Ward Off Generic Competition

It’s one of the biggest tasks marketers face in the pharmaceutical industry: Getting healthcare professionals to prescribe brand name drugs after generics come out. The key is to take a whole new look at how HCPs make choices.

For far too long, marketers have taken HCPs at their word when they tell us that they only care about clinical results and efficacy. This ignores the reality that healthcare providers are people too. They make decisions just like the rest of us. When consumers choose a brand, it’s almost entirely instinctive. A Harvard researcher reported 95% of purchase decisions take place in the subconscious mind.

Recently Leslie, together with Wharton professor Dr. Michael Platt, published an extensive article in Knowledge@Wharton detailing their findings about what drives instinctive brand decisions: The “Brand Connectome,” a “mini-network of associations composed of every memory a customer has of the brand.” Our work across therapeutic categories has shown that the same subconscious networks that determine which brands consumers reach for also dictate which drugs healthcare professionals prescribe. They may say that clinical results are all that matters and generics are just as good as branded drugs. But when you dig deeper, a prescriber’s choice of drug is much more holistic than companies think. A myriad of less tangible associations are involved.

Brands Become Instinctive Choice

By delving into HCPs’ subconscious networks across numerous therapeutic categories, we’ve discovered that stronger branded drugs have more robust networks of accumulated memories. Inside are drivers—everything from imagery to brand values—that have a major influence on brand preference and prescribing behavior.

The implications of this finding are vast. It means that pharmaceutical marketers should not focus exclusively on clinical superiority; perceived superiority is just as important. It also means that the sooner drugmakers start building holistic associations, the better. Waiting for generics to arrive is too late. The more positive associations a brand accumulates early on, the greater the buffer against generic intrusion later.

After years of R&D spending on drug development, pharmaceutical companies need to make their investments last. As marketers, we can set up these amazing discoveries for long-term success. The key is to strategically build your brand so that it locks in as the dominant instinctive choice.

  • Leslie Zane

    Leslie Zane is Founder and President of Triggers Growth Strategy, a growth strategy firm with a proven track record in changing brand preference to accelerate topline growth. Fortune 100 clients call their work “revolutionary,” delivering the “holy grail in marketing.”

    • Heather Coyle

      Heather Coyle is Managing Partner of Triggers Growth Strategy. Heather has decades of experience in pharmaceutical and other health-related industries, including as CMO of Coordinated Health, Executive VP of Evoke Health, and sales & marketing roles with Janssen.

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