What Are IDEAs Made Of: Positioning

Mike Rea

IDEA Pharma

Children don’t come instantly able to distinguish or articulate the difference between Dalmatians and German Shepherds. They’re all called ‘dog’ until much later. ‘Positioning’ is the same in pharma marketing. Despite there being libraries full of reasonably aligned texts on positioning, the Pharma industry seems to create a new breed with every new product, but call it positioning, nonetheless.

Positioning has many forms: functional positioning (indication, disease severity, stage of treatment, etc.), aspirational positioning (vision), tactical positioning, strategic positioning, and so on… Then there are the things that look like dogs, but aren’t… messaging, brand essence, generic statements about what the audience ‘want’…

The chances are that all around you there are people calling both Poodles and Rotweilers ‘dog’. Last year, we received a brief (from a Top 5, no less) to work on the strategic differentiation for a product, which seemed OK until the part where it said that the positioning was being done separately, in another workstream – a positioning that would take no account of the need to differentiate, by design! There are also the companies who profess the positioning statement an internal-only form of words, and then run a process where every word in it is researched to death with the very people who will never see it. Not so surprisingly, if a proper positioning never goes into the front end of that research, it certainly will never come out the other side.

“…the Pharma industry seems to create a new breed with every new product, but call it positioning, nonetheless.”

In pharma, this is a problem, leading to disengagement from the very people who should be most on board with positioning: the R&amp,D folks, the pricing and market access department, the outcomes research people.

Here is a thing: if you can’t study it in your phase III, you don’t have a positioning. If it isn’t (going to be) in the label, you don’t have a positioning, you have a message. The question is often asked: when is too soon to ‘do’ positioning? The answer is very straightforward: if you need to study it in your phase III, and perhaps validate the scales you may need to use in your pIIb…when do you think you need to begin?

This matters. There is not a single outperformer in the last 20 years that got there without clear strategic positioning. There are a hundred underperformers who had none. Every single one of those underperformers had a ‘positioning’, however – a researched-to-death statement is as pointless as a toy dog.

About the author:

Mike Rea is a Principal with IDEA Pharma, who enjoys taking a look outside the industry to learn how it can think differently. For direct enquiries he can be contacted on mike.rea@ideapharma.com and for more information on IDEA Pharma please see http://www.ideapharma.com/what/default.htm.

WAIMO will be back in early January.

Agree? Disagree? Let Mike know your views by commenting below.