I’ve recently worked on two projects in separate therapeutic areas where the challenger brand had unique clinical data that was met with apathy despite high unmet need in both categories. Why would this be the case?
The physicians in each category had assumed that their current brand already had the data in question when it, in fact, did not. This belief by the prescribers basically eliminated the rightful clinical differentiation for these new products. The physicians had given the benefit of the doubt (or filled in the missing data) to their trusted brand.
So, how does something like this happen? The physicians let their own personal experience with the brands fill in the data gaps. When challenged on their beliefs, more than a few physicians were indignant . . . so too were my clients who actually did the clinical trials to secure the claim!
How do you overcome this phenomenon? The first thing marketers need to do is assume nothing. In the haste to articulate the branded story, marketers often gloss over the educational prescripts that are required to appropriately frame the unique data point. You can’t assume that because you’re the only disease-modifying therapy to have 5-year data that physicians are going to automatically think it’s unique.
Second, you need to get comfortable with making your target physicians uncomfortable. As the ‘challenger’ brand, you need to ‘challenge’ the physician on what he or she is doing every day in order to affect a change in behavior. While the physicians got indignant in my illustration, the response invoked by the challenger brand’s data point provoked a robust discussion on the limitations of the current products on the market. This type of discussion provides an excellent framework to reintroduce the challenger brand’s unique value proposition.
If you can’t get comfortable challenging physician beliefs and perceptions, then perhaps you shouldn’t call yourself a challenger brand . . . and you should get comfortable with a slow launch trajectory.