Overview:

Frequently teams complicate brand plans by focusing on breadth tactics over depth of insight. Often it would be best to limit the focus, through a richer understanding of what is most important to customers, in order to execute fewer, but more differentiating and impactful tactics that drive the desired customer behavior and brand perceptions.

I. Intro:

In the many years of participating, guiding, and leading the brand planning process across various companies within biopharma, the one commonality among brands that demonstrate strong performance is alignment across Brand Strategy, Strategic Imperatives (SIs), and Critical Success Factors (CSFs).

These important components of the brand plan serve as the foundation of the tactical planning process. When tactics are not aligned to these foundational elements of the brand plan, the results can, and often do, lead to an over-abundance of programs and resources that are not aligned to strategy, nor do they address key customer insights and unmet market needs. Ultimately, the inadequate focus and alignment of each tactic results in a series of “mediocre” methods that lack focus.. This can lead to wasted time, wasted budget, and a lack of clear field sales direction, and ultimately, poor execution. Clearly, it is important for field sales to understand the objectives of key tactics in order to drive the desired customer behavioral change or a favorable brand outcome.

A “Linear and Cohesive Brand Plan” is generated through a clear line of site from Strategy to SIs, all the way through to the CSFs and ultimately the tactical plan, where each series of tactics are designed to specifically address and/or leverage the market challenges and opportunities identified in developing the Sis, and deliver against each desired CSF outcome. A poorly aligned brand plan leads to the development of misaligned tactics, many of which don’t address true market challenges and unmet customer needs. This often yields a slow and painful death of a well-thought-out brand strategy and subsequent brand plan via “death by 1000 misaligned tactics”. This paper demonstrates a simple approach to bringing a solid “Linear and Cohesive Brand Plan” to life.

II. Key Issue Identification:

1. Patient Journey Evaluation

A solid brand plan starts with understanding the patient journey and identifying the key influence points along the way. It is critical to identify junctures along that patient journey, where there is opportunity to influence current behavior by stakeholder, to positively impact patient outcomes and subsequently, drive brand performance. These journeys traditionally have identified leverage points within the medical treatment paradigm; however, it is becoming increasingly important to incorporate the digital/social influencers that many patients are now using as their “most trusted source.”

It is important to map the insights behind the unmet customer needs/perceptions that are driving the current behavior(s) necessary to change. This is a critical component of the brand planning process in building a strategy and related strategic imperatives that address the unmet customer needs. Often, that works best by incorporating an emotional dimension to the journey such as patient quotes.

“The discipline required to set the stage for brand plans starts with deep insights that support, but are not limited to, the patient journey. All of which ultimately pushes the team to pragmatic disruption or sensible innovation.”

-Thomas Kolaras, Senior Vice President, US Specialty Marketing, Endo Pharmaceuticals

2. ID of Key Issues (Brand Opportunities)

Next, define the Key Issues and/or Market/Brand Challenges & Opportunities along the patient journey that can influence customer behaviors andthen develop a Strategic Imperative to address each one. Before you begin the process of developing SIs, it is important to first ensure that the Key Issues or Brand Challenges & Opportunities you chose to address truly “matter” with regard to impacting brand performance. That is why the word “Key” is underlined and bolded in the first sentence of this paragraph!

Broad examples of such influence points are; a patient deciding to seek information about their disease or about your product; an HCP making a prescribing decision; a patient deciding to fill their prescription; and a patient deciding to refill their prescription. These typical decision points, if positively influenced, can result in the patient getting the optimal therapy for their disease as prescribed and staying on that therapy. Depending on the therapeutic area and patient journey complexity, there can be multiple additional brand prescribing influence points and opportunities. Success of the brand is often determined by the extent that the patients’, HCPs’ and other stakeholders’ needs are best met along the journey at those critical junctions.



“I’ve seen marketers become so fixated on the number of tactics in a brand plan without first understanding the needs of the customer. It’s not about the number of tactics, it’s about focusing on the analytical principles of the patient journey which leads to the creation of the brand story that unlocks the true value any product.”

– Kiernan Seth, PhD, Vice President of Marketing, Lexicon Pharmaceuticals

III. Strategic Development:

3. Aligning Key Issues & Brand Opportunities to Strategic Imperatives

Experience has shown that “less is more” since a brand team can only provide optimal focus on a few market challenges and/or opportunities at once. Generally, 3-5 SIs are ideal, but specifics depend on the complexity of the market or the product life cycle of the brand. Beyond experience, this number is derived from a psychological perspective as studies have shown 3-5 as ideal for optimal focus. Focusing on more than 5 limits attention and may dilute focus (i.e. development of a plan with a series of mediocre tactics, instead of a few differentiating and impactful ones).

Using the hypothetical scenario of an example of developing SIs based on a Key Brand Issue would be a situation where there are competitive products in the same therapeutic category as your brand, BriGenix (shameless branding from the two authors).

Let us also consider a fictitious therapeutic category, the gamma lactase class. These competitors lead with strong clinical efficacy but also have a negative side effect profile. Subsequently, physicians consider products in this class, including BriGenix, as 2nd and 3rd line therapy because of their safety profile, despite their strong clinical efficacy. Fortunately, BriGenix has a selective MOA, despite being in the same therapeutic class as similar agents, that have an unfavorable side effect profile. The targeted and selective MOA of BriGenix yields a more favorable side effect profile with comparable strong clinical efficacy. Assuming the overall strategy of BriGenix is to become standard of care and becoming 1st line therapy of choice, the perception of a negative side effect profile and subsequent relegation to later lines of therapy must be overcome.

Based on the profile of BriGenix, an example of a well-thought-out Strategic Imperative would place emphasis on differentiating BriGenix against competitors within the same gamma lactase Tx class, to possibly expand product usage. The tactics aligned to this SI would be focused on driving clinical differentiation within the gamma lactase Tx class and reinforcing gamma lactase class efficacy superiority vs. generic competitors.

Another SI might focus on further differentiating BriGenix, based on the differentiated MOA and subsequent similar strong gamma lactase clinical efficacy with a superior safety profile.

Below is an example of how this might be captured in a Brand Plan presentation:

4. Anchoring Critical Success Factors to Strategic Imperatives

Each CSF should be “anchored” to its respective SI and serve as the foundation for the tactics that deliver against each SI. They should be articulated to explicitly state the desired “Future State” that will exist if the Key Issue is addressed and/or the Market/Brand Opportunity is successfully leveraged for each SI.

Below you can see an example of how you might capture this in a brand plan:

IV. Tactical Planning:

Developing Tactics Aligned to Critical Success Factors (or Ensuring Tactical Behavioral Objectives are Identified):

The final step in developing an aligned and cohesive brand plan is ensuring that tactics are designed to create the “Future State” of CSFs (which are aligned to your SIs). In addressing the Key Issues & Market/Brand Opportunities identified in the selected SIs, the tactics aligned to each SI should enable or deliver against the “Future State” of each aligned CSF. Below is an example of how this may be depicted:

“Tactical plans that aren’t aligned to clear CSFs and cross-functional brand SIs can deviate the team from the brand objectives. From my experience leading teams, I’ve found that the best results are generated when everyone is clearly aligned around what success looks like and how it will be measured for each of the SIs.”

– Aakanksha Khandelwal, Global Head of Portfolio Strategy & Innovation at EMD Serono, Inc.

V. Concluding Thoughts

Our example was fictitious and over-simplified to illustrate the connectivity that ensures the important cohesiveness of a brand plan from strategy to tactics.

The important thing to note is that tactics are meant to have a specific purpose. That purpose is to ensure the resources and services developed ultimately satisfy the unmet customer needs, drive the desired customer behaviors and address the negative customer perceptions that market research and customer insights have uncovered. Any tactic developed that does not serve that purpose is a waste of resources and effort!

For more info or to discuss how we can help with brand planning, please contact the authors of this piece:

Brian Williams: bwilliams@percipiostrategic.com
Percipio: http://www.percipiostrategic.com/

Brian Torres: brian@herspiegel.com
Herspiegel Consulting: https://www.herspiegelconsulting.com/

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Brian Williams is currently the President and Managing Principal of Percipio Strategic Consulting, which specializes in assisting clients with Strategic, Brand and Product Launch Planning within the Healthcare and Life Sciences industries. He has over 25 years of successful pharmaceutical and biopharma experience in the areas of U.S. and Global Marketing, leading Brand Teams across multiple therapeutic areas. His experiences have included Sales, Marketing and Market Access leadership positions in such companies as Merck & Co., Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis. He is known among his colleagues, for his keen focus on ensuring discipline and marketing functional expertise are applied to the marketing planning process at every step along the way. Brian Torres is a Principal at Herspiegel Consulting, which specializes in commercialization strategy through execution for pharmaceutical / biotech companies looking to optimize new product launches and enhance performance of in-line assets. Prior to working at Herspiegel, he supported the vaccine franchise for Merck & Co.