Don’t Be a Megalomaniac: Positioning Concept Development


There are two common ways of developing the positioning for a new pharmaceutical brand. The first typically looks like this: a megalomaniacal brand manager locks himself in an office and emerges two hours later with a positioning statement. The second approach typically looks like this: the brand team develops a handful of potential positioning concepts and conducts rigorous market research to optimize their brand positioning. Although the first approach is not uncommon, most successful brand teams take the second approach. Of course, we generally recommend the latter to our clients. However, we too often we see brand teams investing significant resources in market research to test really lousy positioning concepts. While this is certainly more effective than conducting no research at all, the quality of the positioning concepts drives the quality of the ultimate brand positioning. As the adage goes: garbage in, garbage out. In working with our clients, we have developed a set of 5 simple guidelines to develop effective positioning concepts:

  • Develop a limited set of concepts: While there is no magic number, it’s more effective to focus on developing 5 – 6 great concepts rather than a large number of mediocre concepts.
  • Create mutually exclusive concepts: Concepts should be discrete ideas and not simply different articulations of the same fundamental theme.
  • Follow a common structure and format: Concepts should be similar in length, tone (e.g. rational vs. emotional) and structure (e.g. insight + benefit + reason to believe).
  • Evaluate the full spectrum of ideas: Concepts should address a range of potential ideas; it is valuable to test a few ideas that are very aspirational or even a bit ‘out there’.
  • Develop a singular idea for each concept: Each concept should communicate a single, focused benefit; the concepts should not be a litany of multiple benefits.

By following these guidelines, pharmaceutical brand teams get more out of their market research investments and ultimately end up with more successful brands.

Dan Callahan is the Founder and President of Vivisum Partners. He specializes in creating multi-phase research programs that combine quantitative, qualitative and strategic facilitation methodologies. Email Dan at dan.callahan@vivisumpartners.com