Case Study: Science-Based Selling

How GSK relaunched a mature brand in a competitive category
Apr 30, 2005


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The Product Oxistat (oxiconazole), an antifungal agent, is available as a topical cream or lotion and is prescribed for the treatment of fungal skin diseases, including athlete's foot (tinea pedia), jock itch (tinea cruris) and tinea versicolor, which presents as patches on the skin.

The Problem The consumer healthcare division of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) needed to revitalize sales of a mature topical antifungal treatment before the end of its lifecycle.


Oxistat achieved its largest transaction month ever in September 2004, eight months after relaunch, when the total prescriptions year-to-date index (versus the same period in 2003) reached 128.
Background Oxistat was repatriated from a previously licensed partner in late 2002. During the initial months prior to relaunch, the company used the communications strategy, visuals, and claims developed by the previous marketing organization to promote the brand. In January 2003, Oxistat was just one of several brands being sold by GSK's sales reps. Revisiting training materials was not an immediate priority, so sales force training also used the existing materials.

About 18 months into the sales cycle, monthly prescription targets were modest. Nevertheless, Oxistat sales were beginning to regularly miss monthly forecasts. The brand team assessed the product to be underperforming relative to its market potential. An analysis suggested potential reasons for declining trends:
  • Initial sales force training had not been a priority at launch.
  • Historical positioning and product communication materials were not aligned with current unmet needs within this market sector.
  • The field sales force was not emphasizing the therapeutic benefits of the product in the context of other drugs on the market or clinical studies that supported the product claims.
  • The antifungal therapeutics category is competitive by nature.

The Solution The GSK marketing team decide to turn the business around by updating training to relaunch the product to the sales force. The goal was to enhance reps' technical knowledge of the product in the context of its competitive set. But the clock was ticking—the product was losing pace against budgeted dollars and the company's in-house training department was unavailable.

So the brand team hired an outside training partner to develop the strategy and material for the training relaunch. They selected San Diego-based ScienceMedia (whose CEO is a co-author of this case study) to face the dual challenge of helping the sales force grasp the materials' technical content and delivering it rapidly—through a computer-based distance learning program.

"Our first job was to identify the critical technical knowledge gaps within the field sales force," says Julie Gegner, PhD, the ScienceMedia project team leader. "Then we based all our efforts on driving business with science—our focus was on clinical differentiation."

The team analyzed all available clinical studies to determine what promotional claims were supported by the existing data. That analysis, combined with findings from current market research with physicians helped build the foundation of the plan. Among others, the team's research identified an under promoted benefit of the product—once-a-day application—that emerged as a key differentiator within the antifungal therapeutic category.

To help frame the brand positioning, the new training material required a clear, scientific discussion of the technology behind the once-a-day benefit. The project team used their research to create training modules that would increase the GSK sales reps' product knowledge with a clear explanation of Oxistat's MOA in comparison to the market leader, using straightforward presentations of basic science, technical vocabulary, and competitive product placement.