It’s ‘the Pfizer vaccine’ — and that’s big win for drugmaker’s brand

In the past two weeks, thousands of health care workers and seniors in New Jersey have been given a vaccine for COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccine obviously is a huge step in the fight against the pandemic, but — because of its name — it also is a huge victory for Pfizer, which has been getting an untold amount of brand recognition for being first to the finish line.

Adam Warner. (LinkedIn)

Adam Warner, adjunct professor at Rutgers Business School‘s Pharma MBA program in Newark, said the fact that the vaccine does not have a formal name also is huge for Pfizer, which is based in New York but has a large New Jersey presence.

“Every time the vaccine gets mentioned, I think it’s listed as ‘the Pfizer vaccine,’” he said, “It doesn’t have a brand name. So, it goes straight to, ‘Here’s something amazing that Pfizer has done to rescue us all from COVID-19.’”

Marketing and brand recognition can be challenging in times of turmoil. Brands don’t want to appear to be taking advantage of a bad situation. Moderna, which brought its own vaccine to market last week, has the same opportunity and challenge.

Bob Zito, founder of Warren-based Zito Partners and the former chief communications officer for Bristol-Myers Squibb, feels Pfizer, Moderna and potentially others will be professional when it comes to touting the huge accomplishment.

Bob Zito. (File photo)

“I don’t think there’ll be any spiking of the football — ‘Look at us, we did a great job,’” he said. “This is not an NFL touchdown moment. I think this is one where all of us will realize the strength and power and wonderful things that that industry can bring.”

But, no matter how many companies market a vaccine, Pfizer will have a huge branding advantage, Zito said.

When it comes to talking about the vaccine, one of Pfizer’s board members — former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — has been one of the leading talking heads on the subject. His presence on TV has given Pfizer an added boast in brand recognition.

“Every morning, he’s on CNBC,” Zito said.

“They’ve got someone on their board who is extremely well respected, extremely knowledgeable, gets in front of the media and can really break down in very basic terms that anyone can understand why this is important, and how it’s good. And that is a huge, huge plus for the Pfizer brand.”

Warner has no issues with Pfizer taking credit for its work.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to fault the companies, and specifically Pfizer, for capitalizing,” he said.

Warner feels it goes to Pfizer’s overall reputation as a company that does cutting-edge research.

“I think this is another feather in their cap,” he said.

Zito agreed.

“Over the years, I think Pfizer has done an excellent job of building its brand as one that is rock-solid, steady, focused on patients and one that can be trusted,” Zito said. “And that’s the most important thing for any brand, (being) a brand that can be trusted.”

Overall brand recognition may mean more in the long run. After all, Pfizer was first, but it is not the only company on the market. And more pharma companies will follow Moderna, too.

AstraZeneca may have the next vaccine that goes before the FDA. Johnson & Johnson, Merck and a few others also are involved in clinical trials for their vaccines.

Still, Warner feels, Pfizer ultimately will get most of the recognition for the achievement.

“I think Pfizer still has the advantage of being first to market,” he said.