Editorial: Science Based Positioning in the Marketplace - How Much is it Worth?

By Len Monheit
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Two press releases this past week have caught my attention as company’s struggle to differentiate themselves and their products in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

I have long believed that the concept of bioavailability and a connection with delivery technology was a sleeping giant that could be translated into economic return for companies investing in research, partnerships and alliances to prove that their products actually reached targets in the body. Also, as an investment, a study of bioaviability or stability can give differentiation and represent in some cases intellectual property.

This past week, SCOLR, Inc., which has repositioned as a delivery technology company, launched six new products using its patented Controlled Delivery Technology platform including both 12 hour and 8 hour release formulas.

Also this week, Source Naturals issued a release regarding its formulation of phosphatidylserine where it indicated its process ensured stability, and prevented moisture penetration of its soft gels.

While I’ve not personally investigated the data (bioavailability and stability), these are two examples of organizations using a scientific approach rather then a marketing driven approach to product positioning. True, the marketing and communications is tightly integrated, but the product differentiating factor fundamentally has its roots in science.

Both of these examples are driven by an understanding of the chemistry and mechanism of the product itself, driven by either the ingredient manufacturer, or the technology provider. And as the industry evolves and matures, this is the type of approach I believe must prevail. The principle of bioavailability can help to bridge the gap between functional foods and supplementation, since it also must deal with active or non-active forms of ingredients and the mechanism of activation within the body. Even if all we prove is equivalence, this can still be important. To not address issues such as bioavailability and stability as you introduce products and ingredients could be a critical strategic gap.

OK – so you spend the money, determine your product is bioavailable and stable, as good as or better than others in the marketplace. Now what?

Translating the science into realizable customer value is not an automatic proposition and that’s really what the successful sales process is all about. Here’s where communication, in all its forms, comes in, including translation, channel and position selection and information dissemination, product literature development and so much more. And increasingly, what you must do to get your message across and value realized takes a combination of approaches

A fundamental challenge still lies in education at the consumer level, in raising the baseline understanding and knowledge, in this case, of what happens in the human body. Here, a key gap is in educating both the industry value chain and consumers regarding the questions they should be asking of their suppliers.

  • What does bioavailable mean and how important is it?
  • What does standardized really mean?
  • Why is it important to know the part of the plant?
  • Does the product contain an efficacious amount? How do I know?

As I and others have said before, the responsibility for education is a shared one, with all value chain participants having a stake. And straight marketing and PR alone won’t get the job done. So support and implementation of this educational process really has to start at the company level. Maybe, what we should look for is a database of issues and questions organized category by category and ingredient by ingredient and contributed to by the entire industry including regulators and researchers.

If we accept that interest is self-health management is rising, then it stands to reason that interest in information is also on the rise. I’ve seen surveys and polls which match our own NPIcenter feedback that indicates confusion is one of the most serious issues facing consumers of our products. Realizing that we will never totally eliminate confusion, anything we can do to lessen it can be only a benefit. Our challenge will be to educate without bias, to select those basic principles in a project such as this that everyone can agree on. And then we can let consumers make choices – more educated choices.

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