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Bigger than Brand: Portfolio Positioning for Pharma


Jenna Earl outlines the three most important things to understand about portfolio positioning in pharma.

Jenna Earl outlines the three most important things to understand about portfolio positioning in pharma.

For many years, pharma has reduced the impact of loss of exclusivity (LOE) by launching alternative molecules to treat the same condition. Whilst the commercial intention of this is to maximize the value gained from a therapy area, the execution of a portfolio strategy can impact this if done poorly. With pharma in the midst of a patent cliff, portfolios of treatments are becoming more and more common, and the need for a clear co-positioning strategy has never been greater.   

1. Position the portfolio as a whole – collaboration trumps competition

When you have a portfolio that includes multiple brands with overlapping patient groups, positioning requires an additional dimension; positioning of the portfolio as well as of the individual brands. If portfolio brands are positioned in a silo, it creates unnecessary competition between the brands, and ultimately, creates confusion for prescribers and payers.

To avoid this, before you make any positioning decisions, take a step back and segment your market as a whole. This makes it possible to determine which market segments your competitors are targeting, the segments your different brands could target, and where the overlaps are likely to occur.

By making tough but necessary decisions, and clearly defining which overlapping areas belong to which of your brands, you will reduce the possibility of intra-competition further down the line. To future-proof your strategy, it’s important at this stage to also consider products which are due to launch in the future - both your own and your competitors’.

2. Get your story straight from brand director to sales rep

The purpose of positioning is to clearly define in the minds of your customers where and why they should use your brand. If the complexity of multiple brands makes the communication of this unclear, prescribers will simply decide for themselves how they will use your brand, if they decide to use your products at all.

Once you have a defined co-positioning for each of your brands within a portfolio, the next step is to look at how this positioning should be communicated to your stakeholders. This is particularly important if you are transitioning any of your brands to a new positioning. There is nothing stranger to a physician than if a sales rep says one week “Use brand X for all of your Y patients” and the next week “Use brand Y”.

Having a clear and simple story for your portfolio is not enough. You need buy-in from all functions, particularly sales, to ensure correct communication of the portfolio’s positioning.

3. Own your therapy area

Having a portfolio with overlapping brands might sound like a massive headache, but it equally comes with lots of opportunities. By offering prescribers a portfolio of treatments which can improve outcomes for a range of patients, you can truly demonstrate a commitment to the therapy area and improve your corporate reputation. You can also develop support services for patients across multiple brands, further strengthening the value of your portfolio as a whole. These benefits are highly valued by physicians, patients, and payers, and should be leveraged to maximum effect.

In this increasingly competitive market, it’s critical to think earlier and smarter about portfolio positioning if you want the best results. New molecules, including biosimilars, are coming into the market all the time, taking up more space in the minds of customers. The best way to defend against that outside competition is to present a unified, coherent story that makes it easy for prescribers and payers to understand where and why they should use your brands to improve their patients’ outcomes.

Jenna Earl is Senior Consultant at Blue Latitude.

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