After nearly 20 years in advertising, I’ve had the privilege of leading and contributing to dozens of launches. With a history of more than 75 product launches (including 10 blockbuster launches across 12 different therapeutic categories), our launch experience is something we take great pride in at GSW.

Through all those launches I’ve learned that none are perfect, and each one provides valuable lessons for every team member. But the biggest mistake you can make is letting those blunders pass you by without learning from them. Fails and oversights can be extremely valuable. Learn from them, grow from them, and make sure you NEVER repeat them. I could go on and on about what never to do; however, I decided to break it down—we’ll call these learnings the 7 deadly sins:

1. NEVER WAIT TO GET THE BRAND TEAM INVOLVED

Think about how you want to design your drug’s trial before it begins, allowing for more than an exciting scientific result, but for an outcome that’ll allow your new brand to differentiate itself in the market upon entry. Making sure that commercial and clinical find ways to partner early on and to learn from one another will help carve out the most successful space possible for the drug.

2. NEVER RELY ON YOUR DRUG’S INNOVATION AND CALL IT A DAY

Innovation in technology and therapies is happening across all disease states. But fulfilling an unmet need doesn’t mean your brand will be an automatic success. You need to create a differentiated story for your brand and prepare the market well in advance of your launch. In crowded markets, HCP habits are hard to break and, in less crowded markets, the void of options can be deafening and make it hard to grab HCPs’ attention.

3. NEVER ALLOW HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE TO BECOME THE AUTHORITY

I cannot stress enough the importance of investing time and resources early on to find the right insights to anchor your launch strategy and creative executions. Too often, especially in companies that have been in the space for a long time, field feedback and customer anecdotes become the truth, and true insight validation is short-changed. Unique research approaches allow a brand team to deeply understand the emotional connection customers have to a certain disease state or treatment approach, which gets to an underlying motivator that will drive a deeper affinity to your brand and the experiences you create.

4. NEVER WORK IN SILOS

As long as each team has their orders, what’s the worst that could happen? In one word, “everything.” It’s important to consider all your internal constituents for successfully navigating the terrain of a launch. For global brands, this could be your top three to five affiliates key to informing your launch strategy to ensure global application. This allows not only for consistency of message but drives efficiencies. Other internal stakeholders like medical, health outcomes, and manufacturing can have a significant impact on the brand’s success. And, Med/Reg/Legal reviewers may not be the naysayers you fear. Bring them in early to your strategy development and insight mining, this will strengthen their connection to the brand goals and, without a doubt, influence the way they review materials.

5. NEVER TARGET JUST THE HCP

Gone are the days when the decision maker was solely the HCP. There are far more decision makers and influencers to treatment decisions than ever before. Over the last few years we’ve seen a rise in the role of patients (empowerment) as they have been tasked with being more in control of their healthcare decisions. The payer environment has also shifted, as well as the role of advocacy groups. The HCP is not the only one in the exam room these days weighing in on the best treatment option.

6. NEVER ASSUME ONE SIZE FITS ALL

Your message must be highly relevant, highly targeted, and highly measurable. Face-to-face discussions are often obsolete, as customers are trying to squeeze more patient care and business management into their already overscheduled days. Instead, they look to catch up during their commutes or while they are relaxing in front of TV at night. But, don’t put all your chips on the digital ecosystem—it is critical to truly understand your target audience and their consumption habits. Optimizing the right channel mix is key.

7. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE

Launches are exhausting but ripe with so many learnings. Organizations spend a lot of time and money to develop robust launch readiness plans and best practices. But like anything that is multi-factorial and complex, it takes more than one time to master it. Therefore, experienced brand teams are highly valuable and will inevitably generate more learnings and best practices with each launch—ultimately benefitting the organization but, more importantly, the lives of the patients they serve.

  • Jen Oleski

    Jen Oleski is EVP, General Manager, GSW, a Syneos Health Company. In addition to leading a portfolio of clients, Oleski is responsible for creating synergies across GSW to deliver breakthrough strategy and creative work, client growth, and the development of account teams.

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