Hybrid Research for Complex Problems

Optimizing a communication strategy for AbbVie


Situation: In 2015, AbbVie engaged Sklar Wilton to conduct a customized research study to better understand how physicians used one of its products. The first major purpose of the research was to deeply understand the reasons why their drug was being used and to add clarity regarding the patient groups using the drug. The second major purpose of the research was to optimize the positioning of the drug so that it would be used with the most appropriate patients and in the most effective manner.


Insight: Sklar Wilton created a customized, two-phase research initiative to delve more deeply into physicians’ rationale for prescribing treatments. Phase One of the initiative consisted of a series of 10 interviews with high and low frequency prescribers so as to minimize preference for the client’s product and the challenger product. These in-depth interviews discovered meaningful decision-making factors that had little to do with the drugs performance: the age of the physician, the provincial health system operated in, and preconceived ideas expressed by their patient. Phase Two of the initiative converted these, and other, initial qualitative discoveries into a customized, highly relevant, and efficient quantitative survey. The survey used principles of conjoint studies to measure the interaction effects of patient age, severity of condition, current treatment, and three other factors. The outcome included a clear and actionable market projection of the percentage of patients who would be prescribed the major pharmaceutical options, a complete definition of individual prescription barriers whether they related to the patient or the prescriber, and a communications pathway for more successful patient outcomes.


Impact: Sklar Wilton’s unique, integrated approach provided AbbVie with a clear and actionable communications path in a single, integrated report. We helped AbbVie determine which messages were most effective in overcoming barriers, how best to position those messages with competitive brands, and how their pharma reps could communicate with physicians to maximize the prescription of their drug for the most suitable patients. AbbVie now has the knowledge that is essential for them to increase revenues and generate better patient outcomes.

Thanks to Sklar Wilton for the amazing work they did on this. Your findings really helped us solidify where we should position our product.

– Brendan Bibby, Senior Brand Manager, AbbVie