Saturday, February 23, 2019

Awesome 'patientcentricity' through bottle-pack tablets

Pharma marketing domain is always in a flux.  With social media, internet and other IT enabled technologies drawing new contours, pharma marketing is now on a patient-centric mode. 

The Indian pharma marketing sector has gone through several phases:

a) MR-centric pharma marketing: this happened in the 1960s and 1970s, where the champions of pharma product sales was the MR (Medical Representative).  The MR enabled adoption of the marketed brand through his in-clinic activity, chiefly persuasive scientific detailing (with or without a visual aid).  The change-agent who transformed the sales of a pharma brand was the medical representative and his talent.  However, by early 1980s, it gave way to...

b) Chemist (pharmacy) - centric pharma marketing: With more MRs from newly launched companies entering the pharmaceutical market, to make a quick mark, some companies at first - and then more companies launched bonus offers to the pharmacies.  Hitherto, retail bonus offers was an unheard practice.  Many 'snooty companies' looked down on the practice of offering bonus offers to pharmacies during the initial time.  Later on, they too got down to business through retail bonus offers!

Dispensing doctors were also quick to take advantage of bonus free goods (eg., Manforce 1 box purchased + 2 Manforce boxes free to the pharmacy).  This also provided an incentive to pharmacies to substitute brands prescribed by the doctor.  Many other pharmacies started providing 'cash or kind' incentives to doctors practising nearby their medical shops (thus, the doctor would not mind brand substitution). 

Finally, in today's market, bonus offers or freebie goods is almost sine qua non.  This is to enable availability and prevent brand substitution.  Companies offer unofficial or official bonus offers or both, the entire retailer profession expects it.

The start of  'chemist-centric pharma marketing' was in the early 1980s (when as an industry observer stated: 'pharma companies slowly started mushrooming').

c) Doctor-centric pharma marketing:  It is a paradoxical phrase to state that the Indian pharma industry went through an intense phase of doctor-centricity (by its nature pharma marketing ought to be oriented towards prescribers and medical community, however, the focus on doctor-oriented services was and is so very intense, hence, the term doctor-centric pharma marketing to differentiate it from MR-centric pharma marketing). 

The MR in doctor-centric pharma marketing phase was (and is) more of a conduit to provide 'cash or kind incentives' to target doctors.  More than the MR's promotional skill, his or her ability to hook doctors to service offerings from the company became the decider of sales.  It is this practice that is now even more intensely pursued by PCD or propaganda cum distribution companies, in local markets.

The doctor-centric and chemist-centric phases in the pharma marketing sector overlap with each other.  The initial chemist-centric phase of the early 1980s became doctor-centric plus chemist-centric pharma marketing by late 1990s (upto present times 2018...).

In the MR-centric phase of the pharma marketing of 1960s and 1970s, the brightest of the academic talent took to this profession.  M Sc post-graduates, B Sc distinction and first-class students, with good personality, academic and extra-curricular profile were always preferred for the MR jobs.  This was perhaps upto the mid-1980s. However, with the advent of chemist-centric phase and doctor-centric phase in the pharma industry of  late 1980s and 1990s, right upto present times, input quality of medical representatives has seen a steady downhill.  MR's product promotional skill was not the most important quality, it was his ability to make the doctor accept the pharma company's value service offerings that took the front-seat.  The contacts of the MR with doctors was the most important aspect.

Thus, during stall activities, MRs serve coffee to doctors in stalls, MRs also offer personalised "concierge-like" services to key doctors and thus ensure prescription flow to target brands.  (In fact, I recollect a grumbling MR of a small local company who got a call from his target doctor at 11.00 pm, during 2012, asking him to come right away to a place near Jayanagar, where his car had a tyre puncture.  The doctor instructed the MR to take care of the situation and ensure the car was fixed.  The MR had to do it as part of 'customer relationship management').  Thus, CRM + retail bonus offers were more powerful demand-creating forces rather than the MR's product promotional talent.  The smaller the company, more the emphasis on CRM and retail bonus offer.  Rather, the MR's promotional talent was an enabler to obtain doctor's interest in the service offerings of the company.  Today, the situation is such: almost all pharma companies are into CRM + retail bonus offers + MR's product promotional talent to an extent. 

Due to the fact that marketing budgets are almost under strain, most of the marketing buck in companies, is now directed towards CRM services and freebie goods rather than on field personnel and development.  Gone are the days of 30 or 45 days training to MRs.  Today, most big companies manage just about 5 days after their induction and stay in the company for a month or more. 

In case, there are greater cash incentives to MRs, then it is a common market practice of the contemporary MR to invest a portion of his earnings towards personalised CRM for target doctors.

c) Patient-centric era in pharma marketing begins:  Below is the foto of Brilinta bottle pack.


120 TABLETS PLUS 60 TABLETS FREE!  AND THE FREE TABLETS GO TO THE PATIENT (as they are inside the bottle pack, and the freebie tablets are not enjoyed by the retailer).

This is hot news!  Many other pharma firms are trying to do this with strip packed tablets.  The results are a mixed bag.

However, the brand with bottle packing is where the patient-oriented freebie will work.

Imagine, Liv 52 tablets or Liv 52 DS tablets (positioned as a daily health supplement) (this iconic Ayurvedic 5th largest pharmaceutical brand of India is available in bottle packing), providing such a bonus offer: 100 tablets plus 25 tablets free (inbuilt in the bottle pack of Liv 52 tablets). 

Such an offer:

a) will cause a spike in purchase quantity
b) prevent the patient from moving away from Liv 52 to competitor brands like Adliv
c) ensure patient compliance is improved
d) provides improved health outcomes to patients
e) patient will experience a perceived difference in health due to better impact of medication

Bottle pack for tablets and capsules: the future?

If bottle pack of tablets or capsules is feasible then in-built patient-centric bonus offer or freebies will create an amazing demand for bottle packing. 

There is a distinct case for a bottle-pack for repeat purchase products like Becosules Z or Shelcal or Revital with in-built free tablet scheme (inside the bottle pack), this will ensure increased patient compliance.  Further, better health outcomes will foster loyal repurchases.

Repurchase: the true pivot of sustained success

Repurchase of pharmaceutical brands is the true pivot of sustained success.  Particularly for lifestyle medicines and products like vitamins, minerals, liver protective brands, and chronic therapy medicinal products - these gain commercial might only through patient-centered repurchase.  Mere repurchases by retailers will only increase shelf-stocking and display.  However, true repurchase is when the patient buys the brand repeatedly and loyally.  This is the fulcrum of authentic success.

Current pharmaceutical strategies are tied to the chemist-centric phase of pharma marketing where repurchase by retailers and wholesellers is encouraged.  However, this era is now in its decline phase (due to saturation and mature phase).  The era of enabling patient-centric repurchase has started.  Brilinta from AZ has sowed the seeds.

Brand communication to patients

In a patient-centric era of medicinal practice, social media is the major route for strengthening brand franchise by ceaselessly talking the health preposition of the brand. 

For example, Becosules Z ought to launch a continuous strategy of untiring communication through emails, viral whatsapp images, viral videos, facebook posts, and other social media messages that will create favourable impact.  We are amidst talk of digital addiction in society.  So, how can a pharma marketer ignore the digital format of product promotion?  It is about the right content, proper presentation and health platform that will work wonder for the digital strategy of a pharma marketer.

Another analogy would be of Liv 52 DS again, where concentrated messaging in the digital format takes place to target buyer (patient or non-patient) segments, on liver health.  Think liver health: think Liv 52.  Such an option will open doors to 'patientcentricity'.

When liquid bottle preparations are marketed, for example: non-alcoholic Elemental-F haematinic syrup, free 25 ml can be offered in the same bottle pack and the same highlighted on the label or by any other means on the pack.  This patient-centric freebie offer will improve sales of well-established products too.

Pediflor (Group Pharmaceuticals) is a toothpaste brand from a savvy digitally-wise company. 

This product is available for purchase through e-commerce websites.  Pediflor is having targeted messaging campaigns on facebook and other social media hang-outs.  Through, an integrated digital communication plan encompassing influencers like dentists, prospective buyer parents and kids themselves, Pediflor is a growing up to a new sales level!

On Amazon, Pediflor 70 g + 70 g - two packs at lowered prices is available.  This is taking the product to customers in a value added way.

Last word: It takes months to find a customer...seconds to lose one (Vince Lombardi).

The edifice of a business stands on customer acquisition and customer retention.  The patient is the most important customer in today's context, for a pharma company (it is patient-centric phase in pharma marketing), the doctor in the loop too is a vital influencer.  The chemist earlier held the key to sales.  Today, the empowered patient and customer/buyer is a vital entity to improved sales outcomes.  Out-of-box thinking and pragmatism ought to guide strategy, this is because the patient-centric phase in pharma marketing is sneakingly gaining traction!

Here is a closing limerick (enjoy it!):

Market tide

Market is awash with many a tide
Marketers can ill afford to hide
The real action is in the bazaar
We can't see it, if we are afar
Ride the market tide, be not by the side!

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