For a pharmaceutical marketer, few things carry the same level of professional gravitas as a product launch. The stakes are high, the implications are weighty, and the permutations of possible outcomes are overwhelming.

The sobering reality is that nearly two-thirds of drug launches fail to meet sales expectations, and those that fall short usually continue to underperform over the next two years.1 In the increasingly competitive and crowded marketplace, clinical trial data is only as influential as the manner in which it is disseminated.

To avoid getting battered in the market maelstrom, conveying a clear clinical value proposition of your brand is critical. But, how do you achieve the desired change in clinical behavior? Successfully maximizing the commercial potential of your launch brand requires leveraging the power of network analytics to identify those clinicians who can drive behavior change, and effectively address the unmet needs that define the treatment landscape. This can be done in three parts.

Part I

Network Mapping Analytics

The best way to optimize a brand’s launch is to minimize the unknowns. Leave as little to chance as possible. The healthcare market is unpredictable, and even the most well-thought-out plans cannot account for everything—which is why we must embrace that which we can control. Advanced network mapping analytics is critical to meeting this objective.

The right network mapping analytics can provide the greatest opportunities to leverage clinician relationships. Certain clinicians impact the decision-making of others in the healthcare community, and network mapping analytics not only identifies those highly influential clinicians, but also the strength and breadth of their impact and reach. These are the clinicians that will be imperative to the success of your brand. Understanding the existing relationships among healthcare professionals not only optimizes your ability to connect with them, but it also maximizes the impact of marketing communications in achieving the desired clinical behavior change.

And Data Do Not Lie:

Leveraging the most influential clinical voices can dramatically increase marketing ROI: Physicians identified as having a high level of clinical impact on the behavior of peers in their networks have shown to increase marketing ROI by 67%.2

The majority of physicians are entrenched in clinical networks: Studies prove that physicians are much more likely to prescribe a medication if peers within their network were also prescribers of that same medication—an effect that extended to three degrees of separation.3

Targeting influential clinicians dramatically impacts prescribing rates among peers within their network: In a study quantifying the impact of social interactions and peer effects in the context of prescription choices by physicians, it was shown that the recommendation of an influential peer is more than 100 times greater than the impact of sales rep interactions with physicians.4 Once you’ve modeled a network, you can explore many other factors, such as how easily or quickly information flows through it, or how amenable or resistant to change a specific target may be. We apply our proprietary network mapping analytics that use the following approach:

  1. Using the disease-specific healthcare claims data, we can analyze every interaction the patient has during his/her journey.
  2. Connections among clinicians are identified, and the relative impact of the most influential clinicians on the behavior of peers within their network is identified.
  3. The most influential clinicians within a network are leveraged to achieve the desired clinical behavior change and among your targets.

Parts II & III

Bold Creative Brings Science-Based Communications To Life

Data-driven analytics and technology-based insight mining work are part and parcel with strategic messaging and bold creative. The face of your brand is represented by the dynamic interplay of thoughtful messaging that clearly communicates the clinical value proposition, coupled with unique visuals. Our customers are men and women whose understanding of science and healthcare is inextricably embedded into the fabric of their beings. Science provides the rational validation. Creative transforms the science into an emotional benefit.

Science-driven communications appeal to your clinicians’ passions, expertise, and behavioral drivers, making it unassailably critical in any product launch.

While clinical data may be the greatest motivators, the burgeoning influx of new products in crowded markets demands differentiation. Despite the professional and academic objectivity framing the HCP market, the reality is that clinicians are consumers and will be compelled by an evocative, creative story.

Your campaign, in effect, is the movie poster that uses artistic effects and evocative copy to make you look up the trailer online. It boasts the all-star cast and captures the essence of the plot with the arresting word cadences. A powerful campaign with science-based communications brings life to clinical data and paints a portrait of the drug’s true value to patients.

So what will be the fate of your brand after the moment of FDA approval? The variables can seem infinite, which is why a truly successful launch plan aims to minimize the unknowns and maximize the opportunities.

In conclusion, the complexities of launch planning are manifold and multidimensional, but the launch “trifecta” is simple: Three indispensable components of 1) network mapping analytics, 2) science-based communications, and 3) bold creative. The market is riddled with land mines of unknowns, making any product launch the ultimate challenge for a pharmaceutical marketer. Give yourself an edge. Know who to target. Focus on the unmet need. Demand the market’s attention. And leverage the right clinicians to achieve the desired behavior change and improve patient outcomes.

And then, when you’re thrust into the wilds of a launch, you’ll be more than ready. You’ll be ahead.


  1. Beyond the Storm. McKinsey & Company. 2013.
  2. Bhatia T, Wang L. “Identifying Physician Peer-to-Peer Effects Using Patient Movement Data.” International Journal of Research in Marketing. 2011;28(1):51-61.
  3. Miller LG, Christakis NA. “Tapping the Power of Social Networks.” Harvard Business Review. 2011;89(9):28.
  4. Nair HS, Manchanda P, Bhatia T. “Asymmetric Social Interactions in Physician Prescription Behavior: The Role of Opinion Leaders.” Journal of Marketing Research. 2010;47(5):883-895.
  • Kerry Murphy

    Kerry Murphy is EVP, Account Services Synapse. Having been at Synapse since its inception, Kerry has more than 20 years in healthcare communications, designing and managing numerous large medical communications in support of a wide range of successful brands. Her comprehensive expertise in biopharmaceutical marketing has made her an in-valuable partner to clients throughout all phases of the product lifecycle.