Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pharmaceutical marketing and Religious marketing


The excitement and inevitability of marketing

Marketing is an exciting dimension of human activity. Whether it is pharmaceuticals or religions – all organizations are involved in marketing.

The core of marketing is increasing the consumption of marketed products and services. If it is a religion it is the consumption of the religious services which is at stake. And it implies revenues because, devotees bring in revenue. You plant a seed to harvest later. Pharmaceutical marketers plant samples and gifts to harvest prescriptions. The pharma company gains magnificently by way of profits through the good harvest of prescriptions. In the case of religions, the religious authorities (like the priests) gain in terms of donations (in terms of kind, cash, land and jewels), popularity, a high feel-good factor, respect from people, authority over people in society, ability to control resources and behaviors, and may be finally a great place in heaven or a better rebirth (depending on your belief).

Marketing is the value delivery process of companies or organizations. The objective of marketers is lifestyle change, increasing the customer base, ensure customer retention, and finally increased throughput from customers. Marketing is improving market penetration. Marketing begins by visualizing the target market based on demographics and other market characteristics and titrating the product or service to the market.

The above sentences are applicable to marketing of religions, religious products, and pharmaceuticals too. Pharma marketers go geography by geography and target doctor segment by doctor segment. The idea of all marketers is to develop a huge market base for the product or service, and build habits. For pharma marketers developing favorable prescribing habits is the Holy Grail; for religious marketers it is building a habit of worshiping a particular God, a habitual ritual, or the habit of frequenting a particular place of worship by people - that is the target. Religious marketers too go town by town, seeking the weak or amenable social links to enter, set base and expand.

There are a number of parallels between marketing of pharmaceuticals and religions.

Let us see some dimensions, strategies, and tools of marketing:

Customer conversion

For pharma companies the day of the MR starts and ends with customer conversion or doctor conversion. Customer conversion is the fundamental premise on which all pharma marketing activities are pegged on. Right from the highest authority involved in pharma marketing, to the MR, all activities are to secure higher and higher customer conversions. Reams of market research data are analyzed to map market characteristics, prescribing habits, practice density, market receptivity, pharmacy purchase patterns and so on. This is done to ultimately convert the doctor.

The same principles are used in religious marketing. Target audiences are identified, behavioral patterns analyzed, and their needs, wants, and desires are understood. A religious strategy, structure, and resources, are put in place which address the material, social and spiritual wants of the target population. Thereby finally conversion is achieved.

Value delivery

Value is something that is perceived by the prospect or customer. A doctor may find price advantage to patient to be of value; or a doctor may value a service input from a pharma company such as a sponsorship to a CME or a medical grant for conducting a free medical camp of value, and thereby a doctor will reward the company with prescriptions. Value may also be in the form of regular visits, friendliness, and positive strokes from a MR – here the relationship is valuable to the doctor. Value may come from intangibles or tangibles. Value can come from material things for the personal use of a doctor or for his clinical use. Ultimately there is an exchange process here, value from the company is transferred to the doctor, and the doctor rewards the company with prescriptions.

The ultimate pharma marketer sells hope to the doctor: a hope that the marketed products will satisfy the patient and will indirectly improve his or her practice, a hope that an association with the pharma company will empower the doctor and make the doctor upwardly mobile, and he can improve his status, personal life, quality of clinical services to his patients, personal material comforts and so on.

The same principle comes in to play in religious marketing. Religious marketers offer intangible and tangible benefits to the faithful – an entire global system may back the value offerings. These may ultimately improve the physical, material & intellectual quality of life, educational attainments, moral and cultural fibre, and spiritual growth of the individual. Religious marketers sell a hope of upwardly mobility and a better life. For eg., if a segment of population wants a tube well for conveniently drawing water, the religious institution will offer it provided the users become faithful to the provider.

Among pharma marketers and religious marketers, competition is on value delivery. The better the value - more the customer delight.

Bonding with customers and CRM

Customers of a pharma company or the faithful of a religious denomination require a social bonding. It is human to bond. Pharma companies vie with each other to bond with doctors, and thereby gain prescriptions.

Marketing activities in the fields of pharmaceuticals & healthcare, and marketing efforts by religious organizations involve gifting, merchandizing, branding and other freebies; distribution of literatures, flyers, visual aids, and other marketing communication tools are done to strengthen the central message. Training of the field force in pharma marketing and of the front personnel in religious systems is vital to successfully influence the target market segments. Training ensures better body language, vocalization, verbalization, pronunciation, confidence, and eye contact. Thereby, the objectives of the pharmaceutical or religious organization are realized.

The trick for successful marketing is ensuring positive word-of-mouth, support from opinion builders in society & conformity pressure in the target prospect group to achieve the desired objectives of the marketer.


Competition between marketers (pharmaceutical and religious) will only intensify in a media empowered society and global market place. The wise ones among religious leaders will see this change as an opportunity and adapt to ensure that marketing activities are powerfully taken up by the religious organizations. Conflicts will continue to rise relating to customer conversion, in pharmaceuticals and religious fields. And in a free market place where competition is rife, finally - Customer Is The King!! In the severe competition between ‘isms’ and products and services, the customer will make his/her choice. CUSTOMER IS THE KING.

Between various pharma brands a doctor will make a prescribing choice based on parameters such as friendliness of MR, service inputs from the marketer, safety, efficacy, quality, supply & availability, and other parameters of marketing communication activity. So the choice is the doctor’s.

CUSTOMER IS THE KING in pharmaceutical marketing and religious marketing.

Marketing warfare and the stakes

Marketing ‘warfare’ between religions or in the pharmaceutical market place cannot be wished away. Because in the process of marketing, there are various aspects relating to revenue flow and asset creation. The stakes are very high. A religious institution’s success rate will measured by the no. of devotees (customers), and collections and assets. A pharmaceutical product’s success will be measured by its market share, ROI, profits generated, and no. of units sold. And all these quantitative parameters will matter a lot - because every one has a higher authority to whom he has to justify. Even the highest authority will have a board of directors or some powerful individuals/financiers to justify to and offer explanations.

Importance of marketing

The importance of marketing is such that today marketing is no more a departmental function, it is an organizational process and applicable to all organizations, may it be religious or pharmaceutical. In marketing of pharmaceuticals and religions, every one is involved - from the highest authority to the receptionist.

Management science and marketing science are all the more important in the 21st century for organizations (both religious and pharmaceutical). Marketing is a sophisticated form of warfare. It involves communication, media management, positioning, promotion, influencing, and value delivery.

Marketing is vital for the nation’s health and wealth. With out competition and marketing, market penetration of products and services will suffer. Healthy marketing competition is a must to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. These home truths about marketing are applicable to pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and religions. If any religion or pharmaceutical organization feels marketing is not required, good fortunes will not court the organization. Market or perish!! The end point is: LONG LIVE MARKETING!


When you evolve from gross religious marketing - through Yoga, spirit of enquiry and meditation - you transcend (because spirituality is a transcendental experience), you gain mental trances, you go beyond forms, names, communities, creeds, words, rituals, walls, barriers, and the sensory experiences. In that state one gains samadhi – yoga – where the individual soul unites with the supersoul … where individuality dissolves in to the universe … where words and religions end … and spirituality begins! HAVE A NICE DAY!!

This blogpost is put on Mahatma Gandhi Jayanthi (birthday (Oct 2nd), I dedicate this blogpost to the most savvy marketer of all times – Mahatma Gandhi. He used non-violence and non-co-operation as the great tools of his marketing warfare to gain independence for India. This weekend there will not be any blogpost. IT IS DUSSEHRA TIME - HAPPY DUSSEHERA or Dasara TO ALL! Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down, click on relevant icons if required, to read all other blogposts.


Salil Kallianpur said...

I read your post with a great deal of interest (as I have always done in the past). I think the topic is very apt in terms of the social unrest and tension that prevails due to the alleged religious conversions in Orissa. I also think that while you attempted to draw a strong parallel between religious and pharmaceutical marketing, you ended up only elaborating on the nitty-gritty of MARKETING and not each concept. While you did attempt to describe the pharma marketing concept in great detail, you may have missed describing religious marketing. While I realize that this post is without actual research and is from your observations alone, I would very much love to read your understanding of marketing in different genres, religion being one. As a senior marketer and a very serious blogger, it is always interesting to read your views.

Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

Thanks for your feedback. The focus of this blog being on pharmaceuticals and healthcare, and my competency also being that, the emphasis is on pharmaceutical marketing in the article and only a slight touch to the religious marketing concept. Thnks.

nesa said...

hi Sunil,
I liked your blog on pharma marketing. Read ability is sustained as you combined religious marketing practices.
I am doctor- I want to ask you question? Do we need 9000 pharma companies to service indian domestic market? top 300 companies have 80% of the market. Rest 20% has 8000 odd small pharma companies.


Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

Well, Dr. Nesamani firstly thanks for visiting this blog. Do we need so many pharma companies? Well India is a place with underemployment and unemployment - entrepreneurs will continue to start pharma companies because market is big, capital is available, manpower is available, and there is a good ecosystem for supply of raw materials and distribution of finished pharma goods. For a practicing doctor, the no.of visiting MRs can sometimes get on the nerves, but I do not foresee any shakeouts or consolidations in the near or distant future. Why? Watch out for more details in my next blogpost!!

nesa said...

hi sunil,
I agree with you of availability of capital,manpower,bulk drug and contract manufacturers but quality of drug suffers.personally and my colleagues of said certain drugs are not acting.what value these so many companies create? Instead if we have some entry barrier patients will get good quality of drugs initially itself. only in this industry the market leader has minute 5.1% share.