In this blog series, we are examining competitive context archetypes for biotech and pharmaceutical brands:

  • Archetype 1: First-in-Class Brands
  • Archetype 2: Next Generation Brands
  • Archetype 3: ‘Me Too’ Brands

In this blog, we will focus on the ‘Me Too’ brand archetype. Before reading this blog, we would encourage you to read the first two blogs in this series as they serve as an important prelude to this blog. If haven’t already do so, please check out the previous blogs:

‘Me too’

No one will admit to being a ‘me too’ brand. In fact, no respectable brand team should concede that they have a ‘me too’ brand. However, the ‘me too’ designation often exists in the minds of physicians, and it’s important for the brand team to recognize when their audience has these perceptions.
Perceptions of a ‘me too’ brand typically exist when a brand:

  1. Is a new entrant into an existing class of medications
  2. Is entering into a crowded therapeutic class with at least 2 other well established brands
  3. Offers little perceived differentiation in the minds of physicians

In most instances, the first two factors are outside of the control of the brand team: the product is what it is. However, the third factor is a perceptual factor, and it’s important for the brand team to battle against perceptions that their brand offers little meaningful benefits compared to competitors.

Making it matter

When talking about a ‘me too’ brands, physicians often comment, “Well, it’s pretty much the same as the other products. There’s no difference.”
However, when physicians say this, what they often mean is, “Yes, I know that there are differences among these products. However, those differences don’t really matter to me or my patients.”
In this instance, overcoming ‘me too’ perceptions is less about differentiating from competitors, and more about making unique product attributes matter to physicians and patients.

Differentiating on non-clinical factors

In some instances, the market dynamics of a ‘me-too’ product begin to resemble the dynamics of a commodity. Although no one will directly compare pharmaceuticals to true commodities like oil, soybeans or pork bellies, some therapeutic categories are more highly commoditized than others.

In a highly commoditized therapeutic category, there are very few perceived differences across the competitive set in terms of clinical factors such as efficacy, safety or administration. In these instances, it’s critical for products to differentiate on non-clinical factors such as patient support, office support delivered by reps, superior formulary coverage or pricing.

It’s often important for brand teams to admit when they are competing in a highly commoditized category. Unfortunately, it can be hard to marketers to admit when un-sexy factors like pricing and sampling drive prescription decisions within the category.

However, recognizing a commoditized category is often the first step in competing effectively. With this acknowledgement, brand teams can focus their investments and messaging on highlighting the non-clinical factors that truly drive Rx decisions.

Branding becomes more important

Competing in a commoditized category is often less exciting for many biotech marketers. Marketers often want to work with innovative products that offer ground-breaking improvements in safety, efficacy and administration. Indeed, these products are exciting, sexy and intellectually challenging.

However, effective branding is often more important in a commoditized therapeutic class. In many ways, marketing is more important in a ‘boring’ commoditized category than in a sexy, non-commoditized therapeutic class.

CPG is filled with case studies illustrating the importance of brands in commoditized categories. Coke and Pepsi are a great example. Although most people can rarely tell the difference between the two products, soda drinkers are often very brand loyal to either Coke or Pepsi. In these categories where there is very little difference between the product itself, brand becomes a more important factor in purchase decisions.

Within the pharmaceutical realm, the erectile dysfunction market is a good case study for the importance of brands. Although there is very little clinical difference between Viagra and Cialis, both Pfizer and Lilly have spent generously to build their respective brands.

A final word about brand archetypes

As we wrap up the third and final blog in this series, I wanted to bring us back to the central thesis of this blog series:

Every brand is unique, and brand teams make decisions about their competitive set based on their unique circumstances. Deeper analysis across many biotech brands reveals broad patterns from which emerge a few key archetypes: First-in-Class Brands, Next Generation Brands, ‘Me Too’ Brands.

By identifying and exploring the implications of these archetypal competitive contexts, biotech marketers are able to understand the specific challenges of their brands in a new light.
Blurb about author and brand builder . . .

Dan Callahan is the President of Vivisum Partners and Founder of Research (R)evolutions.

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