Tomorrow's World Today!
Why the future of your brand starts now.
The answer is two-fold. Firstly, it is simply about strategic planning for your brand. Any change in the market, whether that be two months, two years or five years out, will fundamentally change the opportunity for your business, portfolio or brand. Those changes might be new data, a new guideline, a new competitor, a potential new indication, LOE for a key brand in the market, (probably multiple of these) and each will drive a different future opportunity, either expanded or restricted.
Secondly, pharmaceutical marketing is not like building a consumer brand. Product development cycles are long and, until key phase III clinical trials are complete, you do not know exactly what the product will look like, what it will do, or even how much it will cost. So, it’s incredibly high risk. At the same time, patent law means that the timeframe to leverage your opportunities needs to be optimized.
All of this makes for a unique marketing challenge and one where preparation for the future is vital. So now, from this starting point, let’s take a look at the three additional layers of complexity and change we add to the mix:
What is the ‘market’ going to look like in 1, 2, or 5 years’ time? And how will it even be defined? What will your competition be (which, remember, may not even be other pharmaceutical compounds)? What will baseline treatment consist of? What impact will low cost generic or biosimilar substitution have? What new therapies will be available and accessible to the wider public?
Healthcare System Level
We have seen recently what dramatic changes can happen in this landscape with US Healthcare Reform and recession-driven healthcare cost cutting. Socio-economic pressures mean that public and private spending choices are under increasing scrutiny, including prioritization of healthcare expenditure. So what impact will this have on the industry? What other disruptive changes are around the corner? And how quickly will it happen? We are already seeing that changes in healthcare systems are being quickly accelerated by the immediacy of the problems being faced and learnings that can be taken from other countries.
What impact will the big macro customer trends have on your business? Let’s ignore the current top of mind issues of Emerging Markets and Digital Health this time and take just three quick examples:
- An increasing shift in focus from acceptance of ill health and treatment of symptoms to prevention and wellbeing.
- With greater interest in health, access to information and forums for dialogue, patients (as individuals or groups) are lobbying for treatment of their choice.
- Lifestyle changes related to the need for convenient solutions is leading to a demand for quick, effective medical treatments and interventions.
Each of these emerging trends, amongst the many that will take place, will bring significant changes. What do these macro-trends mean for your brand, the marketing and product development strategies you employ and even the business model upon which your marketing is based? “Answers on a postcard please!”
I think most people who work in the industry are conscious of such issues, but it can be hard to find the time and resources to investigate in full. Therefore, strategic planning is often partly blind to the consequences of the future world. As an industry, we have been traditionally much stronger at hard-edged retrospective analysis than more visionary future-focused planning, and yet it is such a vital task.
Historically, future forecasting has been a linear extrapolation of past trends, but surely the world is changing too fast and is too complex for this to work. I was told recently that a forecast dependent on 30 events, each 80% likely, provides a 0.1% chance of success! We need to recognize that the future world will come about based on discontinuous change; the complex interaction of many forces, some known, many unknown.
If this all sounds a bit scary, do not worry, there are no 100% right answers! But leaders look into the future and put a stake in the ground on the direction of travel and the destination. Only that way can they build future proofed strategies.
Still worried? Here are some little tips we have learned along the way:
- Look through as many lenses as possible. Some of the information will be available within your organization, in existing market research and the experience of your people, so involve your cross-functional team – people with different skills, experiences, and filters. Mine external sources extensively for information: use groups of well-informed customers to build the future picture, get perspectives from independent organizations and policy watchers and use left field sources too.
- Work from a solid baseline. It is important to have a clear picture of the current customer goals and decision-making criteria as they stand today. Once you have this starting point, you can assess the impact of the major market shaping trends to project how they might change in the future.
- Embrace the uncertainty. Build plans which are dynamic and evolutionary. Revisit and refresh them. Build in triggers of change, the Brakes and Boosters, which will change the pace and direction of travel, and most importantly, monitor those triggers and their impact.
- Team alignment. Ensure that the team is involved throughout, building one aligned view of the future world to enable joined up, focused strategic planning and implementation.
- Have fun! Embrace the process of future scenario building. Get away from today’s issues, engage your right brain and unleash your vision building side.
So, why do we need to focus on the future? Simply, because we have to, in order to build successful strategies today.
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