Creating an Initial Brand Strategy and Launch Plan

A commercial model built to deliver blockbuster drugs to the market is ineffective for delivering complex disease therapies to smaller, more targeted patient populations and specialty providers. Teams must establish a deep customer and market understanding, and work to define the unique selling proposition and approach that will define their success. As early as six years before commercial launch, organizations should define the broad strokes of the brand positioning and strategy. This will help focus the organization’s resource allocation, thought leader engagement, clinical program design, and market-shaping efforts. Early launch planning, including country prioritization, investment level, go-to-market planning, and possible partnerships are critical details to define early, and then refine as launch nears. This iterative effort will help the company evaluate their expertise and resource planning and establish the right tactical plan each year.

The Value of Market Shaping

Incyte’s market-shaping efforts for their novel mechanism IDO-1 inhibitor epacadostat had the market highly anticipating this new possible combination with successful PD-1 inhibitors for melanoma. Based on the early trials, thought leaders were excited for epacadostat and analysts were rating Incyte a strong buy, with the company valuation rising to $27 billion around the time of ASCO 2017.¹'²'³'⁴ Unfortunately, the phase III trial was a staggering failure, and its readout at ASCO 2018 plunged not only Incyte’s IDO program, but also those of Incyte’s rivals BMS and Newlink, quickly into oblivion.


However, had the data been positive, Incyte was poised to reap quick rewards with analysts, physicians, and patients anxious to adopt this new anticancer evolution at the time. One aspect to Incyte’s success in market-shaping was their effort to define the lexicon. Numerous companies were evaluating combination therapies with existing immuno-oncology products from a variety of mechanistic angles. Incyte landed on the tumor micro-environment focus and engaged a broad set of key opinion leaders to present about the early data for years prior to commercialization. Establishing the positioning, scientific platform, and scientific lexicon early helps frame the discussion in the market.