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13.07.2021 | Health Strategy

A market led approach to brand planning

By Lara Meyer

Brand planning in pharma comes round like clockwork once (or twice) a year, and around this time we find that teams are looking for quality insights to support their initiatives. At CREATION.co, we have supported clients from pre-launch to established products that are facing market share challenges. In fact in the pre-launch environment it is critical to get an optimal brand plan to ensure success of a product launch as many products who miss their sales trajectory during launch continue to do so afterwards.

When looking at the current strategic goals for brand planning, many of these fall into two categories; a sales implementation culture, with a drive on the sales strategy for a product, or a product medical culture, with a focus on delivering information about the science of a product. Each approach has its positives and negatives however, it is suggested¹ that integrating both approaches would be far more beneficial: a market led culture.

An in-depth 360˚ understanding of the customer

A market led approach focuses on having an in-depth understanding of the customer using multiple methods of market research, pulling together a cross functional team under one shared vision and goal, strong brand positioning based on medical benefits and delivery of innovative customer value beyond the product itself.

The first step is gathering customer and competitor insights. At CREATION.co, we have a unique dataset that is derived from the world’s first and largest database of online healthcare professionals (HCPs). With insights from these online HCPs you can answer some of the most pressing business questions about your HCP customers and keep ahead of online trends to inform strategic activities across the year, respond to crises, and keep a finger on the pulse of HCP conversations at all times.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen how HCP conversations online have been shifting, with an increase of more than double the number of posts compared to the year before, and new HCPs coming online everyday. With the current drive towards online engagement, why not take the opportunity to understand your customers in the place they are at? From this we have seen early on how products have been adapted by HCPs to treat COVID-19 patients, how tracking the HCP conversation can predict market access outcomes and learn how HCPs separate fact from fiction in a world of fake news. These insights can provide key pain points for HCPs that can be used to develop your brand plan.

The value of Digital Opinion Leaders

Another area which has become much of a buzz phrase nowadays, are digital opinion leaders (DOLs). CREATION.co has been identifying and profiling these healthcare professionals who are not only active online but also influential for a decade. HCP DOLs are now viewed as an important aspect of understanding your market segments and personas, and if you have not considered them yet, I encourage you to do so.

In a global environment that is increasingly relying on digital communications for interaction, social media has to be a focus in brand planning. In an open study on pancreatic cancer, we identified the DOLs in the conversation. If one of your customer segments were diagnosis focused individuals, Anirban Maitra and Shaalan Beg would be individuals who would fit well with any tactics you may have for that segment.

These DOLs are even ones you may want to consider engaging directly with and adding them to your customer experience journey for key touch points of communication. By engaging with them on a one-to-one basis and understanding their opinions and thoughts online, you can build a comprehensive map of stakeholder needs, beliefs and behaviours. This map is then based on multiple dimensions (in-person and digital) for effective investment of resources to build a strong positioning strategy.

Transforming insights into strategy

Having these insights is worthless if they are not transformed into shared insights and built into the brand strategy to address your brand or product’s critical success factors. The consulting team at CREATION.co, of which I am a part of, is passionate about transforming the insights we provide into actions.

As part of the brand planning process, it is important to understand the key insights, which we facilitate by a report read out, and to map actions from these insights on what is not only feasible but also impactful. The critical area of actions you want to invest in would be in the blue boxed area shown below; those which are highly feasible and will bring a high impact.

A key part of this process for us, and also to implement a market led strategy, is to integrate all relevant stakeholders in the team. This brings together the sales culture and medical or product culture for agile implementation and strategic alignment of the brand plan. Projects where we have seen the greatest success in strategy implementation has been with those that have cross functional involvement to develop and implement the actions.

Starting strong is essential for market led brand planning success

Looking back at the graph at the beginning of this article, if a product is not successful early on it will be difficult to reestablish success later. In a study performed by Corstjen and colleagues it was shown that not even being first to market is necessary for product success. Rather, having quality insights to support commercial readiness for market launch is ever more important.

At CREATION.co we support teams to develop a market led strategy and in a time where revenues for products are getting smaller, customers are becoming more influential and markets are becoming saturated it is so important to discover insights that can set you apart and drive innovation.

If you are a pharmaceutical leader and would like to see examples of how insights from social media have informed launch excellence and health strategy then please get in touch, we’d love to share more with you


1 Demeire, E. KICCASS PHARMA: Keep It Customer Centric, Agile & Strategically Simple In Pharma & Diagnostics Management. 2020

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Meet the Author

Lara Meyer

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