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Making a case for transformational product marketing Lena Chow Lena Chow, founder of Lena Chow Advertising, and former chairman, chief strategic officer of Euro RSCG Life, discusses the challenges of implementing successful marketing campaigns for transformational products. A New Generation of Healthcare Contemporary biological sciences are transforming and expanding the role of medicine, from diagnosis and treatment to a new continuum that includes risk assessment, prevention, screening, and early intervention. They also challenge pharma marketers, who will need to shift their efforts to address the specific concerns presented by these innovations. Advances in biological science are revolutionizing the way healthcare products are developed, resulting in a new generation of innovative diagnostics and therapies. Many of these new products are transformational in nature; they break new ground in the way healthcare is delivered. One example is genetic testing for predisposition to diseases, which redefines risk assessment and brings with it new models for preventive medicine. Another example is the use of blood tests to aid in the diagnosis of heart diseases that traditionally have relied on physician insight and familiar tools such as cardiac imaging. Changes such as these represent innovations that challenge trusted standards, redefine the role of patients, and demand shifts in investments by the healthcare system. Key to the success of marketing transformational products is effective communication about the essence of their value to all stakeholders. This is difficult because many of these products chart new territories that have no previous parallel and involve complex science that has to be communicated to all levels of expertise. To be successful, it is critical to address all stakeholders who influence product adoption; communicate complex information in a simple and engaging manner; achieve a level of clarity that can withstand a noisy and sometimes deliberately confusing competitive environment; and ensure regulatory compliance in all communications. new genetic analysis tools for drug development Another example of transformational products are molecular diagnostics, such as micro arrays, which can be used to detect genetic variations. Because the technology is inherently simple to implement, it is suitable for rapid and accurate screening of genetic variations in large populations, holding promise as an important tool for drug discovery and development. Upstream, these technologies can be used to perform large-scale population studies to identify and verify association of specific genes with targeted diseases. Downstream, they can support drug development of highly personalized therapies. For example, patient populations can be profiled genetically to identify those that are most likely to benefit from a specific therapy and/or those that are least likely to experience adverse reactions. Clinical trials can then be designed to maximize efficacy and to guide therapy administration. One company developing this technology is Third Wave Technologies in Madison, Wis. The company’s product, Invader, can detect variations of single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. Invader is being used in one of the largest population studies in the world; the study, known as the SNP Initiative, was sponsored by the Japanese government, involving the evaluation of 120,000 SNP genotypes in about 1,000 patients. One result of this research was the filing of patents on more than 4,000 newly discovered genetic markers within about 200 genes that regulate drug metabolism. Similar large-scale studies are being conducted in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and at the University of Minnesota. To leverage the vast untapped opportunity and persuade the risk-averse biopharmaceutical companies to invest in this innovative approach to genetic testing, a campaign was built upon the broad acceptance and proven efficacy established overseas in a Passport to SNP Success program, launched with an ad campaign that tells the global acceptance story. The audience was invited to log on to a new Website, snppassport.com, to receive product information and sign up for a trial program. The trial program was pegged at a low-entry price and gave the audience an opportunity to request a small number of assays for the genetic variations of interest. Since Invader technology does not require special equipment for use, the cost to try the technology was low, significantly reducing the financial exposure. From a communication perspective, the passport format adds visual interest to the program, makes it possible to discuss the product in an engaging and novel format, and reinforces the “global acceptance” positioning of the product. The ad and Website were reinforced with a series of passport-themed mailings written to appeal to two different sets of stakeholders — scientific influencers and R&D decision-makers. A follow-up ad launching a new SNP set (cytochrome p450) used the passport theme to communicate simple, key messages. The program created strong awareness and attendance at industry conference events, which promised to yield leads, qualified prospects, and the securing of trial sites. The communication elements supported road shows and personal selling, reinforcing the brand position. Redefining diagnosis of acute coronary syndromes Another example of a transformational product is Roche Diagnostics’ CARDIAC T. This was the first blood test on the market to enable emergency physicians to triage chest-pain patients with equivocal or nondiagnostic electrocardiograms (ECGs). Introduced 10 years ago, the product’s adoption took a rather tortuous path, because of the matrix of decision-makers — cardiologists, emergency physicians, laboratory technicians, and payers — as well as because of the novelty and complexity of the concept. Since this is a hospital-based product, patients had little or no involvement in its adoption. CARDIAC T measures the level of troponin T, a protein that is released upon myocardial injury, thus providing information to support diagnosis, risk stratification, prognosis, and ongoing patient management. With improved understanding of underlying disease mechanisms, heart disease is more appropriately described today as acute coronary syndromes, implying a continuum rather than a finite and/or discrete event. Importantly, there are several troponins. In addition to troponin T, troponin I also is released upon myocardial injury and has many properties that are similar to troponin T. While Roche Diagnostics owns the patent for troponin T, troponin I is in the public domain. Not surprisingly, Roche Diagnostics’ troponin I test has numerous competitors, including Abbott, Bayer, Beckman-Coulter, and Dade Behring. About six years after Roche launched CARDIAC T, the noise level about troponin I, coming from multiple competitors, was confusing the marketplace. Troponin T and troponin I were included in numerous high-visibility clinical trials. Although the preponderance of the data favored the use of troponin T as a more sensitive and more accurate marker, buyers were so confused that a majority of them believed that “a troponin was a troponin.” CARDIAC T was not well branded. Competition was based largely on price and, to a lesser extent, platform. Roche Diagnostics set out on a rebranding effort to create awareness of CARDIAC T and differentiate it from the competition. The ad campaign drew attention to the issue at hand: It’s about the T. The positioning “detect the damage other markers miss” was supported by clinical data in the approved labeling that showed that troponin T provided a more definitive answer. The promotional campaign supported this positioning with patient-outcome data as well as data showing dollar savings through the use of troponin T compared with more expensive therapies. All sales materials carried the “T” as a major visual element. A direct-mail campaign reinforced the message with individualized letters to the audience. A CME symposium, targeted at cardiologists, was built on the red-and-black color scheme that has become synonymous with CARDIAC T. Most recently, a CME program, targeted at emergency physicians, continues this campaign. The results are a testament to the power of communications. Today, troponin T is the market leader, claiming its place in the majority of the top 15 cardiac centers in the United States. Turning Complex Data into Usable Information With the demand for better healthcare at a lower cost, and the proliferation of enabling technologies, transformational products are becoming the norm and not the exception. Now more than ever, turning complex data into simple, usable information for the audience is a crucial first step in building effective campaigns that move products. Just as important as in-depth knowledge of the product is incisive insight into the mindset of the many audiences who can play the role of stumbling block or stepping stone to adoption. And this insight comes as much from disciplined research as it does from experience. Lena Chow is founder of Lena Chow Advertising and former chairman, chief strategic officer, of Euro RSCG Life in San Francisco. F PharmaVoice welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biological science advances are revolutionizing the way healthcare products are developed, resulting in a new generation of innovative diagnostics and therapies. Turning complex data into simple, usable information for the audience is a crucial first step in building effective campaigns.