By educating consumers and health professionals about Champix, Pfizer New Zealand has helped thousands of Kiwis stop smoking—and once again caught the eye of head office.
Champix, a prescription only smoking cessation product that requires smokers to complete a 12-week course of tablets, originally launched in New Zealand in 2007. This period saw rapid growth in the overall anti-smoking treatments market, but Champix didn’t follow this trend.
Comprehensive promotion to healthcare professionals had not created advocacy, partially because all other options were provided free to smokers (Champix’s retail cost was in excess of $600 a course). So the marketing challenge was to build a distinctive value proposition to drive immediate prescription by GPs, acceptance by consumers and provide a compelling case for Pharmac funding.
Even after it received government funding in 2010, Champix still faced many obstacles. It was a late entrant into the market so there were entrenched treatment alternatives; it attracted doctor and prescription fees; and perhaps most daunting, only after all other options fail are smokers eligible for a funded course to help beat an addiction they may have had their entire adult life. Champix also effectively starts from a zero sales base each year as each unique patient can only complete one three-month course (maximum) of Champix per year before they are eligible for funding again.
Added to that, most quitting smokers are younger so average smokers are now older, have smoked longer and are likely to be more addicted. Smoking also skews toward the most deprived quintiles of the New Zealand population with lower disposable income to spend on potentially costly anti-smoking treatments.
At a corporate level, Pfizer was perceived by the smoking cessation network as a multinational pharmaceutical company whose primary focus was on commercial gain, which created many barriers to discussion and collaboration.
Pfizer’s philosophy is ‘More than medication’ and this was brought to life with the Champix campaign by trying to understand the challenges and needs of the consumer when stopping smoking. Several levels of research were employed in the development of the campaign, including review of market audit data, international Pfizer research projects and local primary research. A key insight from this was the majority of smokers try and quit cold turkey without help, which leads to a 95 percent relapse rate after 12 months. A typical Champix user will have tried to quit seven times before they consult a GP about the drug. Therefore quitting with support was a key theme of all campaign communications. Education was also key and, importantly, Pfizer New Zealand was the only company in the smoking cessation medication category that stood behind its product by providing substantive consumer and healthcare professional support and resource. The effort it put into helping people to understand what it was going to take for them to stop smoking on their terms translated into a better quit attempt, stronger results and better long-term advocacy. This meant Pfizer didn’t try and get as many people as possible using Champix. It actually focused on quality use, as this was a better platform for developing brand equity based on brand advocacy and long-term sales results.
The marketing strategy was framed as a journey in three parts. The first section explored smokers’ experiences before and after using Champix to address gaps in understanding. The second part was based around guidance on how to access Champix and, more importantly, support to enable success with Champix. And the third section included the post consumption support and help to stay smokefree after treatment, which was the more emotive brand positioning aspect of the campaign. This was also about helping those smokers who relapse not feel like they’ve failed, but understand that even having tried to quit is the first step towards eventual success. Market research showed Pfizer that being transparent with information on safety and creating realistic product expectations would build credibility and trust.
The main objective was for Champix to be a brand that was asked for by smokers, recommended by successful ex-smokers and advocated by health professionals. Closing this loop was extremely important because when investing in a direct-to-consumer campaign that asks people to talk to a health professional the ground work has to be done to ensure it is the right product that is offered. There are many examples of direct to consumer campaigns that drive the prescription of competitor products. And where health professionals were time poor, Pfizer resources were able to step in to help cover the gap. A good example of this is the 12 web clips on www.champix.co.nz, which doctors and nurses sent their patients in the direction of—especially those who couldn’t afford, or found it difficult to come back to a health professional for support.
The integrated comms campaign included a series of educational television advertisements within the Family Health Diary masthead format, search optimisation, EDMs and web banners to drive traffic to the website. And for those taking the drug, a 12-week behavioural support programme via web (www.liferewards.co.nz), email and txt aimed to keep them on track.
Convincing healthcare professionals of the drug’s efficacy—and of Pfizer’s motivations—was central to ensure GPs understood Champix’s benefits. To do this, conversation starters were placed in medical environments to help prompt discussions with GPs about quitting options and the suitability of Champix.
It also employed two field sales teams (14 full-time equivalents), sponsored GP and nurse education events, sponsored research review literature and ran trade advertising in GP and pharmacy publications. Various campaign elements linked the consumer and healthcare professional materials around the single supportive call to action: ‘Ask your GP about quitting with Champix because we want to see you stop smoking’.
A central element of the Champix campaign was that ‘there is a way out if you are feeling trapped by smoking’. This ‘truth’ relates to smokers’ sense of being caught in their addiction. The creative execution also relied on striking the right tone so that smokers would engage with the message and not feel ‘nagged’ by the delivery. Unfortunately too many anti-smoking campaigns and tobacco control initiatives left smokers feeling alienated, judged and under siege from pressure to stop smoking. This stress can be counterproductive. In contrast, Champix acknowledged quitting was challenging and addiction to nicotine is not a personal failing but a physiological reality.
Brand awareness was up, sales targets were smashed, course completion rates were way above international norms and GP engagement increased significantly.
In 2012, 45,000 Kiwis used Champix, 12 percent growth over 2011, despite decreasing numbers of potential customers. And the uniquely collaborative and supportive marketing strategy means it is now the country’s most successful anti-smoking treatment option and the only product in the category that’s growing.
In an area littered with false hope and false starts the projection of realism helped to build a solid foundation for a long-term business. It also helped to build informed brand advocacy, where smokers who have used Champix can represent the product constructively and fluently to other smokers considering quitting.
Delivering a credible message that was based on insights around the smoker has also created goodwill amongst healthcare professionals and the smoking cessation network. Stakeholder engagement was a foundation of the Champix campaign and through a sustained focus on stakeholders, it has broken down the barriers to engagement and Pfizer is now viewed as part of the solution and the message is congruent with the wider smoking cessation dialogue.
As a tribute to the success of this strategy, Pfizer hopes to employ it for new product launches in the near future and rather than have a singular focus on driving rapid adoption, it aims to focus on building quality use and increasing ‘success stories’, which helps to avoid failure being blamed on the product rather than personalised by the individual.
Over 100,000 Kiwis have used Champix to help them quit smoking. This market penetration as a percentage of smokers is extremely high relative to other international markets and, just as it was for its work on the Viagra-Avigra transition, the New Zealand office has been singled out as an example of leading practice by Pfizer global management.