The Four-Phase Process
The first step in the message development plan was to identify the underlying emotional context for claims-based messages.
Physicians in this initial, qualitative phase generated emotional attributes (also referred to as "benefits") associated with
specific claims from trials. The moderator used a laddering exercise to help physicians articulate benefits they associate
with each claim.
The purpose of this phase was to develop a list of potential benefits to test in a quantitative survey in order to determine
which benefits ranked highest with physicians and which benefits were most often associated with each claim. Then in real
time, while the qualitative interviews were taking place, the benefits articulated by the physicians were modified by the
creative and brand team watching the interviews. The modified benefits were then presented to the physicians to get their
feedback, creating sort of a feedback loop. As the number of interviews and benefits built up, the balance shifted from physicians
identifying the benefits for each claim to rating the benefits and associating the newly developed benefits with a claim,
or with a number of claims.
Claims messages from the acid reflux category used in the study included significant reductions in episodes at one year; significant
reductions in key symptoms as early as week one; and a 90 percent reduction in total episodes. In a placebo-controlled study,
75 percent reported no episodes at week 15, and throughout two-year, open-label studies, the brand maintained significant
Benefit messages like "Sets realistic treatment expectations that encourage patients to stay on therapy," and "Improves key
aspects of the patient's daily life," or "Gives the physician a sense of confidence when prescribing," were found to effectively
augment those quantitative claims.
In Phase II, the goal was to determine the most effective claims and benefits, and potential relationships between the two.
Claims and benefits were each tested quantitatively and then linked. This led to a short list of very compelling benefits
and equally compelling claims.
Using a combination of rating scales, point allocations, pairing, and ranking exercises, certain emotional benefits were clearly
identified as being strategically linked to certain claims messages. Researchers then assessed the various claims/benefits
combinations to identify the highest ranked combinations. The most unexpected outcome of this second phase was the discovery
that distinct claims/benefits combinations resonated strongly with particular physician segments.
In Phase III, the brand team and creative agency used the claims/benefits combinations from Phase II to develop new messages
for sales reps. The brand and agency team were "behind the glass" in Phase I, when the benefits statements were identified,
and they created the versions used in the feedback loop and for the quantitative phase, so they were very familiar with what
the physicians were really saying. This aided in the development of messages that resonated with the physicians.
Phase IV is an ongoing message-tracking study that measures the impact of the messages and continuously improves them based
on the results. In a comparison, rankings of combination claims/benefits messages wound up differing from the rankings of
claims-only messages—the relative rankings of message effectiveness change when a benefit is added. Some claims become more
important; others, less. The resulting claim/benefit combinations were indeed more powerful in changing physicians' projected
prescribing behavior than claims-based messages alone.
The discovery that some claims/benefits combinations appealed to specific physician segments and not others offered further
confirmation of the potential impact of benefits-oriented messaging as part of an overall physician communication program.
One claim/benefit combination might appeal to physicians who are motivated primarily by quality of life for their patients,
while the same claim combined with a different benefit statement will be more appealing to those overwhelmingly focused on
the clinical and business aspects of their practice. In both cases, the combination claims/benefits message had higher appeal
than claims-based messages alone.
This program ultimately led to messaging that provides the clinical data physicians need in order to choose a drug within
a structure that is benefits-driven. As pharmaceutical companies strive to make their sales rep communications more resonant
and valuable, the addition of benefits messaging to an overall claims-driven program puts one more arrow in their quiver—one
that strikes directly at the heads and hearts of physicians.
Mike Mabey is account manager at CMI. He can be reached at email@example.com