Managing Director & Partner
It is no secret that biopharma product launch performance is an exceptional predictor of future success for the brand—and frequently for the teams that plan and execute such launches. As a result, pharma launches in the US are inevitably high stakes and high pressure, increasingly so in the complex and competitive US health care landscape.
In our experience, the best launch teams are not necessarily those that have led launches before or those with vast experience in the brand disease area. Rather, truly differentiated launches are led by launch teams that constantly and proactively seek out their own blind spots, challenge their own assumptions, collect diverse perspectives, and plan for every potential outcome so they can pivot on a dime as needed post-launch. This kind of “challenger mindset” is not uncommon among individual leaders, but it is rarely embraced in a systematic way, and even more rarely built into an organization’s launch DNA.
Enter Team B—the simple, effective secret to unlocking your pharma brand so that it achieves its full potential. When used properly, Team B acts as the strategic equivalent of a second opinion in medicine. When deployed holistically across an organization’s launch engine, it provides the competitive advantage that pharma companies need to set brands up for success and enable them to stand out from peers in the long-term.
Team B is an independent, cross-functional team composed of commonly untapped resources drawn from your existing organization. Once assembled, the team conducts a rapid, outside-in review of the market that the new product will be launching into, and of the existing launch plans. After completing its review, Team B works hand in hand with the launch team to strengthen the existing plans, resulting in outcomes that may range from major launch strategy pivots to supercharged prelaunch contingency planning.
The unique feature of Team B is that it enables those who know your organization best—your employees—to build an objective, outside-in perspective that the rest of the organization is much more likely to embrace than if it were proposed by a completely outside team. When handled correctly, Team B infuses all elements of the launch plans with greater customer centricity. It identifies traditional psychological traps (such as confirmation bias) to which even the best launch teams are vulnerable, and it can draw on best practices from the realms of tech, cybersecurity, consumer, and startup—for example, a/b testing, red team/blue team, behavioral science-driven customer segmentation, and a challenger mindset—to gain competitive advantage.
Adopting a Team B approach introduces diverse perspectives and thinking into your launch. Team B must include members with outside-in but still-relevant perspectives—such as people with experience launching brands in different therapeutic areas. To avoid anchoring on existing insights, strategies, or sunk-cost biases, Team B members must not be affiliated with the launch team and should, from the outset, look at the market and the plan through a completely independent lens.
To embed the customer and competitor mindset, Team B should also include members drawn from two distinct internal talent pools: (1) employees who are former customers—HCPs, payers, or even patients—to share the customer perspective and filter incoming market insights through their distinctive lens, and (2) team members who were involved in launches at other companies or industries to share previous launch knowledge and to support competitive response/scenario planning workshops.
Team B works independently of the launch team during the initial phase of market review and insight generation, in order to maintain objectivity and enable the launch team to stay focused on launch execution.
Because launch teams will already have leveraged traditional market research for their launch planning, it is important that Team B bolster its assessment with other approaches.
Team B can leverage the ever-growing array of data sources available to better understand treatment algorithms, product perceptions, and stakeholder ecosystems. Ideally, Team B will employ a range of research methodologies to generate unique insights. Popularized in tech fields, a/b testing is a powerful tool that tests messaging relevance for distinct customer segments. Emerging AI and machine learning techniques can expedite and deepen Team B’s insight-generating process. Even relatively traditional methods such as scenario-planning workshops can yield greater insights when applied through a well-informed and objective Team B.
Although each of these tools can be valuable outside the Team B context and should be integrated into your organization’s standard launch infrastructure, they serve two primary purposes in the context of Team B: (1) to develop new insights to inform launch team strategy, considerations, and tradeoffs, essentially exposing threads for Team B to pull; and (2) to pressure-test core assumptions on which the launch team’s strategy rests.
In the course of our experience setting up Team B’s for individual launches and at the organizational level, we have found that change management is consistently either the greatest threat or the greatest accelerant to Team B’s success. Psychological biases such as groupthink and confirmation bias often come together to make it challenging for launch teams to take advantage of and learn from Team B’s work by making them reluctant to 1) accept insights that run counter to preexisting narratives or perspectives or 2) integrate insights that may disrupt existing launch plans.
If left unmitigated, these forces will work against Team B, so a critical enabler of success is making it easy for the launch team to embrace Team B perspectives. The actions that most frequently lead to long-term success include the following:
The Team B concept can create enormous value, especially when adopted at the enterprise level, across all functions. Where should you start? Choose a future launch where you think the Team B approach can make a substantial positive difference. Are market dynamics complex and fast evolving? Do you expect an established competitor to be especially disruptive? Is your organization too comfortable in its assumptions? Is the launch so important to your business that you can’t afford to make a mistake? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions about an upcoming brand launch, let Team B deliver for you.
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