You are launching a new wound-closure brand or managing its market trajectory post-launch. You study the playbook for surgical center/clinic marketing:
You’ve run the plays, yet you still have a lower share than competitors. Where should you look for ways to better succeed? You change the messaging based on qualitative research with your target customers, but still things don’t budge. It turns out that the answer to the riddle didn’t come from the playbook for surgical devices; it came from a review of best practices in oncology.
Lateral thinking: the secret weapon hiding in plain sight
First, let me say that playbooks are a proven way to launch and manage brands in any given therapy area. However, in some cases, seeing new opportunities may lay outside of a category-centric approach. Lateral thinking—looking for answers in the unusual places—is an imbedded discipline for consumer and B2B marketing. Rarely do healthcare marketers avail themselves of this tactic. In the marketing scenario outlined above, the brand and its competitors were all relying on data from the clinical studies, which showed parity efficacy. Clinical trials, by their very nature, are closed environments with a limited number of patients. How brands behave in the real world could end up being more convincing. Such a behavior is common in the field of oncology, where many doctors—while cognizant of trial data—pay closer attention to nuances in their own practices, often trying them out in different scenarios regardless of treatment guidelines. Real-world data showed that some wound-closure brands were actually more efficacious based on in-line use. Fortunately, the brand in question was one of them.
Who makes up the marketing team is a key to the wide-angle lens
Most often, those responsible for a brand’s success have the same category background—a real plus for knowing what works and what doesn’t historically. Adding a non-category expert may make all the difference. Sound counter-intuitive? Let’s look at one company that made lateral thinking an essential protocol. A big pharma manufacturer decided to put a marketer with expertise in psychology on the launch team for a non-opioid prescription pain medication. Throughout the launch planning, the psychology expert brought insights to the team that they might never have considered. Both conditions have no tests to assess efficacy and tolerability. They rely on the subjective responses of patients. Since the patients are the data, the pain medication team shifted their marketing budget more toward DTC promotion, just as it was done for the psychiatric brand. One blockbuster brand in a different disease category helped build another blockbuster brand.
In-line brands may need lateral thinking the most
Once a brand is launched, market dynamics take over, potentially thwarting the proven plays. Also, the focus is on how well the brand is doing according to forecast, rather than on how much better it could be. Sure, there are risks associated with changing a marketing plan using tactics from a different playbook. But there is also the risk of not exploring routes beyond the category. In-line brands are under constant challenges: new entries, new indications with a different set of players, and unforeseen events from seismic shifts in the doctor/patient relationship. For example, it’s widely known that women dislike routine pelvic exams, and the cold metal products involved. However, Ob/GYNs consider such an aversion part of the wellness process, and in doing so, further alienate their patients who don’t feel that the discord is recognized. So, the in-line manufacturer of a gynecological device that was plastic fielded a Harris poll with healthy women. Such a large-scale research tool is common in the world of consumer goods, but rarely (if ever) employed in the healthcare space. The data not only enlightened the doctors, but also shifted market share in favor of the plastic device.
If you’re looking for a way to overcome barriers to greater success, and are just not finding the answers, then maybe it’s time to look to the left, look to the right, and seek resolution from a different therapeutic category.