The Futuristic Insight

June 1, 2011

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-06-01-2011, Volume 0, Issue 0

Creating and managing expectations is the most basic rule of marketing

Creating and managing expectations is the most basic rule of marketing. Brands that lose sight of that—even those brands with a truly unique or exciting feature—will often stumble at some point early in their life cycle and possibly even cause their own failure. Take nothing for granted, even when marketing something as compelling and media-alluring as a nicotine vaccine.

Conditioning a particular marketplace is key. In this case, the promise of the vaccine would appear to sell itself, but that would be an assumptive mistake. The medical community, as well as the consumer public, has a bit of an ongoing love/hate relationship with the tobacco-cessation category. Some valid therapies have been launched, but even more have fallen flat on their promise or done a poor job at their shot at that ever-elusive first impression.

Martin Mannion SVP Branding Director | yBrand, division of Ignite Health

What a mistake it would be to approach or treat the vaccine category the same way one would treat a traditional pharma brand or OTC product.

Vaccines are a distinct animal with issues traditional pharma brands don't deal with much, if at all. For instance:

  • It is a highly feature (vs. benefit)-driven category

  • Most vaccines, rightly or not, are almost automatically commoditized in the eyes of healthcare professionals

  • Choice between vaccines is primarily driven by price

  • Manufacturing dynamics are often very fragile, which can cause significant disruptions in distribution throughout a brand's lifecycle

  • Patients often view the need to vaccinate with apathy and a lack of urgency

  • Vaccines are about prevention (vs.cure), which means success is an absence of the proof needed to reinforce the patient's behavior and mindset toward the product

Build the lock to fit your key. It would seem crucial for this brand to leverage interest among both healthcare professionals and consumers in its pre-launch phase, but with caveats:

  • NicVAX pre-launch efforts will fail if the brand simply joins the fray of the "smoking-is-bad" message

  • Any generic or generalized message is likely to drive interest in many other programs or resources and make the launch of the product even more difficult

  • In a world of media and sensory overload, the ability to retain information found in journals, glanced over in magazine ads, or spotted on billboards and subway posters not only challenges the most retention-adept minds, but is also unnecessary when we are always one Google search away from an answer to a stimuli we were exposed to. In a world where data-driven algorithms can freely tap into cloud-hosted databases of infinite knowledge, generalized messages do nothing more than dampen like a Maine mist in May.

Even early on, the conversation must feel different and new. A brand like NicVAX has a unique opportunity to stand apart by carefully sculpting the conversation around the attributes that differentiate it from other solutions. This "shaping" and "defining" should start early—as early as the pre-launch phase, when the dialog is still in the "unbranded" stage.

Fabio Gratton, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer lgnite Health

Ultimately, it's crucial that the interest created by this new conversation must be paid off only by the launch of this vaccine and no other option.That way, appropriate interest has been inspired but the solution can only be satisfied by a single source—in this case, NicVAX.

A class all by itself. A marketer must take the time and proper care to create a new class, complete with its own vernacular (class name, monikers, descriptors, Web properties), as well as look and feel (logo, iconography, colors, graphics, and mode-of-action animations) that only this particular vaccine could claim for itself. COX-II and PPIs are just two of the most commonly cited examples of classes created by pharma companies. Further, the brand ought to take full advantage of its "first-and-only" status (with all due respect to the use of bursts, banners, and violators in "Now Available" ads) by designing a scientifically legitimate carriage (the new class) in which to carry its precious cargo (the brand) throughout its life cycle.

Market conditioning. Create a story among your target audiences that feels bigger than your brand's promise, but, at the same time, sets your brand up to be the only one to pay off on the needs the Market Conditioning story has set up.

  • Brands that want to stand apart must either define or redefine a category using ownable language, unique messages, and compelling visuals.

  • Once a brand has established its unique voice, it needs to spark interest in the category with innovative and creative campaigns.

  • Campaigns that drive people to seek out answers (via online, friends, family, or doctors) must implement mechanisms to ensure people can "find" them (i.e., Google paid search ads, Facebook Social Ads, QR Codes on waiting-room posters, etc.). But your responsibility as the "first-to-market marketer" by no means should stop there.

Perspective Marketing: Helping them to imagine the future.

A new, somewhat savvy companion to the tradition of Market Conditioning is a concept known as Perspective Marketing. Although it can be done (to varying degrees of effectiveness) at any point in a brand's life cycle, it is at its most virulent when done in pre-launch and launch phases. Add to that the idea of doing it for a first-to-market brand, and the list of "what's possible" grows.

For as long as NicVAX is the only vaccine of its kind on the market, life for the brand should look pretty bright. One might even say it could sell itself. However, as pointed out earlier, players in the vaccine category almost always end up in commodity grudge matches (an old marketing joke: the word "vaccine" is Latin for "commodity"). Perspective Marketing can be just that futuristic insight—and magic bullet—you need to tip the scales in your brand's favor. It can help head the competition off at the pass, even before that competition is born. Where Market Conditioning is creating a need or highlighting a problem that only your brand can satisfy (even before it launches), Perspective Marketing is all about creating a companion story to Market Conditioning where the brand begins to dip into the future, demonstrating to its target audience just how good life will be because (in this case) NicVAX has existed in it.

If Market Conditioning tells the story of what problems can be solved today, Perspective Marketing takes on the job of painting a picture (now!) of how the future will soon look; how large the promise of this brand is; all the tangible and emotional ways the target audience will come to rely on this brand; and how there will come a day, very soon, where the target audience won't be able to imagine what life had been like without this brand. All this is done in the voice of the brand, so that this story and the perspective it creates remains ownable to that specific brand, even in the face of launching competition. Think brand-as-trend-futurist.

Imagine if, in 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming had a Perspective Marketing machine working for him, exciting the world at large about the life-sparing properties that his discovery of penicillin would hold for the world in the very near future. It is entirely feasible to believe that the world would not have had to wait until the 1940's for the magic of penicillin to begin to do its work in vivo.

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