As pharmaceutical manufacturers increasingly focus their corporate commitment within a limited number of therapeutic areas and disease states, their marketers face greater complexity and new commercial challenges that may ultimately limit their success.
The marketers entrusted with launching the next treatment within a therapeutic franchise are frequently not given the latitude needed to develop the brand positioning and subsequent go-to-market strategies necessary to maximize their molecule. More often, considerations for the on-market brands, which are delivering today’s revenue, serve to limit the market opportunity for tomorrow’s product. This is a real-world example of what the late Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, called ‘the innovator’s dilemma.’
Quite simply the core principle of his work maintains that people or companies who invent a new product are usually the last ones to see (or promote) the next innovation. Think of Tesla and the electric car versus hybrid cars developed by various other car manufacturers. While traditional car manufacturers evolved their models to become less dependent on fossil fuels, they were unable or unwilling to create a true innovation. By settling for evolution versus revolution, other manufacturers missed out on the opportunity to redefine a category they once owned.
Our recommended approach is to acknowledge the existing on-market brand(s), while utilizing all avenues to optimize the launch of the new brand. In essence, when marketing your new asset, you must think as if you were one of your key competitors. This means objectively evaluating your on-market brand just like you would a ‘true’ competitor and considering actions that will favorably position your new brand in contrast.
For example, during positioning ideation, ask yourself and your team what positioning genres and options you would be considering if you didn’t already have a presence in that category. After reviewing all the potential positioning options that maximize the new brand, only then should you introduce the evaluation criteria of “compatibility” with existing franchise brands. This allows you to have honest and informed conversations regarding the best path forward for your new brand, as well as the franchise overall.