Knowing what’s good for you
Pharma shows the way to better brand health
Head Global Brand & Customer Experience
Let’s go on a journey together.
Imagine you’re managing a new product with all the normal pressures; a competitive landscape, ambitious targets and of course a limited budget – but this time, the rules have changed.
Now, you’ve got just 10 years to make it a success before competitors start selling vastly cheaper copies. In addition, most regions (the US and New Zealand apart) forbid direct to consumer marketing, and you must work with a complicated network of stakeholders in a B-to-B-to-C model.
Moreover, your end users are becoming more and more empowered and knowledgeable about your products.
This journey includes people who can decide your product’s price, direct its availability, and dictate when and where consumers find out about it. This is, of course, not a fictional scenario. It is the world in which prescription healthcare brands operate.
Despite these restrictions, there are historic examples of major blockbusters, with sales of $1 billion+: Viagra (for erectile dysfunction), Lipitor (for cholesterol reduction) and Humira (an arthritis treatment) to name but three.
But the era of the pharmaceutical blockbuster has largely passed, and brand success can no longer be guaranteed by focusing purely on the launch phase.
Pharma is therefore adapting its approach, and there are clear learnings from this evolution that can potentially benefit brands in many categories.
Three pillars of success
Pharma is being increasingly successful in adopting a model that allows for brand journey flexibility. This creates a brand lifecycle with multiple touch points and, critically, allows for what we call ‘course correction’ over time.
At Kantar, we believe in a three-pillar model for brand growth, built on the principles of access, experience and execution. This is a holistic approach, which balances the demands of all three elements to optimise brand equity. It considers each aspect simultaneously in relation to a brand’s lifecycle stage, identifying current strengths and weaknesses, whilst predicting future performance.
For example, a growing brand can use aspects of experience – like emotional positioning and awareness – to understand what’s resonating with the target audience. A brand in decline may, however, look more at access aspects, particularly increasing product market access through additional indications, applications or iterations to drive continuing sales.
In both instances, the focus is to course-correct and optimise brand management strategy for success – something which changes in definition throughout a brand’s lifecycle.
This approach essentially flips how progress is viewed: instead of expending resources on damage repair and assessing impact of brand withdrawal, you can identify brand potential and the levers to be prioritized early on. It’s about looking forward, not back.
An Apple a day
Numerous case studies demonstrate the power of a holistic, course-correcting approach within health care. Sanofi’s Tritace, for example, was originally a flop and failed to meet sales forecasts. But once it was marketed as the only drug of its kind available for stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular-related death prevention in high-risk patients and diabetics, sales skyrocketed, outperforming its peak sale target by a factor of 10. It was Sanofi’s understanding of the rational side of the experience pillar that allowed them to reach Tritace’s unrealised opportunity.
Aventis’s Lantus followed in Tritace’s footsteps. Armed with a ready-made cardiovascular portfolio and 600 reps reaching out primary care doctors, Aventis changed physician behaviour related to its injectable insulin, making Lantus a huge UK success.
Outside health care, Apple is a supreme example of this phenomenon. Its personal digital assistant the Newton was a flop in 1987, but laid the groundwork for the iconic iPhone in 2007. The Macintosh Portable (1989) and the MacBook (2006) tell a similar story: each successful product is based on similar aims as its failed predecessor, but the new iteration understood the brand values that appealed to its consumer base. Of course now, with real-world data feeding a brand strategy, there need not be a 30-year gap between a flop and a hit.
Course correction is the best medicine
Put simply, life sciences companies need to adopt a fluid, intelligent, ongoing brand management plan to maximise the chance of success. Focusing on one part of a brand’s journey is no longer enough; course correction is needed throughout a brand’s lifecycle in order to stay in tune with consumer and stakeholder needs.
The three pillars of success allow companies to do just that. It lets them adopt strategies that analyse brand equity, pulling in access, experience and execution insights from throughout a brand’s lifecycle to drive brand relevancy, management and, ultimately, success.
In healthcare, the learning is clear: for a struggling brand, course correction could be the best medicine.