Saturday, November 28, 2009

MRs: Ambassadors of delight

I GOT THE ABOVE IMAGE AND A VERY GOOD WRITE-UP ON GOA FROM HERE. Mention the word Goa, and the images of joy, stress-free life and happiness surge in the mind. Goa causes dopamine surges in the brain! Dopamine is the "pleasure and learning associated neuro-chemical". Dopamine absence causes anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure). In fact, the right word to describe the Goa experience is DELIGHTFUL. (Check out my other blogpost on dopamine marketing by clicking here!)

When a patient goes to a doctor seeking relief from his trauma, agony or other symptoms, the patient is verily seeking a form of pleasure (delight). Pharmaceutical companies that work on products that provide instant relief (and delight) from clinical problems to the patient, succeed in the marketplace. Viagra is a classic example of such a pharma product that has provided a therapeutic option to doctors/patients suffering from a very personal problem - ED (impotence or erectile dysfunction). Viagra is a product that ultimately helps combat anhedonia (caused by sexual dysfunction).

Anhedonia: the new clinical frontier

Providing relief from pain and discomfort (pleasure is its opposite) is the best pharma marketing approach. When a simple paracetamol syrup is made to taste better or if an anticough preparation is safe, effective, and scores high on ORGANOLEPTIC (such as taste, smell, mouth feel, color etc) qualities, will have better acceptance by patients. Traditional pharma marketing approach is based on providing safety, efficacy, and purity of the pharma formulation. The next-gen approach is to provide safety, efficacy, purity and SUPERIOR ORGANOLEPTIC QUALITIES to help counter anhedonia comprehensively.

When a patient with osteoporosis and joint inflammation approaches an orthopaedician, he or she is looking for relief from symptoms like joint stiffness, joint pain, and joint immobility. This relief ultimately provides pleasure to the patient. The treatment plan of the doctor overcomes joint discomfort related anhedonia, and gives a new set of pleasurable experiences to the patient. Pharmaceutical companies that understand this psyche and need of the patient to be delighted, will succeed better. Pharma companies that will continue to peddle the 'BITTER PILL' will naturally lag behind.

Ayurvedic formulations and organoleptic qualities

One very interesting point is that many a traditional Ayurvedic formulation is a BITTER PILL or liquid! This point makes patient acceptance a great challenge.

The marketing concept of improving anhedonia, has in all probabilities ensured the wide acceptance of Tetra Pak based electrolyte energy drinks in the Indian pharma market. The good acceptance of electrolyte energy drinks is from both - doctors and patients.

Technology to counter anhedonia in pharma marketing

Pharma marketing gives a marketing migraine to many a doctor! The constant flow of MRs and their badgering for more and more Rx in favor of their brands puts a pressure on the doctor's mind, time and causes MR induced irritability too!! Application of technology can help counter this anhedonia of pharma marketing.

CDs: Marketing is getting empowered by electronic devices. CDs are being used to project multimedia material on the benefits of products in clinical settings.

Laptop based multimedia projection: Laptops are being used to highlight points to doctors in lieu of visual aids.

Videoconferencing based marketing events: Hotels offering videoconferencing facilities are being utilized for tele-conferences and cocktail dinners combined - to doctors.

sms and other approaches: E-mail, sms, multimedia mobile phones and other tools are being used for messaging in an engaging way to doctors.

Pharmaceutical formulations and anhedonia

Adoption of technology to formulate pharmaceutical or healthcare formulations that are a pleasure to take, will certainly boost sales. A great application of the same is use of Tetra Pak aseptic technology and juice base to make the concept of electrolyte energy drinks more exciting. When patient delight is boosted, patients are happy with the recommendation given by doctors, and the faith of patients on their doctors' increases.

There are other approaches (besides the aseptic technology) to make formulations more persuasive and encourage patient adherence to recommended regimen. The sustained release formulations help reduce dosing frequency adding to patient convenience and delight. Use of appropriate of flavours and taste enhancing excipients are very valuable. In injectables, a company in India has a technology to make aqueous based diclofenac injectable that reduces patient discomfort and pain at the site of injection.

Anhedonia, product positioning and market success

Pharmaceutical and healthcare formulations perform better in the market when they overcome patient anhedonia. When products are positioned and marketed with the anhedonia concept in mind, patient acceptance is better, resulting in better sales.

A very interesting example is that of gabapentin, its original positioning was as an antiepileptic drug. Today, gabapentin enjoys better sales as a drug for relieving neuropathic pain. If pharma marketers had focussed only on its antiepileptic property, the sales of gabapentin would have been limited. The basic concept is that product positioning approaches and statements should reflect the fact that it will finally help overcome patient anhedonia too ie., overcomes the inability to take pleasure in life's activities.

One does understand that anhedonia is a serious malady. In such serious cases, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, and antidepressants need to be given. However, anhedonia can be relieved through routine medications that help control the underlying cause. Hence, the ability of healthcare formulations to generate delight needs to find a place in the marketing communication activity. The final truth is that those doctors who improve the ability of patients to enjoy life better or improve the capacity of patients to take pleasure in life will have better practice. Emphasis on this point will help pharma marketers ensure that marketing communication is better appreciated by their target doctors.

MRs: the ambassadors of delight

When medical representatives (MRs) are viewed positively as AMBASSADORS OF DELIGHT by doctors, MRs will find better acceptance in the clinics. The ability of product managers and marketing individuals to make this happen through better inputs and strategies is a sign post of successful marketing.

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