All pharmaceutical products “work.”
That is the first lesson we learned about pharma marketing when conducting a Brand Transfer Study with an upstart dermatology brand. Drugs undergo so much clinical testing, that some level of effectiveness is a given if they are ever approved for release.
That means buyers can have some degree of confidence that the product will do what it claims to do. For marketers, it means that all your competitors’ products work, too. Standing out means finding all the other things about your product that make it different and better.
For the brand we worked with, their strategy has been to build a story around the breakthrough science that made their drug possible. They wanted to find out if that breakthrough message was cutting through the noise, both with their own sales team and the health care providers that prescribe their product.
Building a Reputation
The new brand entered the market with some well-established competition. Health care providers have developed a comfort level prescribing other drugs for decades, making it difficult for a new product to build credibility.
The BTS data showed very clear alignment around this challenge. Both leadership and the sales team identified “evidence of success from patients” as the biggest opportunity for the brand. The sales team also rated “length of time on market” as their worst performance category against their competition. This is simply a function of time, considering the brand’s relatively recent launch. Nonetheless, the brand does not have the track record to claim to be better or more worthy of physician recommendation than other brands.
The health care providers confirmed this thinking. The physicians rated the brand’s “length of time on market” as the lowest performing attribute relative to the competition. This is a strong indicator of where they lack confidence. They don’t know enough yet.
That does not mean that the sales team and the physicians don’t think the product works. They do believe it works. In the attributes identified as most important to physicians – effectiveness, safety and patient satisfaction – the brands stacked up quite well. The sales team rated their brand slightly above the competition, while the health care providers rated them virtually even.
Doubling Down on the Differentiator
The data around the brand supported a simple conclusion. People think it works, but they need more proof.
How do you get more evidence of success if physicians don’t recommend it because there is not enough evidence of success? Chicken or egg?
We have seen this with other Brand Transfer Studies in the past. Something is new and needs to get traction. To stand out, you can’t tell the same story as the established competition. You need to be different. You need a hook.
For this brand, their innovative technology is their hook. Their formula is unique, taking a proven, decades-old drug and producing it in a completely new form (applied topically, versus a pill).
The BTS data showed that their innovation story was being relayed successfully. The sales team rated “innovative technology” as one of the top-performing attributes of the brand. More importantly, they saw that factor as a significant advantage over the competition.
The sales team’s confidence in the innovation story seems to be translating to health care provider confidence, too. The physicians had “innovative technology” rated as their highest-performing attribute for the brand and the attribute that had the biggest advantage over the competition.
Validation Leads to Acceleration
The marketing team for this brand was not surprised by the results of the BTS. The data confirmed their instincts on what made them unique and it validated their strategy for building their brand in the marketplace.
That confirmation gives them the confidence that they are on the right path. They don’t have the best reputation. They are not seen as the best product. Yet. The BTS showed them that the key people they need to believe in their brand – their sales team and the physicians who prescribe the drugs – believe in the story of what makes them unique and different. They don’t have to start over from scratch. They don’t need to rebrand. They need to keep going.
What is that validation worth to marketers?