Sunday, March 25, 2007


Social sense in pharma marketing

Marketing at its core is all about facilitating purchasing and selling. The consumption of products and services is the fulcrum of marketing. At the ground level, consumption of products and services happens when the prospect or customer has trust on the seller. This is the core home truth. People do business with people. Trust and relationship building are the cornerstones of successful marketing activities.

Many MNC pharma companies way back in late 1980s/90s reiterated this concept of trust and relationship building in their marketing charter. In fact, these were the times when the benefits of Indian Patents Act, 1970 helped Indian pharma companies dominate the market. Indian pharma companies experienced dizzying growth and were very aggressive in the market in offering services and deals to doctors and bonus schemes to retailer community. Indian pharma companies continue to be severely competitive in the marketplace; however with the start of a new era of product patents in India, many Indian pharma companies have started their soul searching for their values and principles in pharma marketing.

Mr. Vivek PSO of Pfizer at Mysore is our great family friend. I recollect from my conversations with him that Pfizer was practicing social sense in their marketing activities to build a bond of trust and sound relationship with their target market. For example, Pfizer MRs would get an opinion builder doctor from Kerala to Manipal so the doctor may deliver a stellar address at a seminar on their premium antibiotic – Magnamycin. Pfizer would even sponsor clinical X ray studies so doctors would actually ‘see’ the visible positive differences made on patients with LRTI by use of Magnamycin. Pfizer would sponsor or create platforms for doctors where doctors could practice their hobbies – eg., Pfizer would sponsor a get-together where the lead doctor would play say the tabla (his hobby) and there would be a dinner afterwards. This was the social sense in Pfizer’s marketing approach.

In fact, my father Late Suresh G Chiplunkar who was a long time PSO at John Wyeth at Mysore was a master at social sense in his selling approach.

So we see that social sense is a very important component in pharma marketing. This has been highlighted in an article at Stanford. This article highlights the continuing importance of opinion builders and their influence over other doctors in the social circuit of the opinion builder doctor.

Social sense and the digital media

Today the digital media has the potential of redefining social sense in pharma marketing approaches of companies. Social network analysis is an important step in building the pharma marketing approach. The first social networking website was in America that was started in 1995. The digital social network websites are great enablers of communication & is enabling the world to become flatter. Google has a social network called (launched in 2004) that has become a popular meeting site on the web. Another website called is creating business networking and other value added services based on networking.

Digital social sense and pharma marketing

Imagine Pfizer creates a digital community website for networking and socializing among doctors. Let us say Pfizer calls the website after its popular and leader multivitamin brand

This opens up a new vista for connecting Pfizer with doctor prospects and customers.

Imagine Pfizer conducts a campaign to create instant e-mail accounts for doctors including student doctors through camps (with the help of internet connected laptops) at campuses and hospitals. So you can catch target doctors young! The Pfizer community website has all the potential to be an indispensable part of every doctor’s cyber life by digitally connecting them and encouraging doctors to visit and enjoy the social networking web site for doctors called

The member doctors become an instantly accessible market for Pfizer’s product promotional drives:

Pfizer can facilitate jobs for doctors at various hospitals through this networking website.

Pfizer can send out promotional e-mails to these doctors, launch e-detailing visits to e-mail accounts, ensure e-MR visits (you can read more about e-MRs on this blog elsewhere) and even set up e-clinical meetings for member doctors.

Pfizer can create inter gender interactions in a cyber format to young doctors for dating and matrimonial prospects on this social networking website.

The website can have a product and clinical area discussion center.

In fact, this web site can create a whole virtual world of value added services through message boards, blogs, virtual worlds, mail posts, hyper links etc to engage member doctors while subtly promoting products and building trust and relationships and there by gaining exponential business results. Best of all Pfizer can do it on a global scale - in the sense you can connect a doctor in Bermuda (has become famous in India thnks to the ICC World Cricket Cup) to a doctor in India and to a doctor in Thailand.

There is a very high potential for such a digital social networking marketing approach. In fact, among Indian companies Cipla through its fantastic website can easily convert a component of its web site to a social networking platform and migrate to digital social networking marketing to gain significant business results. Ayurvedic companies can straight away launch such an effort to Ayurvedic doctor clientele.

As a seasoned pharma marketing professional I can guarantee the success of such an approach based on ‘digital social sense’. I am Sunil S Chiplunkar, and you are on Thnks for your visit and please do keep visiting – there are 24 other interesting blogposts on this blog. The URL for the image is

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cracking the ‘umbrella brand marketing’ conundrum

The riddle

Marketing is never a static field. There are always newer challenges, to take on. One of the greatest challenges in recent times of globalization is umbrella branding and driving the sales of individual products coming under the umbrella brand.

Let us say, the umbrella brand (like ‘Nirma’ or ‘Himalaya’ has in its portfolio a whole range of FMCG, cleaning products, wellness products, cosmetics and other products and services. Further, let us reiterate that this umbrella brand does not have sub-brands under it. So one can imagine that it can be quite a challenge to market and ramp up the sales of the individual products coming under the umbrella brand that too when they are of wide functional diversity.

So the conundrum: How does one strengthen the sales of individual products under an umbrella brand? It can be quite a marketing problem. Is there a solution for such a type of umbrella brand marketing? Let us try to crack this problem…

Umbrella branding

The concept of umbrella branding (or also called family branding) is common in the Far Eastern countries. For eg. LG is in to a wide array of white goods, electronic products and even healthcare products. Sony the Japanese master company has many products and so is Matshushita the huge conglomerate of electric and electronic products. Samsung is another ‘chaebol’ that is in to mobile, CDs etc. In recent times, we have seen how Bharti Telecom in India is slowly phasing out the Beetel brand name and investing heavily in to developing a single powerful family brand name - AIRTEL - for its wide range of telcom products and solutions.

Many entrepreneurs prefer family branding as it helps reduce advertising and marketing costs. The idea is that more products can be promoted efficiently with a single campaign. Further, it aids in markets that are in a constant state of flux due to changing technologies, product obsolescence, short product life cycles and fast new product launches. It is easier to convert prospects to customers, who trust and are familiar with an umbrella brand name.

The above points were in fact emphasized in the 2nd National FMCG conclave held in Nov 2003 at Mumbai. The high cost of advertising, the media fragmentation, and ad clutter makes umbrella branding a commonsensical approach. The best aspect of umbrella branding is that the ‘touch-points’ between the brand and customers increases. As the number of interactions between the brand and customers increases, one can reinforce brand values and transfer the goodwill to other products and categories.

One more brand name, in the Indian context, is in to this exciting umbrella branding concept. This brand extends from fluid power, soaps, baby care products, lighting, laptops, computers, software services, BPO, KPO...and no marks for guessing; you just have to ‘apply your mind’ (!) yes – the brand name is WIPRO (

One more Indian brand name has undertaken an exciting journey in to the complex world of umbrella branding; and it is doing this in bold red (!) – can I hear you say Cheers?! Yes, it is Kingfisher (o-la-la-o-le-lo) from a beer brand to a service brand – Mr. Mallya has undertaken a brave risk with his famous Kingfisher brand, which has now started flying high!

One more classical example of a globally successful umbrella brand is - Nike. The word NIKE conjures up a whole lot of images of a trendy and successful personality.

Kellogs from America is another umbrella brand that is battling its way in the marketplace with a range of food products. Maggi in India follows suit.

One of the greatest brand makeovers and umbrella brand marketing exercises undertaken in contemporary times, in India, is by the TATAs. Today Bombay House the famous HQ of the conglomerate TATA (that has 96 group companies in seven business sectors and contributes 2.8% of India’s GDP) is in the grip of intense corporate exercises to build the TATA umbrella or corporate brand ).

What has it got to do with the Indian pharma scene?

Oh! Plenty!! Indian companies with its unique blend of products and services in the healthcare sector get an enviable opportunity to bring in umbrella marketing strategies and thereby deliver better value to customers and to themselves.

For Indian wellness companies, LIFESTYLE MARKETING is the way for umbrella brands

A great way of strengthening umbrella brands is through LIFESTYLE MARKETING. Simply put, lifestyle marketing is having a promotional approach centered on the interests, values, attitudes and way of life of consumers/target group. The key words here are 'WAY OF LIFE' of prospects and customers. This would mean that the umbrella brand connects with the customers and the prospects ‘way-of-life’ and the products are promoted to fit in to the target market’s way of life. So the product(s) becomes a way of life.

In lifestyle marketing one categorizes customers based on their interests, activities and opinions. A classic example of lifestyle marketing is the HARLEY-DAVIDSON bike that has morphed in to cult marketing. Similarly Shahnaz Hussain and her array of beauty products are a way-of-life!

In fact, it was Alvin Toffler the thoughtleader and futurologist who had predicted way back in 1939 that there would be burst of ‘lifestyles’ and savvy marketers have latched on to this trend and piggybacked their products to major market successes.

Today some Indian pharma and wellness companies are on the doorstep of having a successful run in LIFESTYLE MARKETING. Wockhardt is one such company with its bouquet of pharma products & corporate hospitals that can with the help of a healthcare ecosystem create a WOCKHARDT LIFESTYLE MARKETING APPROACH. This would mean an exponential increase in the value of the brand – WOCKHARDT. Ozone is another company that can adopt such a path of 'lifestyle marketing.' The other companies that can tap in to lifestyle marketing for better business results include: Dabur, Baidyanath, Himalaya...

(Note the URL for the picture:

- Sunil S Chiplunkar, Marketing Manager, Zindel div. of Himalaya Drug Company, Bangalore. ph. 9980800023
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