Fact or fiction? – You can’t position your brand based on MOA « Return On Focus | https://returnonfocus.com | Return On Focus

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Fact or fiction? – You can’t position your brand based on MOA

When we’re conducting positioning work with Clients, we often hear a blanket statement that a pharmaceutical/ biotechnology brand cannot be successfully positioned based on its mechanism of action (MOA). It’s likely that repeated comments from physicians to the effect of, “I don’t care how your drug works. I only care that it works.”, have made this way of thinking near gospel among Industry executives. While it is true that not every brand can be positioned based on MOA, it is inaccurate to say that no brand can.

When examining marketing evidence, we have found that a brand can successfully  position based on MOA if(and only if) the mechanism allows the brand to deliver a unique and clinically relevant benefit. 

To prove our assertion, we will share two clear examples where brands have successfully positioned based on their unique mechanisms of action.

The first illustration is Zytiga from Janssen, which launched in 2011 for treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) after chemotherapy. To provide some relevant context, you need to know that Zytiga is an anti-androgen medication, and its initial indication was for patients with undetectable levels of androgen. Knowing this, it was critical to explain how Zytiga was able to extend overall survival in these patients. Unlike prior medications in this space, Zytiga targeted three sources of androgen, not just the two sources that most oncologists and urologists learned in medical school. This unique MOA was a key focus of Janssen’s positioning of Zytiga. Ultimately, Zytiga was identified by Scrip as one of the most successful Oncology launches of that decade based on cumulative sales. 

The second illustration is Entivyo from Takeda, which launched in 2014 for the treatment of ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). To provide some relevant context once again, you need to know that almost all medications approved to treat moderate-to-severe UC and CD are also approved for use in other autoimmune diseases, and some of these medications have significant safety issues that concern physicians and patients.  Entyvio launched with a ‘gut selective’ MOA-based positioning to differentiate from other more general autoimmune treatments and to underscore its ability to deliver significant efficacy benefits with fewer off-target effects. This approach and its subsequent evolution to “made for IBD” provided a unique space for them in a crowded market. While their positioning has recently evolved away this idea, Entyvio has remained successful with global sales of more than 6 billion dollars in 2022.

So, what’s the key takeaway for brand marketers? Be mindful not to put artificial limitations on your brand positioning before you even start the process. We find the best positioning engagements allow teams to explore all viable options and test with customers to determine the optimal focus for their brand.

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