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Marketing guru Seth Godin has done it again.  Each year, he publishes a book, examining marketing from a whole new perspective, and then spends the balance of the year giving lectures from it, while I sit and ponder what his latest thinking means for pharma marketing and marketing research.

In his 2007 offering, The Dip—appropriately subtitled A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)—Godin points out that while most marketing books, lectures, etc., focus on achieving success, it is at least as important to recognize what to do with what appears to be failure. 

He explains, for example, how to separate a “dip,” which he describes as an obstacle-filled time period that must be consciously overcome to leave the competition behind, from a “cul de sac,” which is a terminal failure one should bail out of as quickly as possible. He says that while the American ethos is to “keep trying,” the continued allocation of resources across endeavors in which one cannot excel is extremely dangerous.  As a classic example, he cites former General Electric CEO Jack Welch's philosophy of selling businesses in which GE could never become No. 1 or No. 2 since it simply took too much energy to reap the meager rewards of being No. 3 or No. 4.

So what does this mean to the pharmaceutical marketing researcher? If we are to be successful, we should use our research skills to help our clients separate setbacks (dips) from failures (cul de sacs) and respond definitively and appropriately to each by figuring out where to put additional resources against a task (and when to run, not walk, away).

Had it dealt better in the past with failures, the industry would be in far better shape than we find it today.

Richard Vanderveer is group CEO, GfK US Healthcare Companies

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