Saturday, September 18, 2010

Transformational leadership

Above image from here. Winston Churchill was an inspiring leader. He galvanized people BY showing a vision. Churchill transformed attitudes of people, creating a following.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference - Winston Churchill

There are said to be two types of leaderships:

a) transactional leadership
b) transformational leadership

Transactional leaders are the typical good managers, who with integrity ensure that transactions are perfect, they ensure order in business transactions, and often leave things slightly improved or as they were.

Thus, in a pharmaceutical company, if the typical attitude is to check the ORG (or IMS) market figures, try to find out the best selling branded generics, then the transactional leader puts the typical new product (ie., new brand of a generic) launch process in motion. The transactional leader ensures launch of a 'new product' (ie., new brand of a generic):

- in glitzy packing
- with minimum 50% bonus offer to chemist retailers
- provides sales pack as samples to MRs for ensuring availability of product at retailers
- regular physician's samples with an attractive cache (or catch) cover
- a visual aid with big brand name some supporting lines, UV spot lamination for the pack shot, and a flap or some other attention getter on the visual aid
- literatures
- launch gifts
- special gifts linked to no. of prescriptions generated or order purchase (by dispensing doctors)
- launch incentive scheme to MRs and field staff

The transactional leader does this by rote. And ensures incremental increase in business. If board members are happy with the ROI (return on investment) it is business as usual, all are very happy, the picture is hunky dory!

But in today's pharma scenario is this approach enough? It is after all safe., time tested ... BUT ... BE WARNED ... this transactional leadership based business model will have limitations and will cause strain on pharma enterprises. This is not a doomsday prediction! It is reality. It is being pragmatic.


The electronic industry is always in a tizzy. There are tech innovations firing up new product launches. There is no scope for cocooning in transactional leadership. People are always trying to look at

- creating CHANGE (rather than getting run down by change in the industry)
- being INNOVATIVE (doing something new, adding value and improving the competitive offering)
- encouraging ENTREPRENEURIAL attitude (calculated risk taking, not pulling down people with ideas)

Knowledge, renewal and vision

When organizational knowledge is encouraged and strengthened, when robust intra-enterprise systems share knowledge with employees and stakeholders, when there are animated discussions, ideas are thrown around, the churning creates vitality, renews the organization, and the automatic result is ... visions of, what to go for.

The above scenario is distinctly different from a transactional environment. There is questioning, a process of inquiry, deep thinking, knowledge and idea sharing, questioning established paradigms ... this is the very different environment of transformation.

Microcosm and the macrocosm

The microcosm and the macrocosm are inter-connected. A business enterprise is a part of the societal framework. A firm cannot function inured from changes sweeping society. If there are a lot of transformations going on in society in general, they will impinge on the enterprise too. The microcosm is after all a reflection of the macrocosm.

There are sweeping changes in marketing communication, customer connect, messaging, and customer aspirations in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. So will a transactional environment of a business enterprise suit the transforming marketplace?

It is time to wake up to a new order of transformational leadership in pharmaceutical organizations. The well established SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) will not suffice!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Survival instinct and tactile branding

To try and survive is an instinctive thing! However, self destructive habits can kill the survival instinct. Anything that goes against the survival instinct is self destructive!!

Employee success

To attain success, growth or survival in organizations, it is not the work related behavior alone that matters. There are many other behavioral patterns that arise from high adaptability - in fact; this is responsible for employee survival or success. The intensity of adaptability is again directly proportional to the intensity of survival instinct.

In work environments, there are many attributes an individual needs to adopt for survival, growth and success. This is in spite of the fact that the constant environmental changes may go against an individual’s conditionings, likes and dislikes - but adaptation to environmental changes is critical for the individual’s survival and success.

Changes in the work environment

Let us say, an intense work culture is practiced by an individual for many years. Then one fine day, a series of changes in the work environment happen due to either change in the bosses or owners or when a new generation of leaders’ take over. As part of the new changes, let us say it is not just work related behavior that becomes important. There are other nonwork related behaviours that also become important. So what does the employee do in this changed context?

Eg. 1: A new expatriate boss comes in. This guy believes in ‘work hard and play hard’. So he starts weekend parties for key employees. So this causes new strain on his reportees and key employees. They have to start accommodating weekend parties and other party related social skills to ensure survival, success and growth. Employees who have never played card games, or taken liquor, or cracked typical party jokes, or learnt and practiced party etiquette will have to now start indulging in the same.

How will the employee change and adapt to the new environment?Only through the survival instinct (of the employee)!

Eg. 2: Let us say a new senior expatriate boss comes in. This guy has a fancy for taking morning walks on the beach and countryside walks during weekends. Well, then ... starts a new chain of behavior patterns among key personnel and important employees. They would also have to start walking in the morning and go for long walks in the countryside during their weekends!!

Learning and adapting to this new behavioral pattern is important if the employees have to thrive and succeed!

Eg. 3: Now let us say, a new senior management person takes over, and starts a package of annual extracurricular competitive events like carom, chess, quiz, memory test etc for engaging employees.

The employees who have been for decades practicing only work related behavior (and have not played memory test or cricket or any other event for decades will have to now start adapting to this change to participate effectively)
; they will have to suddenly adapt to this change and start participating in the same, either by organizing or by participating in the events or at least by being the audience for the events.

This type of adaptability is important for survival, success and growth. So how will this change in the employee, particularly in theconditioned senior employees, come? This change will come only if the employee’s adaptability is high and survival instinct is sharp!

So the bottomline is that an intense survival instinct is a must for individuals and organizations.

This almost ‘animal like instinct’ will make a person/organization adaptable, and hence he/she/organization will learn new behaviours’ required for survival, growth, and success

Organizations and their instinct for survival

Organizations can thrive if the collective instinct for survival and consequent adaptability is sharp. The ability to respond to environmental changes, and give appropriate responses through learning, is adaptability. The trait of adaptability is related to the survival instinct. When organizations have a sharp instinct for survival there are changes such as:

a) learning new technologies
b) doing business in new ways
c) investing in new production machinery and producing superior products
d) adopting new marketing techniques and tools to connect with new markets and present markets in a value added manner

Aging and adaptability

Aging is not just physical - it is also a state of mind. When an individual does not have the will or faculty to learn, for adaptation, we can say, age is catching up with the individual.

This logic applies to organizations too. When organizations remain in a comfort zone, have blocks to gaining knowledge or experimenting with knowledge, well then, the organization is aging! Organizations that lack the ability to adapt ... age!

Aging causes weakness, infirmity, lack of energy, loss in stamina, aboulia (loss of will power) and susceptibility to disease! Organizations, in the same vein, are also susceptibile to aging if organizations lose the ability to adapt!

In the contemporary pharma world, the adaptable organizations understand the importance of brands!

Brands too require the survival instinct!

Brands need to have adaptability for survival and growth or success in the marketplace. For this brands need to have a survival instinct.

It would be more accurate to say that brand marketers need to have an intense survival instinct and consequent adaptability... only this will help their brands flourish!

Materialization of brands

One important component of brand management that is contributing to success of brands is, materialization of brands.

Brands are often thought of as intangibles. Brand image is all about the emotional connect, look and feel ... so what is materialization of brands?

Tactile dimension of brands

Materialization of brands refers to consciously increasing the materiality of brand communication. It is about making brands less abstract. One way of doing this is by focusing on the tactile dimension of brands.

Tactile branding

Tactile refers to the sense of touch. The brand's perceptibility to touch is increased in the communication. This means making the brand more tangible and tactile (on the dimension of touch), ensuring that brands create a memorable experience.

Pharmaceutical marketing has always been quite strong on tactile branding. Sampling, collection of clinical experience reports, and case studies are key examples of tactile branding in pharmaceutical marketing.

However, the tendency of brand marketers to resort to gifting at the cost of tactile branding is another pitfall.

Nevertheless, tactile pharmaceutical brand marketing is challenging because the consumption of the pharma brand is by the patient (not by the doctor).

However, the electrolyte energy drink brands being marketed enjoy a distinctive advantage. It is possible for the marketers to increase tactile brand marketing simply because the doctor can also consume the samples of the product. The doctor can rarely do this with other pharma brands.

Tactile brand marketing is a very strong reinforcer of purchase and prescribing habits. Yet for pharma marketers it is difficult to indulge in tactile brand marketing as the drug is normally not consumed by the doctor.

Let us say, you meet a paediatrician to market your brand of paracetamol suspension. Let us also assume that the brand being marketed by you is superior in taste and flavor compared to competitor brands. But how will the doctor appreciate this? Perhaps only through patient feedback.

On the other hand, let us say, the savvy pharma marketer prepares a dummy formulation (one without the drug, having only the flavor) and the marketer makes the doctor taste a spoonful of the flavored dummy product. The likelihood of the doctor appreciating the formulation benefit of better flavor and taste, is more with this method of TACTILE BRAND MARKETING (which involves touch and other senses)! And this will perhaps increase the prescription flow in favor of the marketed brand.

Another dimension of tactile marketing is preparing a flavored product (without the drug) of the competitor brand. And make the target doctor taste (touch, get a feel!) this ugh! flavor and then follow it up with a sample containing the better flavored product. The target doctor gets to appreciate the superior taste through tactile marketing instantly!

Thus, success is possible by increasing the materialization of brands, and enhancing focus on tactile branding.

Let us say, you have a pharma product that is very clear - like crystal clear water. So one marketing approach based on tactile branding is to offer complimentary premium crystal clear drinking water in bottles as gifts to doctors! This will make the doctor appreciate the quality of clearness in the pharma product, through this tactile brand marketing route. Here the water bottle acts to create a touch between the marketed brand and the doctor.

To adopt new learnings, one requires adaptability at the individual and organizational level. Adaptability depends on the intensity of survival instinct. Hope this blogpost has helped you in your quest for successful survival and growth. Please read all other blogposts by scrolling down, clicking on older posts, and kindly recommend my blog to your acquaintances!