Success in new product launches is a fundamental requirement to excel in pharma business – regardless of whether the drug is innovative or a generic one. For a novel, innovative molecule, associated risks are much higher, as it carries a huge amount of associated R&D expenditure.
The launch plan for a generic formulation or even a ‘me-too’ patented variety, can broadly replicate the first in the class molecule. Whereas, for any breakthrough innovative medicine – it’s a whole new ball game. There are virtually no footsteps to follow. Nonetheless, there is one thing common in both – a robust launch plan is pivotal to success, across the board.
In this regard, the March 2014 article titled, ‘The secret of successful drug launches’, of McKinsey & Company captures an interesting scenario: “About two-thirds of drug launches don’t meet expectations. Improving that record requires pharmaceutical companies to recognize the world has changed and adjust their marketing accordingly.”
On the same issue, Bain & Company also drew a similar outline with its article titled, ‘How to Make Your Drug Launch a Success,’ published about three and half years later – on September 06, 2017. It reported: “Our research shows that nearly 50 percent of launches over the past eight years have under-performed analyst expectations, and more than 25 percent have failed to reach even 50 percent of external revenue forecasts.”
The bottom-line, therefore, is – even if the success rate of new product launches has marginally improved, for various reasons, there still isn’t much to write home about it. In this article, I shall deliberate what type of approaches, when used with powerful cerebral inputs, could possibly improve this rate – significantly and sooner. Could it be with ‘Data-giri’?
What is ‘Data-giri’?
A good question. ‘Data-giri’ is quite an unheard-of terminology, probably was first used by the Chairman of Reliance Industries – Mr. Mukesh D. Ambani, on September 02, 2016. This happened when he announced the forthcoming launch of his mobile network ‘Jio’. At that time, light-heartedly he said:”We Indians have come to appreciate and applaud ‘Gandhigiri’. Now, we can all do ‘Data- giri’, which is an opportunity for every Indian to do unlimited good things, with unlimited data.”
As is known to many, the word ‘Gandhigiri’ is generally used in India to express the power in the tenets of Gandhism. Similarly, the expression ‘Data-giri’ may symbolize the power that the effective use of the right kind and quality of ‘data’ could provide. Unleashing the potential of relevant and requisite data for value creation, would assume critical importance, even in drug launches, more than ever before.
‘Data-giri’ in drug launches:
Right kind and volume of relevant ‘Data’ is fast becoming an important marketing weaponry. Its variety and quality of usage in business, would ultimately differentiate between success and failure.
Today, data usage in pharma marketing can no longer be restricted to just retail and prescription audits, supported at times by a few custom-made marketing research initiatives. The data that I am talking about here, covers mostly real-life and ongoing data in many areas, such as customer behavior, their practices, thinking pattern, aspirations, together with associated changes in trend for each – captured right from the early stages. The cluster of customers includes doctors, patients, healthcare providers and all other stakeholders.
To unleash the hidden power of data for gaining a productive space for brands in customers’ mind, building an arsenal of data for engagement in pharma marketing warfare, is emerging as a new normal for pharma players.
Accordingly, the bedrock of any strategic plan is shifting from – key decisions based mostly on gut feelings, to all such decisions standing on pillars of a large pool of well-analyzed data. From a new product-launch perspective, the basic data requirements would encompass some critical areas, which need to be focused on. I would illustrate this point with a few examples, as below.
Basic data requirements for a new product launch:
One such example in the above area, comes from United BioSource LLC (UBC) – a leading provider of pharmaceutical support service. It highlights 4 real-time basic data insights as critical to a successful drug launch, which I summarize as follows:
- What market share I want to achieve?
- Where are my potential high-volume prescribers?
- What are the characteristics of patients who will receive my drugs?
- Which physician specialties would prescribe my drug – immediate, medium and long term?
Successful companies do three things right:
Another example on what successful companies do right comes from the above research report of Bain & Company. It found that companies with successful launches do the following three things right:
- They differentiate their drug through messaging, post-launch data and services.
- They create broad customer advocacy via a superior customer experience.
- They organize their launch as a micro-battle and ensure continuous ‘frontline feedback’.
The paper included a few other factors as, comprehensive market research, key opinion leader advocacy and competitive resourcing. The authors observed that pharma executives grossly underestimate several key success ingredients, including customer advocacy and organizing each launch as a micro-battle, with a real-time dual-feedback mechanism involving all concerned, to facilitate prompt intervention whenever required.
From both the above examples, none can possibly refute that without a meticulously created ‘data arsenal’, these exercises are feasible, in any way, for a rewarding new product launch outcome.
Data is fundamental to create a Unique Customer Experience (UCE):
As I wrote in my previous article, the expertise in creating a Unique Customer Experience (UCE) or aUnique Patient Experience (UPE) for a brand, would eventually separate men from the boys in the game of gaining product ‘market share’. Crafty use of data is fundamental for moving towards this direction.
One of the crucial requirements for UCE or UPE is taking a significant share of mind of consumers. This is possible by designing data-based cutting-edge differential advantages of the brand over others. In pharma marketing battleground, this could be done either – with only tangible brand features, or mostly with intangible benefits and perceptions, or an astute mix of both.
Data – essential to measure deviation against the strategic plan:
During any new product launch-phase, it is essential to capture and accurately measure all actual deviations against plan, taking place on the ground at each pre-defined milestone. The exact reasons for each need to be ferreted – both below or above expectations, for immediate necessary actions. This is important, as various studies indicate that the performance trend of a new product in the first six months from its launch, is a good indicator of its future performance.
All types of customer engagements, including selection of communication channels and platforms, should be ongoing research data-based. I emphasized this point in my previous article, as well. It was reiterated that ‘omnichannel content strategy’ for improving patient engagement and providing UPE, across all touchpoints in the diagnosis and treatment process, should be created over the bedrock of high-quality data.
Time for a switch from SOV to SOC:
Creating greater ‘Share of Voice (SOV)’ for a new brand, especially during its launch phase, would no longer work in pharma. This approach is based on the key premise of ‘Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai’. This often-used Hindi phrase when translated into simple English, may be expressed as: ‘That which is seen is sold.’
In the pharma context SOV may be explained, as I understand: The percentage of total sales promotion and marketing activities for a brand within the sum total of the same in the represented therapy area. It is usually determined by measuring some key parameters, such as frequency and reach of doctors-call, or customer-contact, or even its rank in ‘top of mind brand recall.’
Greater SOV can make marketeers believe that enough is being done by the company to benefit potential brand consumers, which would help reaping a rich harvest. It may also reflect how busy they are with the execution of all planned-activities. On the other hand, consumer-experience may not be quite in sync with the intent and belief of the marketeers. They may not find enough value in the conventional brand marketing process. This is likely to happen much more in the future, as most consumers will want to experience a unique feeling of being cared enough by the company, while moving through all the touch points of the treatment process.
This trend calls for a major shift in pharma marketeers’ approach – from creating a greater SOV to offering greater SOC (Share of Care). I highlighted the importance of providing ‘care’ through several of my articles in the past, published in this blog. One such is titled “Creating A ‘Virtuous Cycle’ Through Patient Reach and Care”, published on April 09, 2018.
The critical switch from SOV to SOC involves imaginative application of complex data of high quality.
A well-thought-out plan to fetch out critical answers aiming to provide UCE or UPE, will involve in-depth analysis of voluminous data of high quality, through modern-day analytics. From this perspective, fast learning of the art of ‘Data-giri’ is becoming a critical requirement for new product launch success in pharma, as we move on.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.