’s website, the Claritin Anti-Allergen Clearloft Embossed Side Sleeper Pillow, scroll to the bottom of the page. The “Featured Products” include Sudafed, Alka-Seltzer Cold & Flu, Breathe Right, Benadryl Allergy and Zyrtec. Claritin core products are nowhere to be seen despite being sold by BB&B, only the competition is listed. In-store at Bed Bath & Beyond there is no cross merchandising or signage to be seen between where the Claritin bedding and Claritin’s core products are sold.

Perhaps what happens at retail is potentially too far from control? So what about that which the brand owner can control?

On under ‘about allergies’, they recommend anti-allergen bedding products (“Cover Up: Use anti-allergen covers on mattresses, box springs and pillows”), just apparently not their own branded line. There is no reference to their licensed product solutions, there are no links to or from that page letting consumers – who have gone to the effort to find that page – know that Claritin has partnered with a leading manufacturer of these types of products in hopes of making Claritin consumers rest better. No highlights of the positive customer feedback. Lastly, under Claritin Blue Sky Living, for special offers and information, there is no mention of their other branded (licensed) solutions.

It also strikes me that at the time Merck was actually slightly eager to partner with London Luxury. It’s not an FDA regulatory issue restricting the connection…I question if by not fully integrating all branded product somehow together, showing the consumer Claritin cares about those who suffer from allergies, and are providing branded solutions to make choices easier, what opportunities and revenue are being left on the table. In addition, based on my experience, a competitor of Claritin could team up with known allergy sufferer, say Selena Gomez, and include competing licensed products in a potential celebrity endorsement and potentially replace the Claritin bedding program thus cutting the Claritin brand’s sku count, consumer connection and income stream overnight.

In speaking with London Luxury they enjoy their working relationship with their licensor, which is wonderful to hear. They are doing a great job making quality licensed products and steadily growing their business. With a quality base upon which to build, having purchased the Claritin brand from Merck in 2014, Bayer can do a better job integrating their quality-licensed product into their brand messaging, communications and story. A great foundation has already been established.

Email us, to learn how The Blake Project can help you manage your celebrity IP and or discover the right celebrity endorsement for your brand. Further, we serve as expert witnesses in celebrity licensing and endorsement disputes.

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