When Sharks Attack - Pharmaceutical Executive


When Sharks Attack

Pharmaceutical Executive

How to Shark-Proof Your Launch

To keep your product launch out of the jaws of a wily competitor, I recommend six steps:

Prepare the crew Select a team that is committed to developing and executing a comprehensive competitive launch plan. Many companies delegate a single brand-team member to handle competitive issues; in contrast, the more successful companies select an entire cross-functional team and dedicate the necessary resources.

Hire a shark expert While pharmaceutical companies spend enormous resources securing corporate work sites and employee laptops, they often fail to secure launch products, which typically take over a decade to develop and a billion dollars to bring to market. Engage a specialized competition consultant to lead the team through the planning and protection process; this consultant should have deep industry expertise and extensive experience in both product launches and counter-launches. Importantly, do not rely on agencies that specialize in product launches but disregard product protection.

Engage in shark discovery The competitive consultant can lead the team through the development of a comprehensive analysis process that incorporates assessments of competitive, corporate, product, stakeholder, and market factors.

Conduct shark surveillance Establish a surveillance network and a process to identify signs of impending attack. This network can consist of field personnel, competitive intelligence experts, key opinion leaders, and other stakeholders. There should be a clear process for identifying, assessing, and acting on potential threats.

Swim in a shark tank The best way to prepare to swim with the sharks is to practice, practice, practice. Perform competitive simulation exercises—the new, improved version of war games. Competitive simulations are designed to be more realistic, engaging, and productive than traditional war games. Most importantly, competitive simulations lead to real results, including specific action steps which can be directly integrated into product launch plans.

Plan the fishing expedition Ultimately, the competitive planning team needs to prepare and execute a winning Competitive Launch Plan that synthesizes the findings from the competitive analysis, surveillance, and simulation. Ideally, this plan will not only shark-proof the product launch, but also create a ferocious shark launch that overwhelms competitors and captures the market for years to come.

Stan Bernard, MD, MBA is President of Bernard Associates LLC. He can be reached at


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