The definition of consumer is expanding and evolving, and the need to be hyper-focused and consumer-centric is narrowing. In other words, there are more potential customers for brands in the life sciences space, and those customers are looking for highly specialized and uniquely tailored information, products, and materials. The challenge for organizations is to meet both these large-scale and human-scale needs while staying focused on brand consistency.
This is particularly true for new product introductions (NPIs).
Innovation demands expertise, particularly when viewed through the microscopes of privacy, sensitivity, and regulatory complexity — the hallmarks of the life sciences space. To provide additional insight, we’ve identified four consumer-centric questions worth adding to your discussions around new product introductions process.
How can understanding where consumers find product information help life sciences brands revise their NPI strategies?
Living alongside COVID for the last couple of years has provided opportunities to think about future impacts on product launch strategies. For example, product marketers must recognize how the pandemic has changed the ways consumers approach healthcare and medicine as well as how and where they conduct their research.
Take word of mouth, for example, which traditionally refers to consumers sharing product and brand recommendations with one another verbally. Today, this has evolved to include interactions between friends, family, and acquaintances on social media.
Based on our own research, word of mouth outranked all other forms of brand, product, and service discovery. Additional survey findings revealed:
- Word of mouth has a higher research-to-purchase ratio than social media, digital ads or print ads
- 55% of consumers have discovered a new brand, product or service in the past year through word of mouth
- 40% of consumers actually purchased a product after discovering it via word of mouth
- Yet 7% of marketers identified word of mouth as a channel that results in consumer purchases
The disconnect illustrated in the last two stats speaks to the continued importance of word of mouth and asks marketers to deliver timely, trusted, and relevant information that gives consumers something to talk about, both in-person and online.
How do we effectively reach consumers during a launch when the traditional models have a diminishing ROI?
Not long ago, it seemed like every campaign coming out of big pharma and life sciences was a blockbuster that, on the surface, appeared to be for anyone who was listening. Today, these “blockbusters” look much different. They’re smaller and more targeted. That’s because an increasing number of smaller biopharmaceutical brands are launching their own products instead of relying on the large companies to do it for them.
According to McKinsey & Company, “Out of the 39 blockbuster launches (those with more than $1 billion in forecasted sales) due to take place between 2021 and 2025, 22 are expected to come from first-time launchers.”
This represents a share of 56% and a sizable increase over the five-year period before it, when less than 20% of blockbusters came (or were expected to come) from first-time launchers.
So what’s the takeaway here? Medicines and devices are being targeted to smaller cohorts of people. Launch strategies and coordinating marketing campaigns must do the same. And it’s hard to argue that brands in our industry aren’t successfully identifying their core customers. They are.
Where most fall short is segmenting those core customers into smaller groups for noticeably more accurate targeting and discernible patterns in user behavior and engagement across all touchpoints.
What are best-in-class pharma and life sciences organizations doing to meet consumer expectations around sustainability?
Today, sustainability has become table stakes. The growing visibility of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs across the industry is proof that consumers demand more from the brands they decide to do business with. Now as it relates to NPIs, best-in-class organizations have long recognized packaging as an obvious and essential driver to publicly showcase their commitment to sustainability.
It’s important to look at each NPI as an opportunity to revisit sustainability goals — an opportunity to not only develop a tailored solution, but one that also minimizes environmental impact.
If you know product packaging can play a larger role in your brand’s sustainability efforts, don’t let haste make waste. Transitioning to sustainable packaging requires a thoughtful process — aka don’t succumb to the urge to change everything at once.
Work closely with your packaging provider to identify low-hanging fruit. Ask them the right questions. Rely on them to suggest actions that have minimal impact on operating costs as well as the form, fit, and function of a package. Opportunities to develop existing packaging are just waiting to be discovered, whether through addition by subtraction or innovative material substitutions
How will external support drive internal goals of customer centricity around the launch of a new product?
The roadblocks that life sciences brands face every day are unending. Just think about the rising costs of in-house services, internal marketing silos, mismanagement of multi-vendors, waning productivity levels, and so on.
In the Adobe Stock report “State of Creativity: How a Global Pandemic and Cultural Movements Are Impacting the Industry,” a clear majority of creative teams agree:
- "I am being asked to develop more content in less time." (77%)
- "My team’s workflow could be more efficient." (80%)
As bandwidth for in-house teams dries up, they may be finding it harder to navigate rapidly evolving trends, create content that resonates, and do what's required to stay within regulatory requirements.
External support can come in a myriad of forms — think creative execution, marketing communications, packaging, and even kitting and fulfillment — but the added benefits remain consistent:
- Access to accountable experts and bigger talent pools
- Best-in-class technology without the investment
- Increased workflow efficiency and productivity levels
- Flexible engagements that enable new levels of scalability
We know that finding success in an evolving, highly regulated market requires 1) carefully planned, customer-focused products and 2) accelerated commercialization. Sometimes brands need to look outside for help to bring these two priorities together. When they do, new levels of efficiency aren't far behind.
Frank Costello is the Market Development Leader for RRD Life Sciences.