A Brand Positioning Nightmare - Pharmaceutical Executive


A Brand Positioning Nightmare

Pharmaceutical Executive

Step 1: Case study analysis

It is common to see one oncology product that has several indications. From smaller brands to large blockbusters, the key is to build a brand that can be everlasting through multiple indications. The line of usage, the endpoint, and the competitive set often vary by indication, thus making any one campaign or single message hard to implement. As brands expand their usage throughout their lifecycle, what's needed is to identify the similarities and to strive to make the campaign work across indications.


When we look at Herceptin, a blockbuster brand for breast cancer and gastric cancer, we find that all three indications keep the concept of "proven" intact (see artwork). There is a consistent visual campaign, with the silhouette of the woman with the bow and arrow focusing on targeted therapy that succeeds whether it is for treatment in early stage or metastatic breast cancer or metastatic gastric and GEJ cancer. From an identity standpoint, where we start to differentiate in the ad is with colors. Each color represents a different indication for Herceptin.

Yet another key differentiator is with the messaging. Each indication has a different endpoint. The early stage breast cancer messaging focuses on the risk of disease recurrence; therefore, duration of therapy message is utilized. The metastatic breast cancer messaging focuses on median time to progression and median overall survival. The metastatic gastric and GEJ cancer messaging focuses on overall survival.

Herceptin succeeded with one overarching position for all its indications.


Rituxan differs a bit, as this brand has chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) indications, as well as a rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Wegener's granulomatosis (WG), and microscopic polyangiitis (MPA) indications. Focusing on oncology, the CLL and NHL indications remain consistent from a concept perspective but begin to differentiate when focusing on the other indications. The differentiation centers on the messages, with durable response being communicated with the NHL indication and progression-free survival for the CLL indication. Where we begin to see a departure is when we cross over to the RA indication. This is where we see the branding change from one therapeutic category (oncology) to another (immunology). It seems the marketers answered the question in step two by deciding that Rituxan would be more successful with separate positions and branding for the different therapeutic categories.


As in many classes, and especially in oncology, efficacy is a key factor in drug choice, balanced by a positive safety profile. Treanda keeps a consistent campaign/idea whether speaking about CLL or NHL. The idea is that therapy for CLL and NHL goes beyond chemotherapy to what personally motivates patients to live. Within each indication, there are different endpoints used in each communication.

For CLL, the measurement is median progression-free survival, whereas for NHL, overall response rate is used. While the messages differentiate to help strengthen each indication, the overall idea remains strong to help Treanda sell the brand. Consistent branding and positioning was chosen across its indications.

Oncology best-in-class brands

When looking at these top oncology brands that have been successful in marketing, we find they all trend toward consistent branding across indications (typically within the same therapeutic category), with tailored messaging by indications, of course.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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