Product Positioning for an Innovative In-Home Medical Device

Abstract

RG+A was engaged by a global device manufacturer to position an innovative device for in-home use in the EU5 markets. The specific challenge was that key feature that made the device attractive to patients had the potential to lower profits for home medical equipment resellers. One round of qualitative interviews determined that if our client could neutralize perception on this profit-lowering feature, the product’s other benefits would garner interest and support from resellers. A second round of qualitative interviews explored three ways to encourage resellers to appreciate the benefit to patients and identified a core value proposition that motivated resellers to stock the product. RG+A worked with our client to convert this into a complete positioning structure. In the final round of research, interviews with a significant portion of the reseller communities pinpointed specific messages that credibly supported the core value proposition and reasons to believe. Our client is currently preparing for full launch in these markets.

Background

RG+A’s client, a global specialty device manufacturer with a leading market position in its core product category, developed a new-generation product that would provide a novel and highly valued bundle of benefits to patients. However, this novel design eliminated a reusable product that was the largest profit-generator for home medical equipment (HME) resellers operating in this category. If the HMEs were unwilling to sell the product, our client had no path to market.

Our client commissioned us specifically to develop a global positioning platform that would work with resellers, healthcare professionals and patients, and then to convert that into reseller-friendly messaging. Given the product’s benefits, our client saw no need to research with patients as long as the core positioning did not present patient needs and values in a negative or dismissive way. Also, many of the HME resellers in the EU were physicians whose practices treated patients with this condition. As a result, we conducted all our interviews with HME resellers, with at least half the interviews in each market being resellers that also treated patients.

Methodology

To address the client’s objectives, RG+A proposed two rounds of telephone interviews with resellers in the various markets. The first round included in-depth qualitative interviews designed to identify resellers’ unmet or underserved needs and probe their reactions to a core product concept. The goal of this exercise was to create a complete positioning structure, which we would test using a structured data-gathering exercise in the second set of interviews.

Key Challenges

  1.  Working past socially desirable responses in five different cultures in order to determine what resellers considered a true patient benefit and how they would react to a product that offered it.
  2.  Providing as little information as possible about how our client’s innovation worked so that competitors could not glean strategically-sensitive information emanating from these interviews.
  3.  Developing a reliable and valid way to compare responses to different messages in a market where conducting 15 interviews per country meant speaking with >20% of the entire population.

How the Design Addressed the Challenges

  1.  Responses to the first set of interviews relied on deep probing and projective techniques to characterize how resellers actually felt about the health and convenience needs of their customers. At the same time, they indicated that significant downward pressure on their profits would be a strong disincentive to use.
  2.  These results made clear to our client the pressing need to prove the benefits associated with the new design. We developed a way to present these benefits while providing virtually no technical information that could benefit a competitor. We then conducted a second, smaller set of in-depth qualitative interviews to test the new statements and determine the level of benefit that HME resellers perceived.
  3.  Building a complete positioning structure enabled our client and us to craft a set of supportive messages designed to demonstrate the core value proposition and articulate the product’s value. This format made it straightforward to build a structured instrument to test in the messaging round. RG+A used techniques such as bootstrapping to demonstrate that responses and preferences between the messages were extremely consistent within and between markets.

RESULTS

The first round of research showed that our client could develop plans and contracts to neutralize most of the potential for HMEs to suffer reduced profits, and that the HMEs could see two significant benefits in the design once they looked past the featured that offended them. The second round of research determined that HMEs would support a product that combined the performance levels of older devices that were difficult to use with the convenience of newer devices that provided inferior performance. RG+A led a multinational workshop to build a global positioning ladder around this core value proposition and to create 4-7 statements to test in each of three reasons to believe the core value positioning. Finally, the structured exercise determined that the same supporting statements worked well in each market.

GUIDANCE

RG+A recommended a core value statement saying, “Up until now, patients could choose performance or convenience. Now they can have both.” We identified the kinds of HME resellers that would adopt the product first, the patients that would most likely use it and the three specific proof statements that best supported the value proposition. Finally, we identified the three 7-18 word statements that incorporated data, logic and emotive content in supporting each reason to believe.

ACTION

Our client, who had never utilized a global positioning statement before, has decided to adopt our proposed statement as their first global effort. They are now preparing marketing materials for a Q4 2016 launch, and we are working with them on the US launch and next generation product.