What is messaging and why is it important?
Well, in this context, it is essentially a communication about a company's product(s) or even the pharma/biotechnology company itself. It takes the form of either the written word or verbal communications about data or a product's features. These can be from employees of the manufacturer, the press, patients, caregivers, members of the public or doctors.
From a company's perspective, having everyone on the same hymn sheet across promotion, PR and medical education is the desired goal, but few achieve this nirvana mainly because it is constantly like herding cats and requires an enormous amount of confidence, energy and effort, although it can be done. The marketers nightmare is realising that there are different messages from the sales force, key opinion leaders and company press releases. This limits the effectiveness of the overall message and ultimately will lead to confused and unsure patients and doctors.
The most successful brands are often those with a coherent, cogent and potent message that convey the essential essence of the product in a few simple words. Rarely do you see a successful brand with poor messaging, but brands with poor messaging generally do less well. Gleevec and Avastin are two recent blockbuster cancer drugs that spring to mind as examples of utilising effective messaging strategies to generate share of voice. Constantly referring to new data, new clinical trials and extended survival of patients in the earlier trials adds to the body of evidence that the drugs are safe and effective.
The other side of the coin is that smart companies continually evaluate their competitors messaging and the intentions that they signal in the process. This is competitive intelligence at its best; honing and refining your brand to best take advantage in a highly competitive market, so that you can proactively respond to your rivals rather than react six or nine months later down the line as you assess the market data. Often by then it is too late and momentum has been lost.
Another example would be an existing brand on the market and a new competitor is due out in the same indication; what can be done to effectively limit their market share? Information about competitor messaging can be gleaned from press releases, conference data, online forums, key opinion leader research, third party medical education etc.
Using these in-depth strategic analyses, brand teams can better understand the competitor positioning and message signalling in order to put in place their own effective brand strategy to defend their market. Two recent examples of this were Gleevec (Novartis) in the CML market, which effectively limited Sprycel's (BMS) penetration while extending it's own in other indications and ImClone's Erbitux, which continued to grow it's revenues across several indications in the face of stiff competition from Amgen's Vectibix.
How companies position themselves and their portfolio is also important – Genentech's success with Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin was no mean feat. Each drug and new indication added not only new data, but also a clear message that monoclonal antibodies worked and were here to stay. Contrast that with the experiences of the vaccine companies during the same period.
Messaging then, is not only important to brands already on the market but also to new products in development and company portfolios. Getting the messages right is partly about leveraging your data, but also one of simplicity, especially if you have several drugs targeting the same tumour type, for example. How should they be differentiated? Is the messaging to customers clear and explicit? It is a partly art and partly science; in oncology at least, it is important to understand the science and biology of the disease, the competitor set you are competing against and having the boldness of imagination to execute a strategy well.
At Icarus Consultants we advise companies on brand messaging, competitor messaging signals, how to work with key opinion leaders to maximise messaging and for companies with a portfolio of products, evolving a messaging strategy to take to avoid confusion between the brands. After all, it's all about driving peak sales as fast as possible.