With dozens of new drug candidates slated for approval over the next few years, the industry is poised for what could be a golden age of launch — but this new launch era will be markedly different from the previous blockbuster era, in which a few massive launches propelled companies forward. Instead, launching brands face a series of challenges and overall market conditions that put a premium on speed, specialty focus, and differentiation. For companies and brand teams looking to excel in this new environment, here are seven keys for crafting a legendary launch:
1). Legendary Listening
A legendary launch begins with legendary listening. This means the brand must listen closely to actual patients, providers, and even payers to truly understand key moments in the customer experience. Investing in both quantitative and qualitative market research in the early stages of the product life cycle provides the foundation for strong patient recruiting in clinical trials, meaningful positioning of trial results, and ultimately the ability to launch with great messaging that resonates for customers across the rapidly evolving healthcare ecosystem.
2). Craft a Compelling Brand Narrative
Armed with genuine market insights, the team must answer the crucial question — “What’s our Story?” This brand narrative should be distilled into a brand bible that captures all the elements of a classic story —from plot, to characters, to theme, to aesthetics. In other words, the brand narrative must reflect more than just the mechanical aspects of the patient journey from diagnosis to treatment, but instead create a narrative framework for actually understanding what patients are feeling and thinking about along the way. Subnarratives need to also be created for addressing multiple audiences in today’s complicated marketplace. A compelling brand narrative is the crucible in which legendary brands are forged.
3). Media Mix Is Monumental
While the economics of integrated marketing automation make it tempting to create singular pieces of content that will be replicated endlessly across digital and print channels, legendary brands are extremely discerning about channel selection. With a clear eye on the brand story, media channels must be chosen that work to highlight particular aspects of the narrative. With an increasingly digital and mobile audience, a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each platform becomes critical, and should drive key questions and considerations around media mix. For example, will Facebook really allow us to communicate the core brand theme better than a print ad? If not, maybe Facebook is ideal for communicating just one small aspect of the brand narrative, but can do so in an extraordinary fashion.
4). Invite Customers to Co-Create Your Brand
Beyond doing rigorous market research, legendary brands welcome customers to participate in the actual shaping of the brand narrative. Platforms for patient engagement, disease education, and community involvement can shape and evolve the brand in co-creation with the community of patients, HCPs, and even payers. In other words, teams should be prepared to acknowledge that a brand culture will take root and grow in unexpected ways. The team can either help nurture this brand culture or try to ignore it. In the context of extremely passionate patient communities, legendary brands are keenly attuned to how the brand culture emerges over time, and works in harmony with key stakeholders to nurture and grow the brand culture.
5). Reps Reimagined
In many ways, sales reps are more relevant than ever, but in entirely new ways and with different customer sets. Legendary brands arm their reps with digital tools, timely market insights, and powerful messages drawn from the brand narrative so when these “bionic reps” interact with customers, there is a true, meaningful interaction. This approach requires training, investment, and most importantly, a clear vision of the crucial role reps play in reinforcing and amplifying the brand narrative.
6). Innovation Springs from Execution
While every legendary launch brand strives for innovative breakthroughs, they also recognize that a majority of innovation is derived from fostering a culture of continual process improvement. By focusing on world-class execution, legendary brands diligently position themselves for the moments of true breakthrough and innovation. Then, when innovation bubbles to the surface, they have the wherewithal to spring into action and grow great ideas into legendary status.
7). Build a Legendary Team
Crafting a legendary launch requires clearly defining roles and identifying the key players who will define the brand narrative, bring it to life, and then nurture it within a highly competitive market. This type of brand stewardship requires the commitment of multiple stakeholders within the organization. Also, given the increasing role of digital, legendary brands actively recruit Millennials into the heart of the team, tapping their digital skills and idealism to reach customers in new and surprising ways.
Regardless of size or therapeutic category, any brand can aspire toward achieving legendary launch status. However, this is truly the road less traveled and requires exceptional commitment and clarity of vision. Such launches are built upon the foundation of legendary listening, a compelling brand narrative, inspired channel selection and powered forward by a legendary team. When all these elements are brought together and maintained for an extended period of time the results will indeed be nothing short of legendary!
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