First Impression Last — what does it mean for your pre-launch drug?

In a crowded market place with fierce competition, you’re counting on your launch teams ability to cut through the clutter, convey your value proposition and ensure that you gain a unique position from day one. However, the cold hard truth is that few pharmaceutical launch products succeed in doing so, jeopardizing future successes because they fail to realize that “first impressions last” (also read: New products get one shot with the physician — reason and solution).

Failure to listen carefully and understand expectations, and failure to stay informed of how perceptions of your pre-launch are developing across digital media channels means that you might be in for a big surprise.

Today, it’s increasingly difficult to control perception amongst customers, digital channels and social media have given every individual a voice with global reach. Customers and competitors can say what they want, as often and as loudly as they feel like and sadly there’s little we can do about it. The problem is, that when the message is either repeated enough, goes viral or gets picked up by news media channels, then the message becomes the “uncontested truth” and we lose control. We have seen countless examples of companies at the mercy of such digital blizzards (see the Kryptonite case).

In the pharmaceutical industry we have seen similar examples, and a recent article in Pharmaceutical Executive examined how Effient (a new blood thinner by Eli Lilly) was allegedly doomed for failure before the product even launched. The reason being, an effective counter launch campaign by competitor BMS (Plavix), where BMS effectively managed to position Effient as a niche product that increased bleeding risks, and by repeating this message through various channels and towards various stakeholders it effectively became “The truth”.

Whether your pre-launch product is facing a direct competitor, brand advocates or detractors, or is faced with multiple uncoordinated voices in the digital ether, you need to know what they are saying and take the possible impact (spread & influence) seriously. Some of the steps I suggest launch brands take in-order gain a better understanding:

  • What are key customer concerns, worries and doubt?
  • What is the brand perception — does it resonate?
  • What is the unmet information need (search engine and social media)?
  • What is the customer vocabulary?
  • Are certain themes or stories developing related to our product?
  • Who are the digital KOL/POL(patient opinion leaders)
  • What seems to be the competitor communication strategy?
  • What is the competitor digital presence (assets)
  • Which parts of the Patient/Hcp adoption ladder do competitors focus on?

While many launch brands have realized the power, value and opportunities to be gained by leveraging such digital insights within launch preparations, the majority of launch brands that we see have struggled with the transition, and still rely on decade old market research and go-to-market strategies.

I truly suggest embracing and acknowledging the value of digital customer insight in complimenting classic research, as it provides a far more nuanced and complete picture of key stakeholder groups and the channels they´re using today. Today, modern technology and tools allow you to analyze and understand the online behavior and voice of the customers in far more detail.

At Vertic, we probably have the most experienced and advanced setup for Digital Pre-Launch & Launch Landscaping, and have assisted some of the largest brands in gaining a far more nuanced understanding of both customers and competitors, and use these insights to developed their Digital Strategy.

If you want to know more about Vertic’s approach to Digital Landscaping and the model we have used over the past years, please read more here: www.vertichealthcare.com/prelaunch

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