Ausgabe 4/2018, Seite 36 | 18-07-36-1

Find the Difference

How to Highlight the Unique Value of Disease-Specific Medical Nutrition Products

In the forth article about challenges of marketing medical nutrition Robert Dossin illustrates how you can effectively differentiate from other potential alternatives and how your differentiators are strong enough to be used or recommended.
Research & Results | Skim | Find the DifferenceFoto: makc76 – Fotolia.com
Disease-specific medical nutrition products are often compared to a wide scope of alternatives, ranging from health foods to prescription drugs, because of their nature (nutrition) and the health benefits they offer. In that context, medical nutrition companies have to face the huge challenge to not only differentiate from other nutritional options, but also from other potential competitors belonging to different categories.

Standing out from Drugs and Health Foods

Depending on the indication area and the clinical benefits offered, healthcare professionals and consumers may compare a new medical nutrition product for disease prevention or treatment with various products and alternatives already available. This range is often wider than medical nutrition only (fig. 1).
Abb. 1 (Skim)

Choosing the Right Differentiator

There are various ways nutritional companies can differentiate their products from competitors (other medical foods, drugs and health foods): differences in benefits, in functional features or design, in communication and promotional activities, etc. A differentiator has to be relevant to current brand positioning and the business model. It is crucial to determine how different your new medical nutrition product is perceived by consumers and healthcare professionals in the product development process. As a result, you can optimize your positioning and communication strategy to ensure the success of your product in the decision making process.

Differentiating through Functional Benefits
Dieticians and nurses are generally familiar with medical nutrition products, but most doctors and specialists are not. While the latter acknowledge the importance of nutrition, they are relatively unaware of the possibilities of medical nutrition as a means of treating or preventing a condition. As marketers, it is therefore crucial to take into account this awareness gap when thinking about how to encourage a healthcare professional to recommend these products to their patients.

Differentiating through Positioning
Besides differentiation on functional benefits, you can set your product apart with the various aspects of product positioning – for example through product a more ‘serious’ medical look, which might be perceived as more effective. However, it may also be considered to be less enjoyable to take and more stigmatizing. On the other hand, a more consumer- oriented packaging may be more attractive and easier to spot alongside bland medical packaging on the shelves in a pharmacy. Drawback of this type of packaging is that it can be difficult to convey relevant clinical effects and it might be harder to differentiate your product from health foods. The most suitable packaging route should therefore be based on both your brand positioning as well as on the positioning of the perceived competitive products (fig. 2).

How to Define your Differentiators
In the early stage of the product development, qualitative interviews can be conducted to collect open feedback from consumers about the perceived competitive field and uniqueness of a medical nutrition concept. Once the positioning, clinical benefits and packaging have been defined, quantitative techniques such as conjoint analysis are well suited to quantify the value of elements of a new product in the context of competition. This technique also allows you to measure whether your product is perceived as valuable enough, and whether it drives recommendation and use intent. At both stages, conducting research allows you to test whether the expected differentiator is actually valued and avoids pursuing the development of a product for which there is not a clear need. ■
Abb. 2 (Skim)


Robert Dossin is responsible for overall client relations in the healthcare sector at insights agency SKIM. SKIM works with leading healthcare and consumer health companies to understand and influence patient and physician decision journeys, online and offline. Robert holds a Masters in Science (MSc) degree in Marketing and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing (DipM) from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK, where he is also a Chartered Marketer and elected Fellow.


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