Beyond the Clinical Trial
Market research can be just as important as scientific proof in harnessing consumer purchasing power.
By Douglas Kalman
Research can be considered both of structured design and to be amorphous in nature. The type of research carried out for dietary supplements and natural products (human trials as the pivotal variety) is for the most part pre-set. This means most trials are designed in a similar fashion so they can be replicated by other laboratories or research groups.
What’s often debated in this industry is whether or not we should consider reframing the pharmaceutical model for product development, safety collection and efficacy conclusions (which end up being the framework for marketing). However, what has not been discussed is how companies and their consultants could utilize research and the process to a greater benefit beyond intellectual property. This is not to tone down the importance of good solid data utilized for substantiation, but rather to open up discussion for complimentary research.
Have you ever walked through a mall and been approached by a nice young person holding a clipboard, asking if they could have 10 to 15 minutes of your time to ask you a few questions about an issue or a product? Perhaps they also tell you for participating in their research you will receive a gift certificate or some sort of redeemable coupon. This type of research is often referred to as “mall research,” and it is very similar to collecting focus group data.
There are hundreds of companies across the U.S. that conduct this type of research (www.focusgroups.com). One of the leading industry publications (Quirk’s) and one of the leading non-focus group firms (Target) both know that you can benefit from conducting research on your competitors in order to determine what they are doing right, how they are doing it, what the psychological impacts are and so on.
It is this type of market research that is so often overlooked by firms within the dietary supplement industry. To see an example of this, one only has to open any popular health or fitness magazine. A majority of the ads look the same and feel the same—they have no point of difference. This is when asking the right question within your marketing department and/or advertising division, and the interaction between R&D and these departments, becomes of major importance. By applying scientific discipline to the company as a whole, the company is more likely to grow rather than remain a “me-too” firm.
Going Directly to the Consumer
RAISE the bar. This is not a cliché, but rather an acronym from the former chairman of BBDO North America (one of the top three advertising companies in this country). However, before I delve into what I believe to be sage research advice from Phil Dusenberry, we must discuss how direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising and the research behind it works.
In the first quarter of 2006, Sepracor spent $109 million trying to get us to feel better about sleep. That’s right, it spent more money in one quarter on one drug (Lunesta) than most popular dietary supplement companies generate in one whole year from scores of product lines. One must assume if they spend $109 million in one quarter that they probably know how DTC advertising works.
A recent Manhattan research study found that DTC ads actually have the greatest impact upon physicians—they get them to visit the drug websites. Viagra, Plavix and Concerta appear to be the most visited by physicians as a result of DTC efforts. In the first quarter of this year, these three drugs (their respective owners) spent less than $50 million on DTC advertisements.
Another recent study carried out by Monroe Mendelsohn Research (MMR) found that of 16,000 magazine readers polled and analyzed, there were only a handful of magazines that had uniform loyalty—National Geographic, Guidepost, Reader’s Digest, AARP The Magazine, Parade and USA Today Weekend, Prevention, Self and Men’s Health. The take home message from the MMR study is simple: loyal readers of these top-tier magazines are also loyal to the products advertised within. Therefore, it makes sense that one would want to study these magazines, learn the demographics and create specific supported advertisements to appear where these loyal readers reside.
It has been said that consumers want control (in the nutrition industry’s case, a way to take control of their life or body), candor (honestly told where they are and what they have to do) and convenience (a product that is easy to use daily). Research shows that 81% of consumers who see an advertisement in a magazine that covers a health condition dear to them will purchase a product for that condition. I believe, with the right research and correct language, targeted ads that speak to quality-of-life improvement and are specific to a market will be successful. For example, the magazine Medizine is distributed in 200,000 physician offices, as well as 93% of all pharmacies in the U.S.—to me that spells opportunity if you have a research backed, efficacious product. Vertical health (or wellness) is the next push in DTC—it is one to watch and analyze as it may offer hints on how to improve the reputation of supplement advertising.
Back to the term RAISE, which stands for Research, Analysis, Insights, Strategies and Execution. The “RAISE” model may just be what’s needed to take scientific research and translate it into sales. The research here includes both the scientific research on the product coupled with market research on how to target your ad.
The analysis portion relates to the continual process of analyzing your data and your competitor’s data on comparable products (sales and marketing techniques) to see how to differentiate yours.
The insight phase is your “Wow, why didn’t I think of that?” moment. Simply put, products should have a simple message consumers can recall time and time again. A good example is the tagline “GE brings good things to life”—a simple message that conveys so much.
Developing a good strategy is key. This phase requires that companies combine the strengths of marketing and science and create a plan of attack.
Execution is just that, taking your scientific and market research, compiling your other components and initiating a plan for making your product move from the shelves to consumers.
Lastly, companies should set aside at least 10% of their gross on continual research and development—scientific and psychometric.
The research process for any consumer product goes beyond the science in many cases—it also includes consumer-oriented research to complement what your scientific data yield. One should always have product-specific scientific safety and efficacy data prior to evaluating how best to market a particular product to the target consumer, however, it is the symbiotic relationship of science and marketing that can create a successful product in the long-term. Do not be afraid to invest in both to grow your business.NW