Sunday, April 26, 2009

Brand mountains

I GOT THE ABOVE IMAGE FROM HERE. It is an aerial view of the famous Himalayan mountains. The above aerial image represents the 'brandscape' too. Brands own 'product positioning mountains' in the minds of prospects/consumers/prescribers. This intangible aspect of positioning is the most powerful influencer of sales.

Long long ago when I read a book on product positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, one message that I derived: when brands are positioned they own a 'mountain' in the mind of the consumer. For instance, when we hear the brand name: Kingfisher - good times, premium beer, and luxury airline are some of the associations that spring in one's mind. This is the 'mountain' owned by Kingfisher. Every brand is said to own a 'mountain related to the positioning, experiences, and associations' in the mind of prospect or consumer. This is the brand's identity.

Brand marketers should be savvy enough to understand these delicate 'brand positioning mountain aspects' and accordingly make the strategies to increase the sales and 'grow the mountain'.

When a marketer pioneers a brand concept he creates a 'NEW mountain in the mind of the prospect or customer':

The word Himalaya stands for herbal healthcare products or Ayurvedic brands. Juggat Pharma pioneered the brand concept of electrolyte energy drink in aseptic technology, and created this 'mountain' in the mind of prospects/prescribers. Mankind is a large 'retailer-push friendly', and also an aggressive company in the doctors' chambers. Cipla is a methodical marketer with a world-class product range in almost every generic brand market. Sun Pharma is a sophisticated premium specialty pharma company. Biocon is THE biopharmaceutical company in India. Pfizer is a very aggressive and cerebral marketer. GSK is a large and 'intensive fieldwork' based company. And so on and on ... go the corporate and product brand positioning reflections. Every company owns a 'positioning mountain'. This 'positioning mountain' is INTANGIBLE yet the most powerful influencer of prescription generation and sales of pharma brands (or for that matter nonpharma brands too).

The latest brand to astonish pharma marketers is Zifi (Cefixime) range from FDC. This is an anti-infective which has grown to Rs. 100 crores plus MAT (moving annual total) value in just 8 years. In the recent past, another hematinic brand C-pink from Wanbury had created waves as being a fast growth brand. In Indian pharma marketing lore another evergreen legendary brand is the fifth largest pharma brand - Ayurvedic Liv 52:
in Dec 1991 (MAT), it was a Rs. 17.20 crores sales brand; in Dec 1992 (MAT), it was a Rs. 19.78 crores sales brand; in Dec 1995 (MAT) it was a Rs. 31.50 crores sales brand; in Dec 1998 (MAT), it touched Rs. 42.72 crores sales; in Dec 2000 (MAT), it touched Rs. 56.30 crores sales; in Dec 2005 (MAT), it touched Rs. 75.17 crores sales; and in Dec 2008 the sales (MAT) increased to Rs. 118 crores. This brand seemingly will keep growing. However, what is most befuddling is the fact that it is a time honored tradition for Corex (Pfizer) to have the first place in the Indian pharma market - always! Corex is a codeine phosphate based cough suppressant. Considering this fact, it appears in India, dry cough is the most common ailment!! However, other surveys state that infections, and osteoporosis/osteoarthrtis are the most common ailments. Respiratory infections almost always cause wet cough - where, expectorants are used, so why is Corex the #1 pharma brand in India? What is the brand mountain that Corex so firmly holds? Can we have the answer to this question, please??!! It is said, more than 90% of Corex is sold over-the-counter, without any prescription.

Sales figures ya Brand mountains?

Month-end after month-end marketers make trade-offs between sales target achievement and growing the 'brand mountain'. Metacin was a fond paracetamol brand of many prescribers. However, the first paracetamol brand to go in to direct-to-consumer advertising in India, was not Crocin (actually the large leader paracetamol brand), but Metacin. This brand paid for it by the unforgiving market. Prescribers yelled at the medical representatives marketing Metacin. The prescriber's brand had gone away from them. The brand's positioning mountain was affected. Later when Crocin went in to direct-to-consumer advertising, the medical representatives did not face any flak - because Crocin was really very popular over-the-counter. Prescribers did not feel any ire at the brand marketing strategy of Crocin. Thus, growing the brand mountain is a tricky and tactful marketing task.

Line extensions

Many brand marketing pundits like Laura Ries are in principle against line extensions, particularly the phenomenon of very large nos. of line extensions that lead the brand in to a line extension trap. The multitude of line extension brands are said to obfuscate the basic brand identity. And this shakes the customer base. Hence, Ries advocates that brand line extensions are best avoided.

However, for day-to-day marketers, line extensions do serve important purposes. They help in boosting short term sales. Line extensions also create the buzz for the mother brand. And if the promotional mix is handled independently for every line extension sub-brand, then line extensions will do help a lot. It takes a lot of time, effort, resources, and energy to establish a brand. Line extensions help milk the mother brand. In pharma marketing, getting brand prescribing habits is very tough. To instil a pen-habit of a me-too brand is very tough. In this case, brand line extensions are much easier to get in to the doctor's pen habit, line extensions aid brand recall.

Ultimately, product portfolio managers are engaged in 'BRANDSCAPING' (like landscaping). It is a very hard and tactful task to maintain a good brandscape. Brands are very important as they are the covenants of trust. They are the identity of a company, and they get in the moolah from the market to company. In movies, the actors are the stars (moviestars). Similarly, in pharma marketing, the brands are the real stars (brandstars).


BRAND MOUNTAIN = The product positioning mountain (and experiences & associations) held by a brand in the mind of a consumer. When you think of color, think of us (Jenson and Nicholson). Think pranayama-Yoga, Think Swami Ramdev!! Think of a safe top selling anti-inflammatory (particularly to reduce swelling, and pain) formulation - THINK VOVERAN! Think of a top selling multivitamin brand - THINK BECOSULES. Think omeprazole - THINK OMEZ!

The brand preposition and positioning should be sharp (like a peak rather than a large mountain) - such a brand will have good recall and will endure in the market. This is how Al Ries, Laura Ries, and Jack Trout would opine too - I guess!!

Thanks for reading these reflections on brand positioning, and the brand mountains. Please do scroll down and read all other posts, click on OLDER POSTS wherever required, please inform your acquaintances of this blog URL if it will be interesting to them.

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