Align Strategy

Leveraging a strong product launch to build a successful pharma brand

So much effort goes into ensuring the successful launch of a new pharmaceutical product or indication, but it’s only once that has been achieved that the real work begins, says Align Strategy’s Christine Fletcher.

Introducing a new pharmaceutical brand is akin to asking someone to change their established habits, and first impressions of that treatment once it hits the market, is the crucial factor for determining whether new preferences will be adopted.

Consequently, gaining insight into those first impressions and responding to patient, caregiver, HCP, and key stakeholder feedback during the months following a successful product launch is vital to maintaining brand integrity and driving product uptake.

To achieve this there are all sorts of things that companies can do at the pre-launch stage to work with elements such as the available clinical data, assumptions about the competitive landscape and how payers and prescribers will react to a new brand. But launch really is the key moment, when real-time, real-world feedback starts to come online and the starting pistol is fired for implementing – and adapting – the prepared strategy.

Preparing to be competitive

A major priority should be to focus on customers’ satisfaction with their initial experience of the brand, with ‘customer’ – as so often in pharma – potentially be a payer, prescriber, associated healthcare provider, patient or caregiver.

This is when companies need to capture and listen to real-time feedback and this needs to go beyond simple sales numbers. To really understand how the product is being received, ‘softer’ touchpoints are needed, such as feedback from clinicians to sales representatives and medical science liaisons (MSLs), insights gathered from online patient forums and feedback from patient advocacy groups (PAGs).

To achieve this, companies need to determine how best to create a mechanism for obtaining real-time feedback. Once that’s in place they need to understand how to use that feedback and what the information received means for the company and brand, and then develop a plan for adapting business strategy in light of the new information as it comes in, all in a very short period of time.

A pharmaceutical company’s ability to work in a nimble, agile manner to address any hurdles that may arise from these early experiences will be beneficial for the organisation as a whole, but it will force them to consider a number of different elements:

• How are competitors reacting to your product / launch?
• What are your competitors saying about you?
• Which of your competitors messages resonate with your customers?
• Have you been able to anticipate any of this?

Analysing the answers to questions such as these can help you understand pretty quickly how your competitors are talking about your product and how your customers are reacting to the information you provide them.

The next step should be to assemble a cross-functional team to regularly review both any immediate feedback as well as the wider competitive landscape. That will provide you with critical understanding for your brand and practical suggestions for the strategies and tactics you need to put in place to ensure ongoing success.

However, when contemplating strategy changes, pharma marketers should think about being responsive not recreating the wheel. Pursuing evolution, rather than revolution, will allow for better concentration on proactive additions and building on what already works.

An integrated approach to evidence

As post-launch real-world evidence trickles in, it’s imperative to understand how to harness that information and organise it so that it continues to effectively support the brand’s value story. One way to do this is with an integrated evidence plan.

Companies will, of course, have plenty of robust clinical data to use for the preparation of a launch and then can plan their phase 4 study needs, but there is so much more data that can be collected. On the one hand there’s the data that pharma companies generate internally from their clinical development programmes and other initiatives to support market access, and then there’s the wealth of data that can potentially be leveraged from the external environment like real-world evidence, investigator-initiated trials, patient registry data and so on. The question then becomes: how will you collect, harness and organise that data and use it to support your brand in a timely manner?

This is where a cross-functional team drawn from clinical, commercial, pricing and market access should come in to build an efficient integrated evidence plan. They can discuss how to meet any challenges to the strategy, gather internal feedback from the field on a continuous basis and ensure that this combined feedback reaches all those tasked with building the strategy moving forward.

With an efficient integrated evidence plan in place, the cross-functional team can then identify the best way to leverage the anticipated data and then brainstorm the appropriate path forward, both initially and then also in the years that follow the launch period.

The key is understanding – how do you take all of this information in and then really break it down? How do you modify and adjust according to the information received?

Tactical planning for real-time feedback

Every company hopes for as smooth a product launch as possible, but reality will always provide some unforeseen blips and hiccups that could lead to a very negative impact on the brand if not addressed quickly enough.

Market access considerations are increasingly paramount, but beyond these companies should consider whether there will be any more general patient access issues with their new brand and how these can be responded to, whether in the form of burdensome – but very necessary – paperwork or pre-approval/pre-authorisation requirements for those products that are applicable.

Additionally, there can be many other tactical issues to address, such as formulating the right offerings to provide to prescribers, offices or practices if they’re struggling to handle the administrative burden associated with a product or additional education on manageable side effects.

Targeting long-term prosperity

Receiving feedback, information on how your competitors react to your product, and real-time data is invaluable information. Utilising it to ensure your company makes any necessary changes to your business strategy in a short period of time will maintain a favourable brand rapport and extend the success of your product.

Ultimately, the key is to be flexible and adaptable post-launch to support the product and find a way to address challenges in as near to real-time as is possible. In that way you’ll set up your product for continued, long-term prosperity.

About the author

Christine Fletcher

Christine Fletcher is a co-founder and managing director at Align Strategy. She has over 20 years of experience supporting pharmaceutical brand teams with strategic planning and is an industry thought leader on launch excellence. To get in touch with Christine, please contact her at

About Align Strategy

Align Strategy

Align Strategy is a strategic consultancy dedicated to working with pharma and biotech companies on brands at all points of the product lifecycle. Align helps brand, portfolio and corporate teams build, pressure-test and bolster their plans, ensuring their strategy is robust and positioned for success.

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