Sunday, October 21, 2007

A lesson in best efforts. Exubera dropped from Pfizer portfolio.

“Despite our best efforts,” Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler said in a statement Friday, “Exubera has failed to gain the acceptance of patients and physicians.”

When Pfizer says “best efforts”, our industry has a certain expectation for what that means. Pfizer mostly sets industry standard, and they know their marketing. But if we run the Exubra case through our company’s Forward. Fast.® branding model, it would easy to predict this outcome. Here’s where it broke down:

Likeability - According to Dr. John Murray, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and associate professor of Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program, “the whole concept of nebulized, or airway-delivered, insulin has been around for 75 years. In addition to insulin delivered by injection, insulin was originally delivered by inhalation shortly after its discovery back in the 1920s. There was a lot of variation in delivery, such as not being able to control the dose back then, so it never went anywhere.” The notion of eliminating injection is a BIG IDEA! Highly likeable, but no one had made it work yet.

Association – What does inhaled medicine relate to? Asthma, right? Or maybe a nasal spray? Pfizer was marketing Exubera as an “Inhaled Insulin System,” which, while technically true, creates an expectation far from the reality. This thing is not a handy, pocket-sized device. It’s really a nebulizer, but it looks like a hookah pipe!

Brand Experience – The whole experience as linked to the claim of being an inhaler leaves a gap of expectations. Putting some potential lung problems aside, the use of Exubera became a trade-off between injections and using this massive insulin delivery device. This would inevitably lead to dissatisfied patients.

Attitude – Pfizer took this product on with all intentions of making it work. They had a great name and no doubt tested the heck out of the concept. But perhaps they approached it with the attitude of “We’re Pfizer,” and failed to listen to the marketing research on the total experience.

This isn’t going to take down Pfizer, of course. It is merely a lesson learned. But it does prove not everything that Pfizer touches turns to gold. The company will move on – they are a great marketer and despite this failure, they are still at the top of the field.

Read more here at the Exubera website.

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