Big pharmaceutical companies are exploring “brand personality” in their marketing strategies, according to new research.

Similar to a consumer-focused company such as Apple, companies such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline are focused on giving well-known drugs such as Lipitor or Prozac brand personality traits, according to Concordia University John Molson School of Business researchers.

For consumers, “prescription drug brand personality may make health-related issues more approachable and less intimidating, facilitating physician-patient interactions by making patients more familiar with the medications used to treat what ails them,” said Concordia marketing professor Lea Prevel Katsanis, Ph.D.

She and co-author Erica Leonard, a recent Concordia graduate, used an online survey to ask close to 500 respondents their thoughts about 15 well-known prescription medications. They asked about 22 different personality traits, such as dependability, optimism, anxiousness and elegance. 

They found prescription drug brand personality perceived by consumers has two distinct dimensions: competence and innovativeness. Responders often used terms such as “reliable” or “stable” for branded drugs and showed them preference for overall competence. They used a word such as “unique” when perceiving a drug as innovative.  The total result is a patient more likely to ask for a drug by name.

The global pharmaceutical market will be worth more than $1.3 trillion by 2018, the authors noted.

“The findings have important implications for the development of innovative marketing strategies, and this study lays the groundwork for further investigation into the antecedents and consequences of prescription drug brand personality,” they wrote.

 Results appeared in the  Journal of Consumer Marketing in late 2013.