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Beyoncé vs Paul Simon: achieving launch excellence

By Isabelle Geoghegan

Beyoncé and Paul Simon have one major thing in common: they’re both singer-songwriters of global acclaim. Despite this, they have two very different solo careers, requiring two very different launches. But who would you rather be as you were just starting out?

‘Ready made’ vs ‘from scratch’

Imagine you are Beyoncé: you would have the heritage of a band with a household name, people are excited to hear from you, all your promotional channels are visited and amplified as standard. Yes, skill is still required for your music to stand up to the hype, but you already have an engaged fan base ready to consume.

Imagine you are a young Paul Simon: your solo launch would mostly consist of a long hard trudge around the clubs of Northern England. Ultimately, you and Beyoncé will both be considered world-class solo musicians. But your journeys getting
to that point will be decidedly different.

Now, let’s apply this to the pharma industry. If you are launching in biologics, CAR-T or immuno-oncology, engaging your target audience is unlikely to be a struggle. They are already excited about anything new in that field. But not all products will emerge to the same level of fanfare.

The good news is, idiosyncratic patient responses to drugs mean variety will always be necessary – which means even the most poorly launched drugs eventually find their place. To establish that place as a successful one, you will have to work differently.

The enthusiasm conundrum

Brand enthusiasm is necessary for good marketing – but this can lead even the best marketers astray. Ambition is critical to success – but it has to be the right type of ambition.

For your product to be successful, its launch must:

  • Provide a clear reason and place for its use
  • Elevate your brand
  • Be appropriate for your brand’s ambition.

While Beyoncé will be instantly invited to promote her new solo project on TV, Paul Simon has to find the right audience, go to them and play as many gigs as possible to build up his fan base person by person.

Fortunately, there is no need to tout new pharmaceuticals around the clubs of Northern England to find out where they fit in the world. But they will need a well-planned launch to reach Beyoncé’s level of accolade.

Four steps to ‘launch excellence’

1. Find a critic

Get an outsider, such as your agency partner, to pressure test your internal plans, thoughts, assumptions and ambitions. This must be someone you trust, who understands both pharma and product launches, and isn’t afraid of asking difficult questions. If they’re sceptical, then you should be too.

2. Commission proper research

Too many brands do too little research into the fundamentals of physician behaviour. To launch successfully, you must fully understand the market’s drivers and unmet needs – which requires professional market research.

3. Find your ‘niche’

The better defined your niche is, the greater your chances of launch success will be. It can be a patient type, care situation, risk factor or something else entirely.

A niche is not necessarily small. It must be big enough to satisfy your brand’s ambition – although you can always build out from a niche once you have made your name. Whatever it is, it needs to be something you can ultimately own.

4. Get focused

One of the biggest drawbacks of the excitement of a launch is having several good ideas, but only a limited budget for execution. Focusing your money and resources on bringing a few great ideas to life and doing them justice – rather than trying to do everything cost- effectively – will make a big difference.

The best possible chance

Even with all of the above in place, launch excellence still requires a robust plan and seamless execution. The good news is these things are completely within your control, either internally or via your launch agency.

And, once they’re in place, they can be relied on as ‘givens’. Working collaboratively with an experienced partner will mean this is always the case, giving your product – and your brand – the best possible chance.

Whether your brand is Beyoncé or Paul Simon, a successful product launch will always hinge on finding the right place in the right customers’ minds. Something both artists knew, and worked with, ultimately becoming known as the best in their fields.

A product launch – much like a gig – is just the beginning. Just make sure you get excellent management behind you, before you release that all-important second album.

Isabelle Geoghegan is Client Partnership Director at Purple Agency

In association with

21st May 2021

From: Marketing

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