Metabical Marketing Positioning Strategy

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In 2008, a marketing and positioning strategy was needed for Cambridge Sciences Pharmaceutical’s (CSP) new weight loss drug called Metabical. Metabical was touted as being a revolutionary weight loss drug with fewer negative side effects than the usual medicinal weight loss remedies.

Metabical has many levels of decision-makers – both internal and external. CSP’s senior director of marketing, Barbara Printup likely reports to the company’s board of directors for her ultimate authority. Printup receives her directions for the Board and then delegates them amongst her subordinates in marketing and sales. During the development phase of the product, Printup was likely constantly in touch with the research and development (R&D) department at CSP so that she could gather information and controlled study results about the product. The information she would gather from R&D would then be used in order to promote the product.

Among external groups that the director of marketing likely had consistent contact with, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was likely at the front of her Rolodex. Printup likely had at least one high-level point of contact with the FDA who could have kept her up to date on recent internal agency updates about the status of Metabical and its clinical trials. Although R&D likely had the most consistent contact with the FDA, the director of marketing would need to be in touch with the FDA for various statistical and informational purposes.

Without the massive amount of product and market research, the decision-making process for Printup would have been nearly impossible. Metabical was to be the first weight loss drug approved by the FDA for overweight individuals (defined as those with a BMI of 25-30). The research indicated that, unlike other weight loss drugs out at the time, there would be fewer side effects to deal with that other products typically induced including: loose stools, increased defecation, incontinence and abdominal pain[1]. Marketing and R&D departments revealed that two other weight-loss products, Alli and Xenical, had similar products being reviewed by the FDA because they were causing sudden cardiac death and liver failure in their patients[2]. Metabical was different from these two products because it worked in a low dosage formula that would require only one slow-release pill per day, effectively reducing the strain on the heart and liver that other drugs tend to induce. The results for Metabical were outstanding: those with a BMI of 26-30 lost an average of 26 pounds, compared to an average loss of only six pounds within another trial group that took a placebo.

Metabical itself is not a perfect drug: a common side effect of Metabical occurred when consumers took the drug in conjunction with a high-calorie or high-fat diet. Realistically, people who take weight-loss drugs are likely taking the drugs because they have a high-calorie or high-fat diet, CSP spun around this information to turn it into a positive: they claimed that studies indicated that these side effects assisted in behavior modification and healthier eating habits[3]. Research also found out that the pill was no effective on the extremely over-weight and obese study groups (BMIs of 30 or greater)

In terms of segmenting their target market and positioning themselves as the safest weight-loss drug of choice, the CSP would be wise to focus their efforts on women with a BMI of 25-30 who want to live a healthier life in order to live longer. According to the company’s marketing research, the average age of this segment of women is 35-65, college educated and has a household income of $80,000 or more. A healthy marketing campaign aimed towards men would be a good idea as well: a 2007 CSP marketing survey indicated that 65 percent of men were not happy with their weight, 40 percent of men said they wanted to change their lifestyles in order to live a healthier life and 15 percent (of men and women) were willing to...
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