Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brand recall


What does a business survive on?

There are many questions we should constantly ask ourselves - like: What is our business? Who are our customers? What value do they expect? Where are our customers? Where are our prospects? Asking such questions helps us titrate to the very foundation of business success.

There is however, one important question we should pose to ourselves: WHAT DOES OUR BUSINESS SURVIVE ON?

The answers are numerous, depending on one's line of thinking. The answers will include: Customers. Revenue. Processes. Innovation. Discipline. Distribution. Production. Quality.

All these are correct answers. However, one answer is the cornerstone. It is BRAND RECALL. The ability of a brand to generate instant unaided brand recall is what makes businesses successful. Brand recall happens in the black box ie., the mind. Everyone from the medical representative to the top management are in a way working indirectly or directly to strengthen brand recall in the market place.

How to strengthen brand recall?

When a person wants to buy an antiseptic solution he or she will invariably think of DETTOL. This brand has immense dominance in its target market. Dettol owns a category. How did it attain this position of brand eminence?

#1 reason is sharp brand positioning - it straddles the antiseptic solution category like a titan. All its sub-brands and products are supporting this positioning. For instance, Dettol soaps and Dettol shaving cream harp on the antiseptic positioning. The brands do not communicate on some other characteristic like say fragrance or soft and smooth skin. There is Dove for a soft skin. So sharp brand positioning is an important key for brand marketing success.

In this regard it is quite hilarious to read that Starbucks (the coffee people in America) will get in to alcohol beverage business!

#2 reason is incessant communication - the pharma marketer's role is not to work out the gift and sampling plans alone. The core activity is working on messaging. The messages should strengthen the basic brand positioning. The messaging formats should be attractive. For this the messaging formats need to be creative.

In pharma marketing, particularly in India, where direct-to-consumer advertising is disallowed for drugs, the MRs are the main communication media. They are not just sample carriers or gift delivery or relationship management personnel. They are the messengers too. Their ability to articulate key talking points makes a dramatic difference in the way a product is perceived. Their approach to handling leave behind literatures in the clinic adds value to the message conveyed by the literatures. This is where training makes a key difference to the confidence and presentation standards of MRs in the clinic.

When MRs successfully manage the message transfer activity inside clinics or in other settings to doctors, BRAND RECALL is strengthened.

Xerox is a classic example of immense brand recall in the photocopying and documentation business category. Tetra Pak owns the aseptic technology domain.

While branding is an important activity, brand communication exercises that strengthen BRAND RECALL is very vital. To improve brand recall, color and logo standardization, high quality communication, and interesting communication tools are essential. Brand recall activity involves a good play of intangibles and tangible inputs.

Translating brand recall to business

While brand recall is a great softener it does not necessarily translate in to good business revenues. Customer conversion and steady prescribing behavior requires more than brand recall. While brand recall generates confidence in the prospect, converting him or her in to a prescriber or customer warrants more activities. This is where closing the sale concept comes in to play. This is the stage where samples, gifts and other negotiated inputs come in to play. However, brand recall communication exercises are crucial starting steps for better business results. If one ignores or underplays brand recall messaging and puts more emphasis on promo inputs like schemes, gifts, sponsorships and samples, the bargaining strength in negotiation goes towards the customers. This is where MNCs like Pfizer score over Indian pharmas. Their brand recall and messaging exercises are so powerful, they gain a strong toe hold during negotiations with customers for prescriptions or personal order bookings.

The moral is to play the brand recall messaging game and then get in to the sales negotiation and closing stage. This approach gives sustained results.

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