Quite a few blogger guns have been trained on the marketing arm of the drug giant recently. The Judge (John Mack) has added them to his league of undistinguished DTC advertisers. PharmaGiles has penned a funny post titled "Rigor Marketis". Yahoo's seeking alpha blog, references a Derek Lowe post and headlines that "Exubera Proves It: Pfizer's Marketing Can Get It Only So Far". Even the cafepharma boards have some postings regarding the departure of some high profile sales and marketing pfolks at Pfizer.
So, has Pfizer lost its marketing mojo? Exubera has some fundamental issues that no amount of marketing could fix (and to be sure Pfizer's management has cited bad market research as the cause of their flawed initial projections). Setting Exubera aside, Pharmalyst looked for other indicators of Pfizer's marketing prowess and below is a summary of what he found:
Chantix/Champix: As this post from Pharmalot shows, this drug is really generating a lot of prescriptions. Smoking cessation has historically been a category where initial high expectations have subsequently been dashed (Zyban, NRTs etc). Pfizer's low key unbranded campaign coupled with reps pounding the pavement has so far worked. Pharmalyst gives their marketing & sales group an A here.
Sutent: Perhaps the performance of this drug is best compared to Bayer/Onyx's Nexavar. Nexavar was approved before Sutent and Bayer just reported Nexavar's Q2 sales at $82.4 million (up 161%). Now compare that to Sutent's Q2 sales which according to their Q2 earnings release stood at a whopping $141 million - up almost 300%. This despite the fact that Nexavar has lots of good stuff going on for it in areas like liver cancer. Here their marketing & sales group gets an A+.
Viva Viagra: Their new ad has come under a lot of criticism and Viagra is losing market share to Cialis. Pharmalyst agrees with most bloggers that the Viva Viagra ad (which you can see here) is definitely not an "ethical pharmaceutical" ad. But as an ad for a "recreational" drug, it is really good. Catchy tune, all American roadhouse, macho imagery all provide tonnes of self expressive benefits to the target audience (in this case somewhat young men who do NOT have ED). Their marketing prowess is the sole reason that this drug has not become another Levitra against the "Le weekend" pill Cialis. An A grade here too (not for ethics but for marketing).
Lipitor: This may be the one place where the marketing pfolks get a C. A semester ago, Pharmalyst took a marketing class where the Professor offered an interesting insight...according to him, increasingly in all categories there is a tendency towards bifurcation - one set of brands finds success in the low-cost/value end of the spectrum and the other set of brands finds success in the premium end of the spectrum. Any brand that tries to straddle the middle gets creamed (one of his examples was the retail sector where brands like Target have done well on the low end and brands like Nordstrom's have done well in the premium segment but a brand like a Sears or a JC Penney in the middle gets clobbered). Since simva going generic, this appears to be the case with Lipitor. Simva owned the value end of the market and Vytorin/Crestor owned the premium end. Pfizer did not lower the price of Lipitor & they did not do any licensing deals to make a Vytorin like compound. They pretty much played in the middle. Also all their talk about 5 new indications & outcomes did not really differentiate the product. These new indications did not offer them a sustainable advantage as all the benefits were perceived to be a class effect. The Robert Jarvik DTC campaign was also vague and did not really make Lipitor stand out. In contrast the Vytorin ads really hammered home the point that it works against two sources of cholesterol & was a home run.
So in general looks like Pfizer still has plenty of marketing juice left but the longer the drought of good products to market, the faster the erosion of sales & marketing talent. They may lose their marketing mojo unless they can bring promising products like apixaban to market faster.