Is Conventional Positioning Eating Your Profits?

As you know, or may have experienced, the pharmaceutical industry is a risky business.  The commitment required to develop a single compound includes a decade of research & development costs approaching $1 Billion.  And even then, only 1 in 1,500 compounds are approved for use and sale.  That’s just 0.07%!

But, that’s just the beginning

The risk we don’t hear about is the risk associated with commercializing an Rx brand.  After a drug endures the gauntlet of approval, Launch Teams are repeatedly tasked to achieve and maintain an upward brand trajectory to recapture that billion-dollar investment plus contribute an ongoing and upward flow of new prescriptions to fund the research efforts of the company.

Not that the situation wasn’t stressful enough, but those responsible only have five to seven years before the “patent cliff,” after which sales typically nosedive with the introduction of generics and biosimilars.

Then there’s this:  LESS THAN 1% of new Rx product launches qualify for “Launch Excellence” according to IMS.  How can an industry with the resources of pharma and billion-dollar brands be called out for such dismal results? 

The explanation is simple, conventional wisdom doesn’t work.  Even worse, among underperforming brands, less than 20% that start slow are able to dramatically improve launch uptake.

Here’s the Problem

“Strategic” positioning of Rx brands typically is conducted as a creative exercise and too often implemented without a true understanding of its impact or likely response from target audience prescribers, patients or payers.  In other words the individuals responsible for creating success don’t really know what is important to customers about their brand or how the way their brand is perceived is likely to disrupt the marketplace.

Unconventional Thinking or Common Sense?

An interesting question:  As quantitative as pharmaceutical marketing tends to be, why is it considered unconventional to validate Rx brand positioning through a robust, specialized quantitative analysis? 

Without the confidence this validation provides, Rx brands are flying blindly into the marketplace with a 50/50 chance of success, at best.  Why set the trajectory for your brand with strategy that may only be as accurate as a coin toss?

Weak Positioning Yields Poor Direction And A Cascade of Downstream Disasters

Failure to thoroughly validate your positioning leads to a cascade of negative downstream developments any of which can take the Rx brand far off course.  These include:

Weak Brand Differentiation.  Don’t walk out of a positioning workshop thinking that you’re ready to go!  Select your top 3-5 positionings and test them!

Failure to Communicate.  Words mean things, and those meanings are not always universal.  For example, ‘rapid-acting’ versus ‘fast-onset’ might hold different meanings for different audiences, taking them to two separate conclusions.  Failure to confirm that your audiences understand what your brand is communicating in the same manner as you do is another pitfall of the conventional approach.  

Lack of Focus.  Today’s positioning must be simple, singular, focused and relevant.  If it is compromised by duality or irrelevance, the brand trajectory will be nearly flat.  

Little Or No Refractory Time For Course Corrections.  Most launches today and going forward will be specialty launches:  occurring more rapidly and targeting smaller audiences.  Your product launch should be thought of as a season of launches.  You must win as many as you can.  Conventional positioning gives you no latitude for any needed course corrections between markets.  Data-driven positioning removes refractory time from the launch equation because proper preparation has been made in advance for each major market

Brand Fragmentation. Effective positioning focuses your brand’s compelling point of differentiation and provides clear direction for its implementation tailored to local needs, yet globally consistent and reinforced in every media to make each encounter consistent. Without a data-driven brand story, sales teams, ad agencies, PR firms, boutiques creating on-line messaging will all go their separate creative ways depending on what seems most interesting to them about your brand.  Fragmentation gets you nowhere and creates stagnant brands.

Misalignment of Global Partners and Affiliates.  Local team alignment building to global team alignment is critical to the success of any brand launch. Pharmaceutical manufacturers appreciate the importance global alignment.  Armed with a data-driven brand story, global marketing and sales teams, marketing affiliates and agencies can be aligned to deliver a consistent message focused on your brand yet tailored to local needs.  

OptiBrand Rx would be pleased to present a variety of actual case studies that illustrate how unconventional thinking can deliver unconventionally profitable results for your brand.