4 Positioning Mistakes That Reduce Your Brand To A ‘Me-Too’

Any drug or device proven safe and effective by surviving the regulatory gauntlet deserves its best shot at commercial success. That product, your brand, should stand on its own merits and never be characterized as a ‘Me-Too’.

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Henry I. Miller, MD, provides an excellent rebuttal to longstanding and misleading criticisms of pharmaceutical research for producing, “too many medicines which are only minor variations of the older one.” (1)

Backed by findings from the Tufts Center for Drug Development, Dr. Miller presented several compelling arguments why a new drug-even one that appears from initial trials to be no better than alternatives – may prove valuable.  His arguments revolved around the fact that drug development is a race where several investigational drugs in the same therapeutic class vie for regulatory approval before any drug in the class is approved.  Some drugs survive this gauntlet; others don’t.  In other words, companies don’t start out with the intention of developing a ‘Me-Too’ product. 

Of course, just because a number of drugs are based on the same chemical structure, doesn’t mean they all work the same.  Some may work better in certain patient populations or conditions, may be metabolized differently, have different drug-drug interactions, (through supplementary approval) may be found to be of benefit in additional indications via different formulations, regimens, routes of administration, strengths, etc.

As we read Dr. Miller’s editorial, we couldn’t help but relate the perception of’Me-Too’ drugs he describes to the billions of dollars in sales lost to valuable brands relegated to ‘Me-Too’ status– because they were not positioned appropriately. There is good news: This does not have to be the fate of your brand.

Skeptical?  Pick a random sample of Rx ads. Same or different product categories; doesn’t matter. See any brands that stand out as clearly different?  Not many.  That’s the problem.  Odds are you could even interchange the logos from each and apply them to the others.  Don’t blame the creative.  Don’t blame being late to launch.  Blame weak positioning.

The challenge is industry wide:  Your company has just invested about ten years and close to a billion dollars for regulatory approval to market your brand in a new therapeutic class. The problem is, your brand is among several others with similar chemical structures / mechanisms of action.  Your brand may receive approval first, sixth, or somewhere in between.  The question:  How are you going to differentiate your brand against all the others in your class…as well as from the multibillion dollar brands already entrenched?  If your brand’s point of difference isn’t clearly communicated across all communication channels, that brand is destined to be perceived as the same — a ‘Me-Too’. 

Brand Positioning: the reason to prescribe.  The purpose of positioning is to hone in on what differentiates your brand from the competition and will give prescribers a reason to write it.  Your messaging should be a reflection of your positioning.  If the positioning isn’t right, your messaging cannot compensate for that shortcoming.  Your advertising will fall into the vast sea of sameness of pharmaceutical advertising.  Your revenue curve will follow.

There are examples of this phenomenon in every therapeutic category.  For example, IMS Health recently posted a whitepaper on the Type II Diabetes Market that clearly shows the failure of DPP-4 drugs to be differentiated (read: effectively positioned) from the market leader — even when there are marketable distinctions. (2)

Brand positioning is an art and a science.  The art is in identifying opportunities to be crafted into positionings that are simple, singular, relevant and focused.  Without creative direction based on validated brand positioning, creative execution will be off-strategy — and sales will follow. 

These Four Positioning Mistakes Will Make Your Brand A ‘Me-Too’

1. Lacking a singular positioning.  

What idea best differentiates your brand?  It’s not the product profile, which describes multiple separate concepts. Strategic brand positioning must focus on the one compelling aspect that sets the brand apart, and it must do so in a manner that is simply understood and relevant to the decision maker.  Failing to meet this will result in concepts that are not crisp, clear and ultimately not differentiating. Soft and fuzzy may work for beauty pageants; not so much for branding wars.  Unless your positioning is singular, the resulting messages will not build the perception needed to differentiate. They will be fragmented and confusing, forgettable and lost. The result: your brand will not be remembered and not prescribed until all else fails…a ‘Me-Too.’

That said, if your process stops here, Murphy was right.  At best, the odds are only 50:50 the positioning is really on-target. 

2. Believing you CAN’T own a position because a competitor CAN make the same claim.  

Here’s a consumer example: Volvo®.  Everyone knows that Volvo is positioned around safety. Safety is the Volvo mantra and has become deeply rooted in the brand’s history.  Today, all of Volvo’s competitors are also ‘safe,’ BUT they cannot root themselves in the safety mind space as they’d be considered a ‘Me-Too.’  Volvo placed a stake in the ground and now owns ‘safe’.  In the Rx world Nexium® is known for ‘power’ and has seen strong sales by carving out that space. ‘Power’ is a claim that can also be made, and in fact was, by competitor Prevacid®. By trying to entrench on an area already owned by a competitor Prevacid unknowingly began sending its customers to Nexium and as a result could never regain even 50% of the global earnings from prior years.

3. Thinking minor improvements in clinical data v. competitors are sufficient to drive usage.  

The time to plan for meaningful clinical differentiation starts with Preliminary positioning / Brand Visioning which should be conducted in Phase II prior to brand naming.  Preliminary positioning should drive clinical protocols to deliver meaningful data that supports areas of opportunity, perceptual voids in the market.  This integrates product commercialization strategy with clinical and regulatory planning to differentiate your brand in a relevant way.

4. Failing to Optimize or Validate your positioning options through specialized positioning research.  

Specialized positioning research determines if your positioning is communicated clearly and meaningfully to the target audience(s) and improves the degree of confidence.  After all, even positioning-rooted validated insights are still hypotheses until they are placed in front of customers.

Traditional research methodologies, those similar to testing creative work, simply don’t give you the full picture.  It is very difficult for a respondent to consider a concept in terms of a future marketplace. Without a process built for positioning, they respond based on what is comfortable to them today.  This means that a ‘Me-Too’ positioning may be the front-runner when — in reality — it is the concept that pushes them the least – in essence the ‘Me-Too’ red flag.

Your investment in your brand is significant.  So why not explore a different process of brand positioning developed to maximize revenue potential?  One proven to actually boost your revenues.

Learn to Differentiate Now.  If you’re a leader, an innovator, a competitor interested in learning more on how to optimize the performance of your brand or portfolio, we offer free/no obligation brand positioning seminars.  This learning will change your perspective and help to optimize the performance of your brands.  And best of all, no more ‘Me-Toos’.

OptiBrand Rx | Transforming Research into Results. Contact Us.