Product managers are always looking for new ways to maximize the success of their brands, no matter where the brand is in its lifecycle. And there is no shortage of possible strategies to consider in order to achieve that growth: A different sales approach, new marketing initiative, push into emerging markets, etc. The key is determining which tactic is best for your brand and when the right time is to make a change in strategy. PM360 asked 9 industry experts:
- How do you determine the optimal growth drivers for your brand? What are you doing to actually measure your brand’s performance in order to best identity those growth opportunities?
- How quickly should you revise or change your strategy if it looks like your brand is becoming stagnant? What data/metrics/KPIs are you using to determine when the time is right to make a change?
- Where do you believe are the best opportunities to achieve growth in today’s market? Is it a specific channel (online, mobile, pharmacies, etc.)? Or a target audience (patients, payers, physicians, ACOs, IDNs, etc.)? How have those opportunities changed in the last few years as the healthcare industry has undergone changes from the ACA?
- What do you recommend to help a brand stand out from its competitors in order to achieve the top market share?
- If you could only give someone one piece of advice about the best way to grow a pharmaceutical brand, what would you tell them?
Let’s first make some assumptions: You have no new data, formulations, indications or budget increases. And let’s take pricing, contracting and reimbursement out of the picture. Finally, you’re three or more years post-launch.
Your success may lie in doing something counterintuitive: Focusing on a patient segment for which your brand has an advantage, even if it’s a small one. This approach, called niche, focus or segmentation strategy, is counterintuitive in pharmaceutical marketing because product managers typically want the biggest piece of the market—not just a slice. Few marketers would have the chutzpah to recommend that they shrink their target market.
Advantages of Focus Marketing
Focus strategy, as described by Michael E. Porter (Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors), entails directing efforts toward a specific market segment whose needs your product can best meet. This creates a competitive advantage and possibly a platform for expansion into the broader market. It’s an approach used frequently in the consumer world: Dairy Queen opens their stores in small towns; Rolls-Royce doesn’t hope to attract everyone. In pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca applied focus marketing by targeting difficult-to-treat patients and earning it the nickname of “gorilla statin.” This allowed Crestor to compete against Pfizer’s Lipitor, the category’s 500-pound gorilla, and generic simvastatin. Global Crestor sales nearly tripled from $1.2 billion in 2005 to $3.5 billion in 2008. Another example is Lilly’s Cymbalta: Rather than approach all people with depression and compete with multiple category blockbusters, Lilly focused on individuals with both depression and pain, a strategy that paid off handsomely—by 2013, Cymbalta was the 11th largest global pharmaceutical brand with more than $5 billion in worldwide sales.
Time spent reviewing clinical reports will likely reveal patient profiles for which your brand is ideally suited. Consider the implications of “owning” those segments and how that leadership might serve as a springboard to success.
Standing out from the crowd is all about three things: Knowing your audience, making an entrance and being distinctive. If you know everyone else at the party is going to wear the same black dress, for example, you walk in there wearing red instead. Believe me, everyone will notice. Just as important, they’ll remember. Differentiation for your brand starts with the same question that drives you to wear red: Why blend in when you can shine? Here’s how to make that happen.
Know Who You’re Talking With!
Remember, this is a conversation, not a lecture. Spend the time and money to correctly target and get to know your specific audience. You need to identify those who will be most receptive to your brand’s message. This is such a basic step that many marketers assume they already know the required information. And assumptions are how you end up in the black dress.
Keep It Simple!
Market share is all about mind share, and mind share is all about simplicity: Creating simple messaging for a simple brand story. To make a memorable entrance, your brand needs an elevator speech. However, if your speech lasts from the time you leave the lobby until the time you hit the penthouse, you may never get off the ground floor! Many feel that the more they say about their brand, the faster they will build brand loyalty. Instead, it may just give a potential customer a reason to say no.
Do Things Differently!
To be successful, be distinctive. Unique initiatives are the way to get your brand noticed. It’s not about quantity or cost either—they just need to be different. Explore unusual ways to use social media and blogs. Look into the mobile app space. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Different makes the brand magic happen!
Compelling storytelling by credible stakeholders is the best way to grow a pharmaceutical brand. Data gives a rational reason to believe, but stories provide an emotional credibility that helps brands thrive.
The stories themselves are important—every brand should have a differentiating purpose that inspires everything it does and how it expresses itself in an authentic, engaging story. But who tells these stories is equally important. As the shift of prescribing power moves from physicians to a model that includes patients, caregivers and other key stakeholders, the need for understanding the role of each storyteller intensifies.
Your brand must have its own ecosystem of storytellers, chosen for their value in communicating, endorsing and championing your brand. People engage with stories that resonate with them, which generally means stories told by someone they know, respect and trust.
Effective Brand Storytellers
Stakeholders make particularly effective storytellers. Each serves as a voice of authority on the questions and issues surrounding a brand. And each needs to own a key component of the brand story.
Here’s a starting lineup of stakeholder storytellers who can accelerate brand uptake and affect success: Investigators (the test pilots of your brand, creating the scientific origins and inspiration for your stories), KOLs (for their endorsement and impact on future treatment guidelines), investors (the gatekeepers to early impact and future value), payers (brokers of access and preference), advocacy groups (to keep you focused and relevant), and patients (your ultimate audience and the source of your most meaningful and authentic stories).
Creating a compelling brand story requires a strong mix of traditional marketing skills and creativity, coupled with a deep understanding of human behavior. The process can be challenging, but once you’ve composed good stories and recruited the right stakeholders to tell them, you’ve laid the groundwork for solid brand growth.
Before jumping to the conclusion that a strategy is failing or becoming stagnant, it’s important to not only know, but to understand, how the strategy is being evaluated. Setting up the right measurement plan, capturing the right data in the right time frame, identifying the correct key performance indicators (KPIs), and performing a thorough analysis are all necessary steps to take before changing course for any brand. A strategy may very well be working, but if you are measuring the wrong things, or looking at the wrong data, it is easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.
A few years ago I had a client who relied heavily on “time on site” and similar metrics, as a way of measuring brand engagement. The brand was maturing and needed to refocus its efforts to maintain patient levels, so a new website was launched to help accomplish this goal. During the first six months, session duration declined, which greatly concerned the client. Rather than abandon the new strategy, we reexamined whether site duration was still an appropriate KPI for the new site. Had the visitors to the original site stayed longer because they were truly engaging with the content, or because they were confused and couldn’t find what they’re looking for? Our analysis showed that the new site was actually engaging patients more quickly via better registration forms and downloads. The need to remain on the site was not critical, and so time on site was no longer a valid KPI.
A launch brand will of course have different strategies than those of a well-established brand, or one that is approaching loss of exclusivity (LOE). As strategies change, it’s important to make sure the measurement plan reflects the change in focus, and that the KPIs are revisited and updated accordingly.
Most brand teams are thinking about how they can be different, but thinking about it is the easy part. You can sit in a workshop with your agencies all day long and dream big—but following through on really innovative ideas, to the point that they produce measurable outcomes? That takes hard work, perseverance and a team that knows how to drive results.
Focus on things that actually make a difference. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing something “innovative” just for the sake of saying you did something new or were the first. I challenge brand teams to take a purposeful and meaningful approach that addresses a real problem customers and patients are facing. I also encourage use of technology that works within the provider’s existing workflow, to maximize user friendliness and the overall potential of the innovative idea.
Go Outside Your Marketing Team
Finally, I think it’s foolish to attempt anything new and different alone. So I encourage brand teams that want to “do different” to leverage their in-house and external experts to advance new initiatives. I urge brand teams to break out of the legacy silo approach to marketing, and employ their subject matter advisors from market access, multichannel and digital platforms, legal and compliance, among others, to support their “do different” efforts.
Brand teams that take this collaborative and entrepreneurial approach as their first step toward “doing different” will be pleasantly surprised with how purposeful, cross-team collaboration will help unlock new and tangible ways to achieve things that make a difference in patients’ lives.
Listen to your customers and give your physicians and patients what they want. So much “listening” goes on but many brands aren’t really hearing what is being said and just don’t know what to do with all the “listening data” they receive. Those are the brands that tend to do what they have always done because they have always done it. Well, that won’t even get your brand on the podium, let alone the gold medal.
To be top of mind, you must make it easy for physicians to prescribe your brand for their appropriate patients and help them want to use your brand. That means acting on the data, thinking outside the box and trying something new. What have you done to deserve being top of mind? What differentiates your brand, your company and your reps from your competitors? If a few new cutting edge tactics don’t come immediately to mind, then you aren’t differentiated.
Use Cutting Edge Tactics
Are you expecting physicians to learn about your brand using long, boring, didactic presentations (“Bueller…Bueller”) or are you using cutting edge micro-learning “info-tainment” sessions HCPs can access whenever they want from any device? Are you making your KOLs and MSLs available to your HCPs in new and novel ways? Did you hear your physicians when they said they need more and better patient education tools? Have you made it easy for their patients to start and stay on your branded medication? When you do, you will win the day.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. As Teddy Roosevelt put it, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”
The “perfect drug” is like a unicorn: You can believe it exists all you want, but unless you glue a horn onto a horse, you’re not going to see one. Accept from the start that your brand isn’t perfect and find an insight unique to your brand.
Insights are the convergence of real customer understanding and brand relevance. You must hit on both of these ideas—hitting on only one part of this marketing equation is not an insight, it’s merely an observation or brand feature. Ideally, your insight should be something your competition won’t be able to leverage. Conversely, you may land on an insight that your competition could leverage, but has chosen not to. This may propel short-term success for your brand, but it leaves you vulnerable longer term. Don’t settle—keep digging to find one that’s truly unique.
Uncovering a Unique Insight
We found such an insight for a hepatitis C drug we helped launch a few years ago. Our customers, in this case HCPs, believed that “the faster a body was cleared of a virus, the better the chance that cure will be achieved.”
On its own, this is an observation, but coupled with the fact that our brand’s data demonstrated that it indeed cleared the virus fast, we found a critical point of differentiation. It was the insight we needed for HCPs to differentiate efficacy data that, on the surface, looked similar but helped lead to a very successful launch. Want to win? Invest in finding a great insight—you’ll be happy you did.
While prescription treatments are approved for a relatively narrow indication, pharma tends to market for the entire eligible patient population, and communicates “me, too” drug benefits that increase reach but fail to differentiate.
Instead, brands need to first understand the competitive landscape, and map their unique benefits to discover ownable gaps and white spaces. Paradoxically enough, top market share is attainable by narrowing the target audience, not expanding it.
This takes courage from brand teams, along with accurate market research to justify the targeting and refined messaging. But the gain outweighs the pain when patients, caregivers and HCPs come to know your brand’s unique benefit.
Stay True to Your Audience
The best way to grow your pharmaceutical brand is to stay true to the needs of your audiences: Patients, their caregivers and the HCPs seeking the best available treatment solutions.
Unlike consumer brands with audiences that self-identify with their purchases and take delight in the experience of shopping, prescription drugs are chosen as a regrettable but necessary way to fix what’s broken and get back to living.
As such, patients and their caregivers are under intense emotional duress, and HCPs are making important, often life-or-death decisions based on the actionable intelligence and proven clinical data you need to provide.
So addressing these highly sensitive and nuanced expectations is critical. Patients demand simple explanations and comprehensive support; HCPs need authoritative information and practice management help.
Digital channels are proving the best way to do exactly that: Dynamic content, point of care and geo-targeted experiences, and personalized biometrics through the wearable revolution are all encouraging unprecedented levels of engagement.
In today’s crowded marketplace, it can be difficult for brands to stand out from each other. Yet, achieving differentiation is more paramount than ever. In order for brands to set themselves apart from their competitors, they must have a sound strategy that focuses on key areas for growth.
Growth in today’s market is still based on developing the clinical value proposition to physicians. The challenge lies in helping physicians understand which patients would be ideally suited for your therapeutic. Today, and in the future, the role of the institutional infrastructure will grow to become more important as ACOs and IDNs become more prevalent, which will require a way to target top-down at specific accounts. Once that value proposition is defined, it is crucial to develop an intimate understanding of the hurdles (e.g., individual physicians, ACOs, IDNs) to access and engage with multiple stakeholders to overcome those barriers.
Data is Key for Growth
As stakeholders are identified and prioritized, it is critical to fully understand and analyze each group, as well as effectively plan your data assets. If data analytics are not available in a timely fashion to allow analysis of progress and market penetration, a brand’s growth trajectory may be stalled. With no feedback mechanism, the brand will never reach its true potential. Furthermore, if data is well-planned and accessible, problems can be identified early and course corrections can be made.