Three Rx Brand Positioning Errors

Pharmaceutical marketing is a high-risk business. According to industry data, originators spend some $800 million and expend ten years of patent life to get a single compound to marketing approval.  For every 1,500 compounds entering development, only one survives.  That compound must merit serious clinical consideration, in other words it needs to be pretty damn good.

That said, your challenge is to make that Rx brand a global commercial success.  To accomplish that, you must differentiate it so that prescribers have good reason to adopt and prescribe it.  That isn’t simple, nor is it easy, especially if the brand isn’t correctly positioned.  Some 70% of pharmaceutical brands never achieve their true commercial potential.  Improper positioning is often the primary cause of many underachieving brands.  Improper positioning often results from one or more of these three common positioning errors.  Doesn’t your brand deserve better?

In my nearly 40 years of marketing new Rx brands, I’ve learned that working with specialists in every aspect of the process is great advice.  This ranges from specialty attorneys to medical specialists to branding specialists, to advertising and PR specialists, etc. because in many cases it has paved the way for even greater commercial success. Certainly, brand positioning is no exception.

Error #1:  If your brand’s sales aren’t meeting expectations, often the first inclination is to blame it on a messaging problem.  Chances are the root cause is deeper than messaging. Chances are it stems from an unfocused brand position.

Let’s correct two additional errors which result from misperceptions common to Rx brand positioning. Both are relatively unique to the pharmaceutical industry because of our strong regulatory oversight.

Error #2:  Believing that brand positioning is limited to the language in the Package Insert.  We all know that labeling is about the legal parameters / constraints regarding what you can / can’t claim about your brand.  But labeling does not speak to the benefits of the brand in the context of the unmet rational and emotional needs of your respective target audiences. (Very important to effective and targeted positioning). Done right, you can change behavior without running afoul of brand labeling.

Error #3:  Understanding that brand positioning is a summary of all key brand attributes.  In fact, it shouldn’t be. Today’s brand positioning must be simple, singular, focused and relevant.  Brand positioning permeates every aspect of your brand.  Brand positioning is the marketing compass and the basis for all commercial communications. Positioning is the singular sum and substance that differentiates your brand from the competition. If not, your messaging will be scattered and confusing because the positioning statement is neither singular nor focused.

For example, if your brand positioning reads like a variation on the following statement, you have a problem.

Product A is the most active in its class, the cornerstone of therapy with unmatched efficacy and tolerability for use alone, or in combination for early or advanced stage disease.


Which of these multiple thoughts do you run with?  What does this positioning communicate to your ad agency, PR firm, other marketing and sales partners globally? Each could very well pursue a different avenue.  This may look very familiar because it follows the typical pharmaceutical template.  While Rx brands generate huge revenues, this positioning template leaves way too much money on the table.

This leads us to the other bottom line: Not nearly enough patients will enjoy the clinical benefits your brand provides.

When your positioning tries to ‘cover the waterfront’ and be all things to all people, its impact is lost. There is no linking of brand benefits to the unmet needs of the target audience.  Perceptions regarding your brand may not reflect your intentions.  Ultimately, the TAs will not change their current behaviors.  Prescribers don’t know where to use your brand so they’ll reserve it as the last choice.

That doesn’t have to be the case if you keep in mind that the first step toward commercial success is keeping your brand positioning simple, singular, focused and relevant.  Do this and your customers and your shareholders will Love Your Brand.™

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