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In December 1999, ParkeDavis (now Pfizer) launched Lipitor, a very potent LDL cholesterollowering agent. Despite being the fifth statin to enter the U.S. market, Pfizer overwhelmed the competition and soon made Lipitor the topselling cholesterol and pharmaceutical product in the world. By 2002, AstraZeneca was preparing to launch Crestor, a new statin with even greater LDL lowering effects than Lipitor. As the market leader, Pfizer could have ignored the impending threat from Crestor and continued to expand the market, thereby continuing to capture the majority of sales in this class. Instead, Pfizer counterattacked. Pfizer preempted the launch of Crestor by prepositioning the AstraZeneca drug as having safety concerns, specifically rhabdomyolysis, a rare but potentially fatal muscle condition. (Lipitor also had this safety issue highlighted in its label, but the incidence was considered slightly lower than with Crestor.) By the time of Crestor’s launch, AstraZeneca was on the defensive, having to respond to physicians, patients, and the media regarding these safe ty concerns. “Pfizer’s proactive, counterlaunch approach crippled the launch of Crestor and ensured that it would not become a major competitive threat,” says Stan Bernard, M.D., MBA, president of Bernard Associates LLC. “Pfizer, renowned for planning for and preempting competitive product launches, is exceptional in this regard. While most pharmaceutical companies spend substantial money, time, and effort to launch their own products, very few companies prepare and execute comprehensive counterlaunch plans (CLPs) to anticipate, undermine, and defeat competitive launch products before they have the chance to pene trate the market and gain significant traction. “CLPs are a deliberate, systematic, and integrated approach to analyze, prepare and protect a company’s marketed product from a new com petitive intruder. They differ from traditional competitive plans in that CLPs are specifically designed to preempt and thwart the launch of important new competitors.” Dr. Bernard says just as there are tradition ally four Ps of marketing, there are four Ps to consider with counterlaunch planning: phi losophy, people, process, and plans. COUNTERLAUNCH PHILOSOPHY “Pharmaceutical companies have long competed like gentlemen fighting a fair duel: take 10 paces before firing,” Dr. Bernard says. “In the past, companies could afford such cordial competition because there were numerous product launches, many large and growing mar kets, and relatively few competitors. But with only 17 new molecular entities approved last year, fewer new markets, growing pricing pressures, and significant generic competition, companies can no longer afford to be so genteel.” Increasingly, pharmaceutical compa nies must learn to compete as aggressively as other industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing, and consumer electronics. According to Dr. Bernard, the most impor tant time to compete is actually before the product launch period. “Experienced pharmaceutical marketers appreciate the adage that they live with what they launch: the product launch is essential to the short and longterm success of a drug,” he says. “Consequently, if a company can thwart or undermine a competitor’s product launch, it will severely hamper the market penetration and success of the challenger for years to come.” In preparation for the launch of a competi tor, many pharmaceutical companies will set up some defensive positions, such as fortified salesforces or higher promotional spending to offset a competitor’s launch. But very few companies aggressively and proactively com pete against their competitors before their launch. Pharmaceutical executives and mar keters should adopt the mindset that the best defense is a good offense; they need to select the best team, process, and plans for counter launching. COUNTERLAUNCH TEAMS Commonly, brand teams will assign one team member, usually a brand marketer or Dr. Stan Bernard Pharmaceutical executives andmarketers should adopt the mindset that the best defense is a goodoffense: they need to select the best team,process, and plans for counterlaunching. STAN BERNARD,M.D.,MBA, IS PRESIDENT OF BERNARD ASSOCIATES LLC, A PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY MANAGEMENT CONSULTING FIRM THAT OFFERS COMPETITIVE PLANNING SERVICES, INCLUDING COUNTERLAUNCH PLANNING AND COMPETITIVE SIMULATION SERVICES, AS WELL AS STRATEGIC PLANNING,MARKETING, AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT SERVICES. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT BERNARDASSOCIATESLLC.COM. COMPETITIVE COUNTERSTRIKE CounterLaunch Planning to Preempt and Defend Against the Launch of a Competitive Product I 0408 Layout FINAL MW 3/21/08 11:45 AM Page 80 market researcher, to be responsible for com petitive launch planning. This person often works independently, perhaps using the ser vices of a parttime market researcher or an external competitive intelligence firm. “To develop a powerful, insightful counter launch plan, companies need a powerful, insightful multidisciplinary team,” Dr. Bernard advises. “At the least, this team should consist of a senior brand leader; a com petitive intelligence professional; a market researcher; internal professionals representing key stakeholder segments, for example physi cians, consumers, and payers; a medical or sci entific professional; an internal key opinion leader expert; field management; and public relations personnel. The team should have appropriate geographic representation and meet on a regular basis.” COUNTERLAUNCH PROCESS For most brand teams, the professional responsible for “competition” collects market research, orders some competitive intelligence, and prepares a few standard promotional tac tics such as salesforce preparation and training. These minimal steps represent a small fraction of the vast resources — time, money, and per sonnel — that the competition is investing in launch preparation and that the brand team itself is committing to launching its own product. More significantly, this relatively small investment is often miniscule in com parison with the sales revenue an existing product stands to lose from the launch of a competitor. Such limited preparation is unlikely to even slow down a powerful com petitive threat. “To succeed against new competitive threats, brand teams need to take a systemat ic, integrated approach to counterlaunch planning,” Dr. Bernard says. “This approach incorporates three key phases: analysis, simu lation, and planning. The analysis phase is designed to assess external market factors and internal corporate capabilities to identify potential opportunities and threats. Ideally, this phase should be followed by a competitive simulation, a new version of business war games, to explore and enact these opportuni ties and threats. The planning phase captures the key learnings from the first two phases and outlines an integrated set of counterlaunch strategies and tactics.” Surprisingly, many companies only ana VIEW on counterlaunches lyze the competing launch product, Dr. Bernard says. They will typically evaluate a competitor’s product strategy, positioning, messaging, and key tactics, particularly sales force numbers and deployment. This method ology severely limits a company’s field of vision and misses the critically important interdependencies among the competitors, stakeholders, and other market forces. More over, it fails to incorporate a company’s own strengths and weaknesses relative to the com petitor and the market. A more comprehensive approach includes both an external market assessment and an internal corporate analysis. The external assessment consists of a com petitive analysis, a stakeholder analysis, and a market analysis. The competitive analysis should include not only the evaluation of a competitive product’s clinical profile and launch plans, but also a profile of the compet ing company. What are the historical tenden cies of the competing company? How does it typically launch, position, message, and target its products? For example, some companies consistently seek to reshape the market to set the stage for their products; other companies focus on clinical, marketing, or pricing differ entiation; others try to overwhelm their com petition with huge promotional outlays and larger salesforces. Some pharmaceutical companies will eval uate how traditional stakeholders, such as physicians, consumers, and payers, will respond to the launch of a competitive prod uct. But there are many additional stakehold ers who may influence the adoption, use, per ception, or pricing of a launch product. Depending on the products and markets, these stakeholders may include key opinion leaders, healthcare professionals other than physicians, the media, politicians, patient advocacy groups, distributors, and others. Market factors, such as recent regulatory changes or technological developments, may also play a role in the launch of a competing PHARMACEUTICAL EXECUTIVES ANDMARKETERS SHOULDADOPTTHEMINDSET THATTHEBEST DEFENSE IS AGOODOFFENSE. They need to select the best team,process, and plans for counterlaunching. 0408 Layout FINAL MW 3/21/08 11:45 AM Page 81 THE FORUM FOR THE INDUSTRY