An up and coming market.

October 29, 2004

Talk about launching an exciting new category. It doesn’t get any more exciting that erections. As long as they don’t last more than four hours at which point it is always advised to seek medical attention immediately for yourself and your wife.

But what has been really exciting to watch is the competitive drama which illustrates some fundamental marketing principles.

1. It is better to be first than it is to be better.

Viagra’s overwhelming success can be attributed to getting on the market and into the mind first. The enormous PR generated by the cure for ED (erectile dysfunction) proved very effective in building the brand. A lead story on all the national newscasts, the Viagra campaign generated thousands of media mentions.

Today, Viagra is one of the world’s most recognized pharmaceutical brands with 70% of the worldwide market in its category.

2. A #2 brand that uses a better claim is rarely a big success.

The second brand on the market, Levitra lacked a powerful position. It simply tried to claim it was better than Viagra. Powerful #2 brands need to be positioned as the opposite of the leader. Not me-too but better. Lowe’s (feminine) vs. Home Depot (masculine) Target (cheap chic) vs. Wal-Mart (cheap) or Scope (good tasting) vs. Listerine (bad tasting.)

Just saying that Levitra is better is a tough claim to sell in an advertisement. There is no credibility in a better claim. “And if they are so much better than Viagra why is Viagra still the leader?” the prospect thinks.

3. If you can’t be first, set up a new category you can be first in.

Cialis has done quite well even though it was the third brand on the market. In France, Cialis is widely known and marketed as “le weekend pill” because its effect can last up to 36 hours. I don’t understand why Cialis doesn’t use the “weekend pill” in its US advertising. It is such a powerful message: The first drug that lasts all weekend. Who has sex on Mondays anyway, unless it’s your anniversary?

Cialis is quickly gaining market share and in my opinion will become a strong #2 brand to Viagra.

4. PR builds brands. Advertising maintains them.

Viagra launched the brand with PR. Then once the brand was established, it followed up with massive advertising. That is the way powerful brands are built. PR first to establish the credibility of the brand. And advertising second to accelerate and maintain the success of the brand. Viagra now spends almost $100 million a year defending the brand, good move.

5. The target is not necessarily the same as the market.

Early on Viagra made a critical error by selecting Bob Dole as its advertising spokesperson. Dole, in his 70’s, was clearly the market for Viagra. But he was not the target. The target is the 50 year old married man who is having trouble, but is terrified of asking his doctor. Positioning the product for older men tells younger men that Viagra wasn’t for them. Viagra would have been wiser choosing younger, more macho looking men to help remove the stigma of ED and make younger men feel more comfortable talking about the problem and product. The leader always should be looking for ways to promote the category. Bob Dole was too obvious a target and didn’t set the image I think they wanted to portray for the brand.

Today, you do see much younger men in the Viagra ads. A wise move that should have been used initially.

6. Names matter.

In addition to all the advantages of being first, Viagra also has the advantage of being the best name by far. The Viagra name is a combination of two words “vigorous” and “Niagra” Falls. Not a bad visual considering the use for the drug.

Cialis is probably the weakest name but it benefits from a much stronger position than Levitra. Cialis would have a better shot of one day beating Viagra if they had a stronger name.