Sunday, January 4, 2009

Unputdownable, Chetan Bhagat & Ravinder Singh


One good thing about business tours besides learnings, is that you catch up with reading, TV, and lots of Pranayama-Yoga. During my recent tour, I found the novels by Chetan Bhagat and the autobiographical novel by Ravinder Singh - I TOO HAD A LOVE STORY, simply unputdownable. Both these authors are young, highly educated, smart, and great at story telling (this is the key feature of successful marketing!). And we pharma and healthcare marketers have a lot to learn from them. Chetan Bhagat is an investment banker with the dream qualifications (from) - IIT and IIM, Ravinder Singh is an Infoscian (ie., works with Infosys) and is an engineer. Let us see what we marketing guys can learn from them.

Lesson # 1: The narrative of the marketing campaign has to be gripping.

Chetan Bhagat in his best novel, Five point someone, ensures you are hooked on to his story. Each page is attention grabbing, and you get absorbed in to the novel. You wait to go through the page fast so that you can get to the next page and learn what is on.

So if we launch a communication campaign to doctors - say GPs - on a me-too brand, it is best to apply some thinking to generate a theme and deliver it with gripping narrative. This helps take the doctor successfully through the AIDA sequence ie., attention - interest - desire - action.

Sometime during the 1990s we had a simple, interesting, and effective detailing story on isolated systolic borderline hypertension in young patients. Our brand of atenolol particularly the 25 mg strength was positioned for this indication. I detailed this page to a doctor (in fact, Dr. Krishnamurthy of Haleguddadahally, Bangalore) and after the call, while talking to the chemist, imagine my surprise when a young woman of around 35 years walking to the pharmacy with a prescription for my brand of atenolol ! Probably, the detailing story worked here.

Lesson # 2: Give some surprise twists and turns in the marketing campaign

Chetan Bhagat in his other novel - ONE NIGHT AT A CALL CENTER - gives some great twists and turns. For eg., in this novel Vroom a character acts as a radio jockey to deliver a surprise to Radhika's husband Anuj. When playing the gag on Anuj, Vroom offers to have flowers delivered to anybody of Anuj's choice - Anuj recommends Vroom to deliver the roses to a girl Payal with whom Anuj is having an extramarital affair! And this conversation takes place on phone with Radhika listening on another line!! Well, let us take a leaf from this story - the point is not about extramarital affairs, it is about delivering surprise twists to the marketing campaign and thus making it memorable.

I recollect a Valentine day campaign of a company, where the pharma company sponsored roses delivery in the doctor's name to his wife - it was called BRAND X VALENTINE DAY ROSE CAMPAIGN. The campaign was a GREAT hit and, in fact, there were complaints from many doctors who were not part of the campaign to the pharma company - for having ignored them!! Needless to add the campaign boosted the brand sales significantly.

Lesson # 3: Stick to the basic mission and value system

Every marketing campaign is guided by the corporate mission and value system.

In fact, if one reads the novels by Chetan Bhagat and Ravinder Singh, there is a fundamental value system they do not deviate from. The novels reflect the inherent respect for women in Indian culture, and the typical Indian LOVE attitude which can be adventurous but there is a lot of modesty in the Indian sexual attitude. This is the reason why even though the novels by these two writers have their share of love sequences - they do not deviate from the Indian reader's value system, and hence there is nothing blasphemous about the writings. Truly, Chetan and Ravinder have done a great job in handling the love-life of characters in the novel very sensitively and sensibly. The authors have paid great respect to the Indian reader's sensibilities and sensitivities.

If any marketer sticks to the basic value system of the target audience, the message will be received well. Pharma and healthcare marketers can render the messaging process more effective when there is respect for the target segment's values and principles in the marketing and communication activities.

Traditionally, in India, there is great respect, awe and social power towards the doctor. Hence, marketing communication activities, while not being servile, are always respectful to the status of the doctor. When this aspect is kept in mind, the message is well received by target doctors.

Lesson # 4: Play on the cultural themes in the marketing campaign

Each society has its very own clear cultural themes. For eg., basketball and baseball are very important cultural strands of American culture. In India, cricket casts a mesmerizing spell on the masses. Similarly, films, religion and politics are very important passions of Indians.

Chetan Bhagat has very intelligently played on these cultural themes in his novel THE THREE MISTAKES OF MY LIFE. In fact, Chetan calls this book as a story about business, cricket, and religion. Indians are intrinsically entrepreneurial in nature. And these cultural themes are used successfully by Chetan in his novel - THE 3 MISTAKES OF MY LIFE.

Pharma and healthcare marketers are well known to play on these popular cultural themes to strengthen brand communication to doctors. Pharma marketers give out CDs of popular film music as gifts to increase brand recall. Literatures are often designed with cricket as a theme.

Lesson # 5: Sincere emotion wins everytime

Ravinder's novel I TOO HAD A LOVE STORY is very moving - the book is - as Mr. Narayanmurthy, Chief Mentor of Infosys describes: SIMPLE, HONEST, AND TOUCHING. When marketing campaigns are SIMPLE, HONEST, AND TOUCHING they will surely win. Making brand prescribing decisions is not a cold-blooded, calculated and emotionless decision. There are certain emotive appeals of the brand communication and promotional strategies that have worked and has favored the brand. This is why, the doctor picks up a brand. The communication, has to be SIMPLE, HONEST, AND TOUCHING to succeed. The strategic inputs have to be honest. This develops trust between the brand and the doctor. Strategic material inputs like clinical literatures, marketing communication material, samples, sponsorships, and gifts have to strengthen the bond of trust on a brand. PEOPLE DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE! This is the nub of the matter!!

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down, click on older posts wherever required and read all the blogposts. HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009.

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