Monday, October 3, 2016


I found this funny cartoon here (please click)!

Marketing is not just about the sales outcomes it produces … marketing is not taking – money from the pocket of the customer!  Marketing is creating, communicating and delivering value to the prospect, and, in return for having gained customer satisfaction, the prospect becomes a customer, by giving money or barter goods or prescriptions, to the marketer.  Marketing is verily achieving the acme of success: obtaining unsolicited appreciation (in form of words or gestures) from the customer.  Marketing is obtaining appreciation and thence, word – of – mouth publicity!  

To give value, marketers should understand –

a)      What is possible by them to give to the target audience?
b)      How can they give to the target group: the most ethical, effective and efficient way?
c)      What exactly are the target group’s ethical needs/wants/desires…
d)     What is the framework of ethics for this ‘giving of a value offering(s)’?

Gaining appreciation

Besides, the concept of ‘giving value’, marketers need to have the knack of gaining appreciation, preferably unsolicited appreciation: marketers should make even the most dodgy or pugnacious or fault-finding or reserved prescriber/customer appreciate the marketer’s value offering:  and then, translating this appreciation into tangible business or sales results.  It is important to obtain appreciation from customers or prescribers - in words during conversations, or verbal remarks or written remarks – this will ensure commitment from the opinion builder or customer.  Thus, this forms a part of the EXCHANGE aspect of marketing process.

Is marketing a one-man-show?

Today, marketing departments/marketers cannot afford to work in silos, thinking only they can create, communicate, deliver and exchange offerings with customers or target entities.  There is a need to have the holistic marketing approach.  Here, marketing is viewed as a complex process of several variables and inputs, to finally ensure consumption happens and is maximised. 

In today’s pharmaceutical world, marketing is a multipronged holistic activity.  Earlier pharma marketing was a MR-centric marketing process, today, pharmaceutical marketing is more complex and holistic - adding other components in its endeavour to identify prescriber and patient segments, these “other components” include:

a) digital marketing communication
b) patient – centric messaging
c) special agencies who create and manage CMEs (Continuing Medical Education events)
d) dedicated agencies who conduct disease detection camps (like neuropathy camps, bone mineral density camps, blood haemoglobin level check camps etc) at hospitals or pharmacies or other community centers, in co-ordination with the beneficiary doctor(s))
e) advertising in various medical journals and magazines that reach out to opinion builders (like doctors)
f) and booth or stall activities - manned by glamourous hostesses, and specially trained personnel who communicate product benefits or offer value-added experiences such as e-quizzes to engage with attendees to the stall

Moving forward from the era of MR – centric marketing

The Medical Representative (MR) is the human medium, conveying samples, brand reminders, messages, and other paraphernalia for relationship management and inspiring prescription generation towards the promoted brand.  With sweeping technological changes and new business structures (such as emerging generics retailing), the marketing process has begun to include other elements.

Non – MR media, include:

-          digital marketing/radio messaging (website, email, message boards, blogs, twitter, social media, and group/individual communication through mobile) to PATIENT SEGMENTS and TARGET DOCTORS
-          advertising in print and digital media (such as mainly to doctors
-          third party agencies who will conduct CMEs, and booth or stall marketing

Cause marketing is another approach that will work wonders as part of holistic marketing, to boost demand.

Cause marketing helps connect the pharmacist, doctor and patient in the messaging and campaign loop.  Cause marketing picks up a trending cause with the product virtues. 

Eg., Vitamin D marketers can talk about the importance of going out in the sun or tie up with cyclathon and marathon events, thus making the brand, a connect with health and immunity-building.  This will strengthen brand recall among the target audience of doctors, pharmacists and patient consumers.

Another instance of cause marketing: let us assume Sun Pharmaceuticals launches – tildrakizumab (a monoclonal antibody for psoriasis management), a cause marketing approach can be playing on the concept of SELF-ESTEEM.  This can be a patient-centric messaging on skin health, psoriasis and self-esteem.  Messages can be sent through registered patients onto their mobile through sms and whatsapp.  Registration of patients can be done through a dedicated website, missed call from mobile and through doctor recommendation.  This messaging concept will strengthen patient compliance, patient confidence, prescriber confidence on product (as it gives a message that the marketing company cares), and produce better sales outcomes and “feel-good” factor, for tildrakizumab. 

Cause marketing, thus, is a platform to engage multiple target audiences and render better marketing outcomes.  It helps patients stick to the prescribed branded generic and helps retard or prevent the migration of patients to non-branded generic market (generic stores).

It is expected from marketers to produce a set of activities... that produce better sales outcomes…  However, to achieve this,  marketing should concentrate on learning how to give better value to target segments, with positive and highly engaging programs.  This will inevitably give better sales outcomes.

Conceived marketing programs should get a ‘buy-in’ from the top management, the sales personnel (Medical Representatives and managers…so that implementation excitement is palpable) and the marketing programs should have a clear vision on how it benefits all stakeholders: doctors, pharmacists, patients, sales personnel and the company itself (the company is finally glued onto the goals of market share, ROI, brand equity and sales in units/value).

A methylcobalamin brand sponsoring neuropathy camp or orthopaedic camp also makes sense …further, since gastric acid production inhibitors (like proton pump inhibitors), prescribed frequently along with NSAIDs (pain killers), interfere with absorption of Vit B12, hence, methylcobalamin (a form of Vit. B12) supplementation makes sense with gastric acid production inhibitors.  One can make a marketing program on this point too.

To make a marketing program, one needs to pick on an interesting idea that has not been played by competitors to a large extent.  It gives the marketing program a differentiation and novelty.  This cachet increases the chances of success for the campaign or marketing program.

Marketing programs that give novel value - breathe new life into brands.  Marketing programs are not easy to conceive, they are also difficult to deliver…it is not easy to monitor and execute marketing programs .... but that is the daily challenge of a marketer, and makes his/her life exciting!

Marketing is about giving in an ‘ethical way’.  There are various guidelines such as established market values, and documents such as UCPMP, which provide the "do’s and don’ts" for the “giving process in marketing”.  It is better to conceive marketing programs with these guidelines in mind for better acceptance and sustainability.  Marketing programs should stand the scrutiny of audits for ethics.

Marketing programs are successful when conceived from the customer or prescriber point of view... the program should truly give ‘value in an ethical way’ to the target patient or target doctor!  Marketing is giving (albeit ethically)!

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Rise and rise of generic medicines

In the above foto (July 2016), one can see, Sri Balaji Generic Medical Stores, which has only generic medicines (branded and unbranded), these are medicine brands that are not promoted to doctors, in India.  Customers walk in and show the Rx and ask for cheapest equivalent medicine from a “standard” company (eg., Cipla) or the pharmacist will 'push' equivalents from companies popular in the generic market like Leeford (this Ludhiana based company specializes only in generic products – and has some 500 SKUs).  Almost all noted Indian companies have generics (branded and unbranded) medicines, which are not promoted to doctors.  These companies have separate branded medicines available at a higher price and these are promoted to doctors. Such companies include Cipla, Lupin, Alkem, German Remedies (Zydus), Cadila, Ranbaxy etc.  As per the pharmacist at the above generic store: such private exclusive generic medicines shops are about 50 in number in Hyderabad-Secunderabad.  He also said, in about 6 months Telangana govt., will open about 50 'Jan Aushadi stores' (Govt. fair price medical stores) - these are central-state govt. stores, which will sell unbranded generics.  Probably in two years time, generic shops (containing unbranded generics and branded generics not promoted to doctors) will be common place in India, and will change the nature or landscape of the medicine market significantly.

Overall there will be following type of products:

a)  Branded generics promoted to doctors (eg., the routine products that pharma marketers promote)
b)      Branded generics (containing similar active ingredient) not promoted to doctors and available in pharmacies – including generic medicine stores
c)      Unbranded generics (contaning similar active ingredient) not promoted to doctors available in pharmacies – including generic medicines stores

The difference in MRP is significant …


Generic Paracetamol 650 mg (like Dolo 650) was sold at just Rs. 1.00 per tablet (Cipla).
Cadila Human insulin MRP is Rs. 148.50 and sold at Rs. 100
Thyroxin 50 mg MRP is Rs. 116.50 and sold at Rs. 60
Cipcal MRP is Rs. 69.50 and was sold at Rs. 10.00 (just 67 paise per tablet)
Fixime O (antibiotic combination Cefixime and Ofloxacin) MRP is Rs. 151 and sold at Rs. 75/-
Augmed (amoxicillin + clavulanic acid) 675 MRP is Rs. 156.10 and sold at Rs. 60 (just Rs. 10 per tablet)
Azax (azithromycin 500 mg) MRP is Rs. 71.19 per three tablets and sold at just Rs. 38.01 or Rs. 12.67 per tablet

Most of above 'generic products' are from CIPLA (a standard company)

Sri Balaji Generic Medicines shop is also distributing pamphlets -


a)   There is huge volume business going on in this space across India (AIOCD AWACS market agency says: said this space is not measured by any of the market agencies and the size is any body’s guess…it could be Rs. 50000 crores per annum)
b)      This generic market will stunt the growth of ‘branded generics promoted to doctors’, since patients will demand generic equivalents from standard companies from generic stores or dispensing doctors or from other pharmacies who have already started stocking such generics (that are not promoted to doctors)  
c)    Dispensing doctors have also started purchasing ‘such generics’ or certain doctors are stocking such products in attached pharmacies with whom they have understandings (eg., nursing home pharmacies) - thus such doctors want medicines at "net rate" - a low rate with high printed MRP
d)     We can’t wish away the growing generic market and this is a threat to branded generics promoted to doctors for prescriptions
e)      In about two years to come (as per the chemists I discussed this issue in Hyderabad field work), each pharmacy will have three categories of products: branded or unbranded generics not promoted to doctors, branded generics promoted to doctors and another section containing nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals (which cannot have generic equivalents).  Thus, we can expect three sets of items in pharmacies.  Some of the 'doctor  promoted generics' that will thrive will be those that cannot have easy copycats
f)       Products like Pure soap (Meditek) and Glowdent toothpaste (with bioenzymes - also available on etc) (Group Pharma) will have good traction since there cannot be any generic equivalents…hence it will be useful for companies to launch products that cannot be duplicated easily. 

We met an elderly retiree patient, at the above generic store, Mr. Janardhan Rao - who said he is saving Rs. 2000/- per month (earlier his monthly family medicine purchases was Rs. 5000/-, now it is Rs. 3000/-) thanks to these generics stores…

At Indore too, Arogya chain of medical stores offers generic medicines at deep discounts...the generic trend is on!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Patient-centric communication

The above image from here (click here)! 

The ever expanding pharmaceutical industry in India has seen several phases of activity:
a) MR-centric era: Medical Representatives were appointed who carried the product message, samples and other collaterals (including compliments) to generate business...more MRs = more business!
This went on for some time...then - centric era came up...
b) Pharma companies used the MR network and customer service executives to go beyond messaging.  Doctors were/are pampered with freebies, sponsorships and deals to prescribe the target brands.
Now with social media going strong, and the Govt. of India looking down with a frown at current doctor-centric pharmaceutical marketing practices (UCPMP or the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practice is now becoming a priority policy for the Govt. of India), a slow momentum towards an era of patient-centric communication is taking shape.
There are several factors contributing to this trend:
POLITICAL: the central government is imposing price ceilings through NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) and putting curbs on adventurous marketing practices through: UCPMP.  The Union Central Government and state governments are giving shape and enforcing generic name prescriptions by doctors.  Jan Aushadi or generic drug stores concept is being given a fillip by the governments (state and central).
ECONOMIC: inflation pressure is on top of mind of policy makers, hence, they are actively working to put a ceiling on pharmaceutical formulations.
SOCIAL: In urban and semi-urban areas, social media, electronic media and internet (particularly mobile internet) is providing a link between patients and information on medicines.  Thus, the slow but sure process of empowering patients or patient care givers on unbranded generics and branded generics is a work-in-process trend in society.
TECHNOLOGICAL: the information revolution is not only here to stay, IT is revolutionizing information dispersal, way of diagnosis, and patient-doctor interactions.  As mobile internet penetrates faster and faster and various mobile apps get invented, it will put the power of choice in the patient's hands.  In months to come, patients will compare brand prices real-time of various pharmaceutical formulations and make their purchasing choice, with or without consulting their doctor.  For doctors, retaining patients and obtaining word-of-mouth through satisfied patients is critical, hence, they will certainly go with what is ideal for the patient, rather than pharmaceutical companies.
ENVIRONMENTAL: the herbal ayurvedic trend is gaining traction with every passing day.  The humongous growth of Patanjali is a case to study.  With this environmental friendly products will have an added attraction with patients.
LEGAL: there are legal hurdles of full fledged communication including advertising of prescription only drugs to patients.  However, there are means of communicating through doctors to patients:
Example 1: Assume a doctor prescribes Glycomet to a patient (after taking the patient's permission).  The doctor enters patient's email id and mobile number into the computer.  The computer automatically updates this information to the pharmaceutical company server. 
The company server through it's software starts sending sms reminder for dosage alerts, and other tips for managing disease, drug side effects etc.
Example 2: On purchase of a box or strip of Ramistar, the patient is encouraged by pharmacist retailer to give a missed call to the company's special number for patients.  After this, the call center rings up the patient, collects basic contact details and then starts various messaging systems such as dosage alert sms, whatsapp based infographics, educational videos through whatsapp etc.
Example 3: A call center number on the product pack or in the advertising poster placed in the patient waiting area of the clinic - will encourage the patient to use IVRS and gain interesting information on his disease and disease management.
Example 4: The pharmaceutical company organizes in co-ordination with doctors various patient education and entertainment (with fun games etc) on disease and disease management.  This helps patients manage their disease better (eg., depression), bond with their doctor and build their morale for obtaining better health outcomes.
Example 5: Prescriber enrolls his patient to subscribe a disease management monthly health magazine (print or e-magazine) from the pharmaceutical company.  The patient receives this magazine through courier and learns a healthy way of disease management.  For instance LIVE WELL WITH RAMACE can be the title of a monthly magazine for the patient.  This magazine can provide health tips, hypertension and kidney health management articles etc.
Example 6: Patients can be encouraged by the product pack or by the prescriber to follow the brand on facebook or twitter
Example 7: Patient can register at the product website and obtain informational emails etc.
Example 8: Patient can register for free BMD (Bone Mineral Density) test...with his personal details, and once a prescriber starts his calcium medication, the brand marketer can engage with the patient through email, whatsapp and sms to ensure patient stays on course with the medication.
Why patient-centric communication?
The current environment is such that doctors are under a cloud for alleged over-prescribing and pharmaceutical marketers are also getting negative press for doctor oriented services. Patients are also fed with a steady dose of such stories in the press/social media.  The central and state governments are also putting pressure for ensuring sale and consumption of affordable unbranded generics. 

Hence, the way out for pharmaceutical brand marketers is to build trust and reputation through an integrated communication approach - involving prescribers and patients.  Hence, patient-centric communication strategy is the need of the hour in Indian pharmaceutical communication and marketing practice.

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Friday, May 27, 2016


Opinions are the most common type of thoughts and these are reflected in all online and offline conversations.  Major corporate decisions and family decisions are all by-products of opinions.  By the very meaning of the word, opinion - the judgment or viewpoints about a product, person, idea or experience or event need not be based on facts or knowledge.  There can be 'felt-opinions' and 'fact-based opinions'.  These are viewpoints of a person or group of persons or institution about a thing or person.  Hence, it is not an exaggeration to say that management of opinions, creating a favourable opinion about oneself or the marketed product/service/idea/event/experience is very much a marketing manager’s day-to-day job!

Favourable opinions need to be built and constantly nourished.  If for example, Company A has a leading brand of paracetamol, the marketer is bounden to constantly present a genuine engaging story, represent authentic talking points and provide evidence for the same, so that the favourable opinion on Brand A paracetamol for the management of fever and pain, gets nourished.  Thus, an important end-point of marketing messaging is certainly: maintaining favourable opinions among stakeholders (consumers and influencers included) about the marketed product, service, idea, experience or event.

So what are the ingredients required to whip up a potent marketing approach that results in favourable opinions?

a)    Trust-building: giving a message that the marketed product, service, experience, idea or event is a reliable, safe and optimal one.  The customer should trust  the marketed entity (find it reliable)
b)     Engaging messages: products do not sell unless backed by messaging, to invigorate the customer or prospects regarding the benefits of consuming the marketed entity.  Actually, a customer is buying an image or benefit(s) of a marketed entity.  For this to happen, the messages should have potency and creativity to inspire target audiences to experience the marketed entity.  Glamour, appeal, highlighting the USPs (Unique Selling Prepositions) and multi-media messaging will facilitate consumption of the marketed item.  Messaging should be so attractive that it should go viral or instigate positive word-of-mouth.

c)      Gaining feedbacks/having dialogue with constituents: in this age of the ‘prosumer’ and customization, it is inevitable that the marketer listens and appreciates the points elucidated by his target audience.  Taking a lead from this melange of messages from the consumer fraternity, channel partners and other stakeholders, it is vital to improvise the bundle of offerings to provide a more satisfying experience to the customer.  The customer has insatiable appetite for customer satisfaction…yeh dil maange more!

d)     Making availability: easy access to the marketed entity (product, service, idea, experience, event or entity) is a key feature to build favourable opinions about the marketed entity.  Hence, 24/7 call centres provide after – sales support to various items.  Similarly, service engineers, sales personnel and MRs remain accessible to prospects and customers to facilitate the sale.  Having a large number of easily accessible points-of-purchase is key feature for sustained success of a product or service.  Repeat customers are vital for continuous success and it is possible only with easy access to the marketed entity.

e)  Continuous improvement: success is a moving target; one cannot rest on one’s laurels.  New benchmarks are constantly set by demanding customers and belligerent or aggressive competitors.  Hence, one should necessarily continuously upgrade the customer experience; ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ is a nice aphorism in this game.  New market gaps should get identified and filled - thus, reinforcing success repeatedly.

f)    Use OPINION BUILDERS: celebrities, experts (like doctors, nutritionists, beauticians, hair stylists, image makers, consultants etc), and characters not only aid brand recall, they help mould favourable opinions.  If Shah Rukh Khan endorses Hyundai cars for a decade, he may not be an automobile engineer, but this celebrity endorsement builds trust, brand image and favourable opinion (hence, favourable word-of-mouth and publicity).  This aids in the purchase decision making by a prospect. 

Doctors are the favourite and logical or inevitable opinion builders and influencers for sales of pharmaceutical goods.  Other healthcare items (like dental products, nutraceuticals, nutritional products like milk mix beverage powders, hearing aids, and other medical or healthcare devices) also obtain better sales boost when doctors recommend them to the target audience.  There is great power of an opinion builder in an apron, for healthcare goods and services!

Characters can also help strengthen favourable purchase decisions.  Example: an army man character (caricature or actor in army fatigues) will help build a positive opinion for products associated with strength, for instance: dental creams or toothpastes for strong teeth; or milk mix beverages for adults…).  Popular cartoon characters also feed good opinions on products or services.  Example: Chotta Bheem for a toothpaste item (makes teeth stronger)!

One of the most unique opinion builders in recent times, is Baba Ramdev, who has created history with establishment of Patanjali range of herbal and Ayurvedic products, and food products.  Patanjali products has only one brand ambassador: Baba Ramdev.  It is his aura that is fueling favourable opinion among prospects and customers for Patanjali products.  It is a unique case study of a Yogi opinion builder.  (Another  Guru is Sri Sri Ravishankar: Art of Living who has also launched a slew of products, of which, Tejasvita, a milk mix beverage is creating a mild sensation in the marketplace).

Right use of relevant opinion builders will strengthen the opinions people have on healthcare products (including prescription-only products).  The right strategy and mix of messaging elements have to be applied so that customers sit up and notice messages about a marketed entity endorsed by opinion builders or influencers.

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