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


Valdis said...

Here is a network of doctors -- created for a Pharma client. The Pharma firm is looking for key opinion leaders using social network analysis. The arrows show which doctor seeks out which other doctor for advice. The node colors differentiate who the Pharma firm knew about before and after the survey.

Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

Thnks a lot Mr. Valdis. It is very kind of you.- Sunil S Chiplunkar

The Patient Connection said...

Very interesting

We are trying to do something similar with patients in Europe and North America

The below gives you a feel for how we collecting data for some of our open studies


As you can see this stuff is in its infancy but provide very powerful results


Belinda Shale

Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

You are absolutely right Ms. Belinda our conservative pharma industry has not visualized the benefits of such an e-promotion. Today in marketing one has to build a community for better business results. Just imagine a company specializing in a paediatric range of products can create an online community of paediatricians! And communicate with them!! Philip Kotler has said: a company does three things to the market, provide goods & services and provide communication!

Your 'The patient connection blog' is good - very good. - Sunil S Chiplunkar

Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

At the above link we see that Pfizer and Sermo are linking up - perhaps with inspiration from the blogpost on Digital Social Sense in Pharma Marketing (?)