What is Your Brand’s Archetype? This Week: Next Generation Brands


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 next generation brand archetype. Before we dig into next generation brand archetypes, let’s briefly revisit the first topic in this series: the first-in-class brand archetype. Although developing first-in-class products is the ultimate goal of many biotechs, this brand archetype can present challenges in educating the market and defining the brand’s competitive context. If you missed that blog, you can find it here.

Defining ‘Next Generation’ brands

So, what defines a ‘next generation’ brand archetype, and how is it different from ‘first-in-class’ and ‘me too’ archetypes? Next generation brands are defined by two characteristics:

  1. Entrant into an existing class of medications: Unlike ‘first-in-class’ brands that establish an entirely new class of medications, ‘next generation’ brands are products that are introduced into a well-established therapeutic class.
  2. Offers a significant clinical advantage over existing brands in the class. Unlike ‘me too’ brands that do not offer a meaningful differentiation from existing products in the class, ‘next generation’ brands provide a significant improvement in efficacy, safety, or administration within the class.

In our work with biotech and pharmaceutical brands, we have identified several challenges that are unique to next generation brands. By identifying these potential pitfalls, brand teams can anticipate and overcome the challenges of launching a next generation brand.

Establishing parity before differentiation

By definition, next generation brands offer a significant advantage in efficacy, safety or administration. In most instances, that differentiating characteristic is immediately clear to both the brand team as well as physicians and patients. In fact, if the differentiating characteristic is not immediately clear to physicians and patients, the brand is likely a ‘me too’ rather than a ‘next generation’ product.

Obviously, much of the brand messaging will focus on the key attributes that differentiates the product from others within the therapeutic class. However, one of the biggest pitfalls of next generation archetypes is that brand teams over-index on the differentiator without establishing parity on other important characteristics.

For instance, we recently worked with a next generation brand that offered a significantly improved delivery system compared to others products in the class. The delivery system led to better patient compliance and less training time for physicians, and the brand team focused much of its messaging in this area. However, the brand team failed to demonstrate that its efficacy was on par with current therapies, despite the fact that they had clinical trial data demonstrating comparable efficacy. Unfortunately, this led to perceptions that the brand was less efficacious than its competitors. By over-indexing on differentiators and not establishing parity on other prescription drivers, the brand failed to realize its full potential.

Identifying the target patient

Although next generation products offer a significant clinical advantage, that differentiator may not be relevant to all patients. For instance, when a next generation product offers significantly better efficacy, it’s easy for a brand team to assume that the product would displace competitors for nearly all patient types. After all, who wouldn’t want better efficacy?

However, the reality is that physicians often have deeply-entrenched prescribing habits, and it can be challenging for any new brand to change those habits. Rather than asking physicians to change prescribing habits globally, it is typically more effective to ask physicians to change their prescribing patterns in the group of patients that would benefit the most from the brand’s differentiating characteristic.

Indeed, focusing on a specific group of patients can be daunting for brand teams who are often fearful of niching a product, thereby limiting their market-share. However, our experience has been to the contrary. When brand teams don’t identify a well-defined target patient, physicians are unclear about how and when to use a new product. This is especially true for next generation brands that need to carve out and own a clear patient niche.

Archetype 3: Me Too Brands

In our upcoming blog, we will explore archetypical ‘me too’ products and implications for successfully branding, and we hope you will stay tuned for this upcoming blog. In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts and comments on the challenges of branding a ‘next generation’ therapy.

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