March 31, 2023

Oncology is Increasingly Competitive – Here’s How to Stand Out

a man and a woman discussing oncology images on computer screens

It’s an exciting era in oncology: many new drugs with increasing benefits and more tolerable profiles are being developed and released, and that means that nearly all tumor type spaces are becoming more competitive. 

For example, about 20 drugs are now FDA-approved to treat multiple myeloma, and these drugs have provided advances in care that have more than tripled the median survival rate in the last two decades. Another 50 drugs, across nine drug types, are now in Phase II or III trials for this indication.  

There’s much more to be done, but it’s generally great news for patients, bringing them hope and choice they didn’t have before. However, it has also created a vastly more complex landscape for prescribers to navigate; and, therefore, a serious marketing challenge for brands trying to communicate their value.  

Surprisingly, even brands with compelling study data can struggle. Why? Well, prescribers are human, and we humans rarely make decisions based on only one thing. Data alone doesn’t drive behavior. Smart oncology brands understand that the need to combine three things to succeed:  

  • Positioning yourself by re-imagining the space 
  • Storytelling that pulls your audience in to pay attention 
  • Targeting your messaging to the people, and at the times, that will have the most impact 

Let’s talk a little more about each.  

Positioning is a common part of shaping a brand, but truly effective positioning redefines the category to create meaningful differentiation. Smart marketers use data analytics to validate a new way the market should be viewed, and where they fit into that new view. That view should aim to result in “first and only” positions that are clinically relevant to healthcare decision-makers. Then, those smart marketers test that position with opinion leaders to prove that it’s both credible and motivating. (And they have the resources and expertise to get this all done – or the partners who do!) 

Storytelling is the next key step, but it’s often undervalued. In the satisfaction of creating a strong positioning statement, you might think a story will just happen. Science says otherwise, though. In high-stakes, crowded, and rapidly changing environments like oncology, you need to engage a person’s attention, emotions, and senses. Neuroscience and behavioral psychology show that a truly impactful story primes the audience to be open to suggestion. Are you creating a truly compelling narrative, with your audience as protagonist, that draws them along a story toward a new future? (Do you know how to develop that, and a proven methodology to test it?) 

Targeting identifies – now that you know the landscape of your world, and the story you’re telling about it – who you’re talking to. Historically, methods like deciles or even lab results data were used to help focus targeting and message timing. Today, AI super-charges that knowledge. With it, you can not only identify and prioritize targets and segments; you can also adjust your content. This makes it possible to target with higher confidence than ever, to uncover targets that wouldn’t have been found, and to convey the most important information, at the right time, when you do. (Perhaps surprisingly, familiarity and frequency are particularly important in oncology, because high science is a low-frequency opportunity outside of the top deciles. For example, in breast cancer, Decile 8 prescribing is less than once every six months.) 

Effective oncology marketing understands how to be compelling, memorable, and different. We help make that possible for our clients every day, by guiding them with a fresh, informed perspective that creates differentiation in position, story, and targeting.