Most products being launched in Oncology and Immunology these days are “pipeline in a product” assets. In fact, the average number of indications for each new product in development has increased steadily since 2014.
This shift has led to a dramatic impact on positioning development, with Brand Teams often more focused on developing “positioning” that is actually a long-term vision for the molecule instead of focusing on successfully positioning the lead indication. It’s like going on a first date and talking about marriage and names for your eventual children. It’s just too soon, and this vision-based focus may cause you to lose your chance to make the best first impression. From our experience in pharma positioning, focusing primarily on what the clinical development program might provide results in inexecutable brand positioning that is generally incompatible with the initial indication. For example, focusing on “first choice in first line” when you’re launching with a third-line indication isn’t the best approach.
Unfortunately, most brands who underperform during the initial launch do not go on to experience success with subsequent indications.
So, if you have a brand with a grand, long-term vision, what should you do? Beyond utilizing the standard criteria for evaluating positioning, add in compatibility – Does the positioning for the initial indication create any barriers to success of the broader clinical development program or vision?
The launch positioning and resulting core message platform should be focused on optimizing commercial success for the initial indication. Full stop. Of course, your launch positioning should be examined for compatibility with the longer-term aspirations of the clinical development program (CDP), but you cannot and should not launch with a vision alone. History is not on your side.