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The Potential Perils of Over-Relying on Expert Advice — A Visionary Tale

Today’s brand director launching the next big advance in science too often circulates exclusively among rarified air. What I mean is that their views about the market, prescribers, and patients are almost exclusively shaped by the 4-6 key opinion leaders (KOL) who specialize in their target market. Over reliance on KOL input to shape your clinical and promotional plans is fraught with danger. Let me give you a case study to illustrate.

A company provided unfettered access to leading KOLs in the field for a new product in advance of full-scale roll out. Each KOL was provided a concierge from the home office to ensure the expert was detailed on the product through and through . . . plus each expert had 24-hours access for help in using the product.

Here was the product feedback from experts verbatim:

“An utter disappointment and abysmal failure”
“I’m genuinely baffled by why we might need it”
” . . . great it is not”
“My god, am I underwhelmed”

As it turns out, the problem here was not really the product. It was actually that the “experts” who took part in this controlled test were constrained by their own realities. They were not able to think of what could be possible with this new product, only what currently was possible. Thankfully, the company had the courage and foresight to recognize this limitation and they launched anyway.

The product you ask? Apple iPad2.

*Adpated from David Pogue article appearing in NYTimes on March 9, 2011.

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