Work Motivation

Marketing in Pharma – Case Study (AEDs)

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Product positioning and competitive analysis are two of the most important aspects of successful marketing though they are sometimes grouped under the blanket term “market access”. The easiest way to look at this is to think about pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics where we identify how the body affects the drug and how the drug affects the body. It is a similar concept in that we are examining how the product will affect the market and conversely, how the market affects the product. What is different now compared to what has been done traditionally is that there are additional elements involved.

We are no longer limited to outbound techniques and physical locations. Equally important are product positioning and competitive analysis in the digital landscape as this is primarily where interaction with consumers takes place. A common question is “How do we succeed when our market is the most competitive market”? There is some truth to this because every market is extremely competitive. The key to success is to reverse engineer a solution to a pre-existing problem.

For example, companies can work with patient advocacy groups to identify a problem and then position the product as a feasible solution. By doing so, we establish a clearly defined customer and goal. What about product positioning and competition in a saturated market? Examining the market for automated external defibrillators (AEDs), we see that there are several competing products. It is possible to file a 510k, launch the same product with a different brand name, and enter the market, but it is unlikely to succeed unless the brand is already established. The AEDs that have done well in the market have shown successful product differentiation from competitors’ products as well as their own.

Philips’ Heartstart line is a good example of successful product differentiation in this space. While you may or may not be familiar with the product by name, it is likely you have seen the small red cartridge sitting in a glass box near your office. This is the “entry-level” Philips Heartstart Onsite at ~$1,200. They have done a good job with market segmentation as essentially the same product with slight differences is marketed in different ways to serve businesses, homes, and government entities.

If they are doing a good job then why are other companies able to profit as well? Multiple studies have shown that CPR and defibrillators in conjunction can significantly increase survival rate compared to using either method alone. Unfortunately, not many people in the US know how to perform CPR. What ZOLL managed to do was launch their AED line that contains a chest compression sensor in the CPR-D pads. This provides feedback on depth of compression and will tell users to push harder if they are not achieving the recommended compression depth. It is a minor modification, but contains patented technology creating barriers to entry for competitors and new opportunities for the company. Though the entry point is ~$3,000 there is clearly a market for this product. What happens after launch? Is it time to relax? Of course not. Although a product has been launched successfully, it does not mean that you are done. The market is always moving and new competitors constantly emerging, so it is essential to continually monitor, track, and adjust based upon the external environment. Assumptions prior to launch might not be applicable after implementation and the product may need to be repositioned. That means we need to have the flexibility to do so.

This is what we often refer to as lifecycle management and this is where contingency plans and perhaps crisis management teams come into play. .