- Experienced marketing line manager, management consultant with four decades experience esp. new product & market development.
- McKinsey senior advisor and partner, serving clients in retailing, consumer goods manufacturing, financial services.
- Business development and worldwide marketing for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Merck, PepsiCo.
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The ground is shifting underneath the pharmaceuticals industry, and companies that have enjoyed decades of a smooth ride need to shift their stance to stay upright and brace themselves for change.
Faced with expiring patents on blockbuster drugs, more competition from generics and a lull in the pace of scientific discoveries that can produce a new generation of lucrative wonder drugs, pharma is seeing cracks emerge in its very foundation.
As hard as it may be to accept the new, more muted reality, pharma must develop a new game plan to protect, shore up and maybe even shake up its business model.
In a sense, the easy money has been made. Going forward, companies in the industry will need to work harder to secure revenue, profits and market share.
The key to success will likely lie in better leveraging a business function that pharma has allowed to stagnate and has failed to infuse with new thinking. That function is marketing – a slippery, oft-ridiculed activity that nonetheless has enjoyed a rebirth in other industries where companies must work harder to position themselves and seed the ground for sales in highly competitive, unforgiving markets. Those very same challenges, and other unique ones, are emerging in pharma, demanding a more robust and creative approach to product positioning, perception management and targeted messaging.
Pharma players can deal more effectively with today’s challenges by bringing a more astute marketing mentality to their business – seeking to understand the real drivers behind prescriber and patient choices and then figuring out a way to deeply engage with and meet the needs of chosen segments. The challenges that pharma faces include:
- The growing necessity of competing for sales of products that go off patent and are picked up by generic manufacturers.
- Designing and developing products that can be differentiated on the basis of more than just the science.
- Better managing how products are perceived by and positioned in the minds of prescribers.
- Finding alternative routes to revenue and profits in a period when blockbusters are rarer.
- Reshaping clinical trials to reflect the front-end input of marketing, as well as R&D.
By being open to moving away from treating pharma as a specialized industry with products that don’t lend themselves to the type of marketing pursued in consumer goods and services, pharma players will be more likely to not only remain vertical, but keep moving forward as well.