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Every now and it again, it really pays to take a step back and evaluate what you’re doing as a marketing team…

Irrespective of your level of expertise, we are all the product of our experiences and this makes true innovation very difficult for many brand teams.  This is particularly true for stable brand teams with little churn, who are homogenous in their demographic make-up and all come from similar industry backgrounds.

Too often we work with teams who simply carry on, year after year, trotting out evolutions of their previous campaigns, without ever once taking a step back and asking, “what are we missing and how can we do things differently”?  We occasionally see new brand imagery (often not at the right time) and possibly new messaging (for which there is often no reason to change).  Almost always, however, the marketing initiatives are delivered in the same way, to the same people, via the same old channels that we have always used.

In a world filled with new alternatives, we as pharmaceutical marketers (and the supporting medical teams) have been resistant to change… and it goes beyond simple digitalisation.  We focus our efforts and develop our messaging and products based on the needs of the same sections of the buyer chain as our competitors, using the same approach and channels as they do.

If you want to check this statement, build a strategy canvas for your market (for more information on this, see our article on Blue Ocean Strategy – Analytical Tools).  Graphically plot how you and your competitors try to gain or keep sales within your competitive arena.  I can almost guarantee that the competitive curves within your market space will look pretty much identical.

We focus on the same customers, seldom thinking about non-customers and what it would take to convert them to using our products.  In addition, we focus our efforts largely on the needs of prescribers and key opinion leaders. Think about the way that Novo Nordisk completely revolutionised the diabetic market place when they shifted their emphasis from what prescribers were looking for and onto what the patient needed.  The result was the NovoPen, which completely turned the market on its head.

Porter contends that strategy is about being different – either by doing different things to your competitors or by doing similar things differently.  Too many brand teams insist on using the same tactics as their competitors, maybe tweaking things around the edges if they feel particualrly creative.  Is this really strategy?  Can we be surprised when the market becomes increasingly commoditised and all we are able to compete on is price?

I don’t think so.

Mix it up.  Continuously.  Put your agencies out to pitch every two years to ensure that you always have fresh ideas.  Bring in a consultancy such as The Cape to take a fresh look at what you are doing and how you are doing it.  Get new faces on board, preferably from different backgrounds to yours – bring people in from other industries if needs be.  Evaluate the buyer chain – are there other areas where you can focus your efforts to deliver better results?  Anything to shake it up. Be different; do different things or do the same things very differently. Remember that differentiation is the enemy of commoditisation

Every now and again, it pays to take a step back and evaluate what you are doing as a marketing team…