Tuesday, May 5, 2020


Ground level product promotional activity

Product promotional messaging is the life breath of every business, and finance is the life blood of every business.  Both feed each other. Promotional messages are transmitted through messengers – both animate and non-animate.  From the inception of pharmaceutical industry in India, the medical representatives (MRs) have played a hallmark role of being messengers of product promotional messages to target doctors and pharmacists.  Alongside, they have performed the role of relationship managers too, providing persuasion tools like samples and other knickknacks or sponsorships. 

Marketing myopia is another truism of marketing domain - it happens because marketers like to remain in the comfort zone.  Instead of viewing the product messages as being the pull creator of product sales, companies began to view medical representatives as the product sales pullers.  Yes, the MRs are certainly product sales pullers, but is so only when they push product promotional messages.  Otherwise, they are just mendicant or postman medical representatives.  Hence, the prima donna force providing sales pull is the array of product promotional messages (through MRs or through other means).

There are some pharmaceutical companies who learnt this home truth early on; that the medical representatives are relationship managers, people who handle collaterals in a value added manner, and are product promotional message transmitters.  This is what makes the MRs’ masters of persuasion practice.  The MR based product messaging activity is through the classic modes of visual aid and collateral detailing, extempore detailing and dialogue detailing with yes momentum.  Earlier on the printed visual aid and literatures were main tools for collateral based detailing, today, electronic aids like ipad, smartphone and tablet pc based collateral detailing are being done by MRs to engage the doctors and get them engrossed in the message.  Videos, digital images, gif images, and audio recordings used on these electronic devices have gripped the attention and engaged doctors during in-clinic activity, in-CME product promotion and in-stall or in-booth activity.  So the nub of the matter is that delivery of PRODUCT PROMOTIONAL MESSAGES produces the business outcomes, while other ‘give and take’ transactions, provides a higher level to the business outcome.  For example negotiated sponsorships along with product messaging activity have provided rocket growth to pharmaceutical companies in India.

The digital dimension of product promotional messaging activity

Covid-19 coronaviral infection has upset the apple cart of routine product promotional messaging activity in the pharmaceutical sector.  Doctors have been used to medical representative visits, who provide positive strokes, appreciation, ego massage, informational product points (these are very important to help recapitulate, after all knowledge is volatile) and other inputs that are valued by them (samples, gifts etc).  The virulent pandemic Covid-19 has made people go in for social and physical distancing.  Doctors have seen the horrid of morbidity and mortality with Covid-19 infection from close quarters; hence, they are hesitant to meet up with medical representatives.  This has changed the way pharmaceutical companies transfer product promotional messages and do the relationship management.

Pharmaceutical companies adapt to the market change

There is a saying - IF IT IS IMPORTANT, YOU WILL FIND A WAY - OR YOU WILL FIND AN EXCUSE.  Thus, savvy pharmaceutical marketers have immediately redrawn the blue print of product promotional message transfer, from relying solely on medical representatives to laying focus on the digital route of messaging to target audiences. 

Abbott has found its solution through international Key Opinion Leader (KOL) webinars and focus group discussions involving core doctors.  Micro Labs has started influencing and messaging doctors through zoom based advisory board discussions, and phone talking with core doctors.  Whatsapp has proved a great help to push messages to core doctors and core pharmacies.  So the focus is to find the 20% of doctors, pharmacies and territories (or areas or pincodes) that provide the 80% of the business - and ring-fencing them to protect businesses.

Group Pharmaceuticals, Bangalore is a very innovative and dynamic pharmaceutical company with research based oral care products - this company has focused on digital means of reaching target patients, doctors and pharmacies, through the website route, webinars (for pharmacists and doctors), social cause marketing like Dental Reach and ensuring push messaging of useful nuggets of wisdom to engage doctors and end consumers.  Group Pharmaceuticals has a committed field force with a high morale for ground level activation too.  

The nature of patient-centric reality of the pharmaceutical business especially for OTX (over-the –counter plus prescription products) portfolio has come to the fore due to the Covid-19 disruption.  Many companies are also facilitating or drawing up plans to help doctors provide telemedicine connects to patients.

Conclusion – ‘phygital’ is the way forward

Phygital (physical + digital) is the way forward for ensuring product promotional messages are delivered at the right time, in the right amount of the right quality to the targeted audience, because it is the product promotional messages that actually bring in the business rather than the messenger, -this is the home truth.  The other home truth that has once again hit investors is that cash is king, and businesses survive only when marketing is sharp enough to ensure smooth cash flow into the organization.  And if the business outcomes have to be further improved, then relationship management concepts become important, and here too, ‘phygital ’ is the way forward.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

What next?

What next?

Question: What next?
Answer: Stay relevant - through digital!

What next? Perhaps this is the top of mind question of all marketers and others.  

The situation got changed

We are all used to a way of life.  Getting up at 6.00 am, getting ready and being out of home at 8.15 am, reaching office or work place or work spot (for field workers) at about 9.15 am and following the pattern till evening.  As evening falls, going home via a friend’s place or favourite cafĂ© or after a walk in the park is what one does.  This pattern repeated day after day.  Every pharma company marketer has a pattern of ensuring that its foot soldiers performed in-clinic (may be 11 calls/day), in-stall, in-CME, in-pharmacy (approx. 6 chemist calls/day), and campaigning activities for demand creation and fulfillment. And suddenly, one fine day, it is curtains for this pattern.

Virus break

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that goes by the name Covid-19 originated from a bat or pangolin or from a bat to pangolin and then to the butcher at the Wuhan wet non-veg wildlife food market of Wuhan, Hubei province, China and finally to rest of world - has disrupted the pattern of normal existence of every citizen in the world.  In any case this is a highly mutated virulent contagious coronavirus of which Bill Gates warned and many movies like Contagion signaled – this virus is causing immobilization.  This pandemic has ensured economic cycles are broken.  Everyone is wondering - what next?

We are aware marketing is an important organ of business development.  Marketing is an organizational process (not just departmental) to create, communicate and deliver value to target audiences, stimulate and facilitate exchange processes.  Marketing generates customer satisfaction and delight (the latter happens when we do something extra unexpected to the customer and he gets delighted).  When marketing is effective there is ever increasing market penetration and spontaneous word-of-mouth - and in modern times it means marketing makes messages go viral.  Marketing is accountable for customer acquisition and retention.  Just like measurement is critical, training is a game changer and all other aspects of a business are vital; marketing is the life breath of business development.

The current socio-economic scenario is certainly not going to the normal we know any soon, is my viewpoint.  The future scenario will have several new normals’, this will include hefty digitalization of marketing - digital messaging with lesser face-to-face interactions.  The Covid-19 pandemic induced lifestyle change is a trend and we need to change our marketing activities accordingly.  Digital marketing and e-messaging is the only way out.  Jo dikta hain woh bikta hain is the only truth of marketing and business development.

We are seeing a sea change of attitude towards digital activity by govt. of India and all other business organizations:

Big Basket is now a seen as a life saviour service – they have innovated with times to handle huge volumes, they are working with fervor and a missionary zeal similar to a coronawarrior.  Big Basket offers contact-less service too, now, where the delivery man places the items at the doorstep of buyer or at security ,and does not meet the person who is ordering.  Big Basket is taking pooled orders from a single apartment complex that makes fulfillment faster and easier.  That is how market responsive firms respond; they rise to the occasion, at Mahindra, a few innovator employees locked themselves up to finally come up with the prototype of a ventilator. 


A challenging crisis time is the opportunity to recast marketing procedures and get relevant to stay in business! 

That is what Cipla is doing with Cofsil.  Many in the market never knew that this respiratory health brand had a mouthwash gargle.  Suddenly Cofsil Experdine Gargle https://www.cofsils.com/experdine-gargle is making its presence felt in you tube advertisements and other digital media.  Cofsil Experdine Gargle is a mouthwash.  Positioned as a gargle and mouthwash, Cofsil is useful for oral health.  The beauty is that mouthwashes can be used to gargle in the mouth and cleanse the throat.
Betadine has put its mouthwash and gargle on a high exposure mode digitally.

Many sore throats are caused by viruses and some types of bacteria.  And this is the time of Covid-19 virus - ideally we should be using more of mouthwash for oral and throat gargling along with hand hygiene.

Two vital trends for good health in the background of Covid-19 pandemic that pharma marketers can use:

a)     Hand hygiene
b)     Mouthwash based oral hygiene (for oral cavity hygiene and throat gargling)

We have a habit of touching the face, studies say we do it up to 16 times a hour, unknowingly by force of habit.  Contaminated hands transfer bacteria and virus to the nose, mouth, eyes and lips.  Thus, absence of hand hygiene can be dangerous - may lead to Covid-19 infection.  Hence, along with hand hygiene, oral hygiene through mouthwash (for oral cavity cleaning and throat gargling) is essential.

The era of digital marketing in pharma has arrived firmly thanks to disruptive pandemic Covid-19.  Pharma companies are racing to engage doctors, pharmacies and patients on health and products.

Freshchlor is a mouthwash for oral hygiene (mouthwash and throat gargle with proven use against viruses and bacteria)

There are many possible digital marketing approaches:

a)  Right time to offer online CME programs to doctors, dentists and other medical professionals who are having free time to participate in them, and gain CME points  (many private medical practitioners are having reduced patient flow and dentists are not practicing chair procedures)
b)     Engage with campaigns through whatsapp to targeted doctors and pharmacies
c) Make product websites interactive so that patients engage with them eg., https://www.cofsils.com/experdine-gargle and https://www.dettol.co.in/en/ the latter have created a web link on Covid-19 information
d) Offer a helpline manned by doctors offering information on Covid-19, respiratory disease and Cofsil mouthwash eg., Cipla Covid-19 helpline Ph. XXXXXXXXXX
e)     Offer a dentist hotline to answer quiz questions and gain points that can be redeemed later for gift hampers, eg., Group Pharma dentist quiz hotline Ph. XXXXXXXXXX
f)     Offer a doctor-only website that hosts medically relevant information on Covid-19
g)    Brand based messaging on various aspects of Covid-19 and other things to do through social media (it requires a social media team)

What next?  It is to stay relevant, that is what marketing is all about!  Best of luck pharma and healthcare marketers, stay safe in the times of Covid-19!

Clove oil and headache

Oral cancer and dentists

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The INOSEPT story


The Covid-19 coronavirus is highly contagious…

The virus that causes COVID-19 remains for several hours to days on surfaces and in aerosols, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found.
The study suggests that people may acquire the coronavirus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. Scientists discovered the virus is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

There is a new challenge on the professional, personal, social and family front.  This challenge originated from the wet non-veg wildlife food market of Wuhan, Hubei province, China and is sparing none across the world.  Even Prince Charles is tested Covid-19 positive.  Such is the nature of this contagion called Covid-19 coronavirus.

In the third para of this link: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/getting-workplace-ready-for-covid-19.pdf WHO document states that when a Covid-19 infected person coughs or exhales, droplets of infected fluid are released.


Sharon is a widow – mother of three children.  A single mother balancing her home duties with a job was straining every nerve and muscle in her body.  Her husband a brave warrior of the Indian army was martyred at the border.   The Indian army facilities for war widows were good - so it took a lot of load from Sharon’s frail shoulders.

The contagious Covid-19 viral infection affected Sharon’s family life deeply.  The three kids were a handful at home.  A ray of hope was elderly Peter, her brother, who lived in their large home.  Peter would come over to the hall, and tell stories to the three kids and keep them occupied while Sharon would do the home chores.

Today, Peter was looking grim.  Peter was a successful medical representative during his heyday and he now led a quiet retired life.  He retired 8 years back, and Peter with his bed-ridden wife Elda lived with Sharon, his only sister. 

Nowadays, Peter spoke slowly with a gummy and toothy smile.  Elderly Peter was known to be a dedicated and systematic person.  He would seriously insist: ‘PLAN YOUR WORK, AND WORK YOUR PLAN.  This will make you successful’.

A grim looking Peter started: ‘Children, do you know what is a virus?’  Peter sat on the single sofa while the kids gathered on the carpet, seated and listening to him.

The eldest kid of Sharon, Arun - all of 15 years said: “Yeah, it is a small invisible living thing that causes diseases like mumps and common cold!”

Peter was astonished, and realised the power of internet, Arun was a great fan of Natgeo kids and Discovery kids websites.  The smallest child of all, Kristella giggled seeing Peter looking surprised.  Peter started slowly: “Good, do you know how to kill viruses?”  All were quiet and listening.

Peter continued: “Children, there is a dangerous virus on the prowl, it enters mainly through the nose or mouth”.  Immediately, Kristella touched her nose and mouth proudly, showing she knew where the organs were located.  Peter smiled at her innocence and charming smile. 

Peter exclaimed: “Exactly, Kristella, that is what even grownups do, they keep touching the face, nose, eyes or mouth and lips by habit!  Now, if the hands are contaminated with the virus, it gets into the body either through the nose or mouth.”

Arun: “Oh!  Viruses are dangerous!!  I read that some bacteria too have viruses attached to them!”

Peter: “Yes, you are right, now tell me, what happens when you cough or sneeze?”

Mira the middle one who was the quiet and the mature type, raised her hand: “Millions of invisible drops come out!”

Arun, feeling the competition: “Yes, and viruses come out with these invisible drops”.

Peter: “Exactly, now imagine what if viruses come out even when a person breathes out or exhales!  Well that happens with this new dangerous virus, which comes out of certain people due to coughing, sneezing and even exhaling!  And this virus lives on surfaces for several hours!”

Kristella: “Oh! How scary!!”

Peter: “Indeed it is scary!  So that is why we are all staying indoors and not going out of the home.”

Peter slowly took out a bottle of INOSEPT from a large brown bag.  He smiled and said: “Inosept contains safe chemicals that protects us but kills the virus!”

Arun, the intrepid child scientist: “How does INOSPET … sorry INOSEPT work?”

Peter (smiled thinking of his bygone days of detailing): “Viruses have a coat called virion.  This outer covering of the virus has both proteins and fats”.    Peter added: “Now after having breakfast, when you have had bread and butter, you have to wash hands with soap, to remove the fatty butter from your fingers.  Same way, if there are viruses contaminating the hand, you have to wash with soap, and the soap washes off the viruses since these microbes have both proteins and fats in their outer coating.  Soap is essential to remove fat matter.  Washing only with water does not wash out fat.  But remember - to ensure complete removal of viruses including Covid-19 from the hands and fingers, soap has to be in contact with the fingers and hands for minimum 20 seconds”.

Kristella immediately asked: “What are seconds?”

Mira the middle child said: “Quiet!  You will learn when you grow big!”

Arun added: “What if there is no water?  It often happens in Bangalore in our flat!”

Peter smiled: “Yes, that is why INOSEPT is useful.  INOSEPT can also be carried!  Also this is trusted by doctors and used by them too!”

Arun: “Peter uncle, how does this act, what is it?”

Peter: “INOSEPT is an antiseptic broad spectrum hand sanitizer, it means it can kill almost all types of bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms.  Macetronium ethyl sulphate is the important ingredient in INOSEPT.  This is an antiseptic, it means the compound kills bacteria and viruses and other microbes or invisible small organisms.  Inosept also has two forms of propanol which provides antisepsis and helps give a good feel and good odour!”. 

“Thank you Peter uncle” said all the three.

Peter kept a pack of INOSEPT near the door.  He said that whenever anyone comes into the house or goes out, he or she has to apply the INOSEPT to the front and back of the hands and in between fingers.  “This is called hand hygiene” – Peter added.

Hand hygiene is a saviour.  It helps reduce microbial load from hands, which are the chief sources of contamination.

Lockdown, social distancing, wearing the mouth mask and hand hygiene is clearly the way forward in our battle against the deadly highly contagious Covid-19 viral infection.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Mouthwash is not a fancy!

Generally speaking, oral healthcare is not a priority till the gums bleed or the tooth aches!  However, with 8 crore prediabetics and diabetics in India, oral (mouth) cavity care must and should get top priority for overall well-being.  This is because, gum disease (periodontitis) vulnerability is higher in diabetics.  Plaque formation and severity of same is higher due to various reasons in diabetics.  This causes gumline or gingival inflammation, and progresses to severe gum disease in which abscesses or pus pockets form.  The result is bad breath and oral dysfunction.  Bleeding gum disease is more in diabetics too.  Oral care is not a low priority issue, after all, the mouth is gateway to whole body health.

Just like smokers, diabetics suffer oral dysfunction.  There is hyposalivation or reduced saliva secretion.  This leads to dry mouth syndrome.  It is also called burning mouth syndrome.  When diabetics suffer low saliva production, tooth decay and bad breath (fruity malodour) is the result.

It is in this regard that for oral care of diabetics (and non-diabetics) mouthwashes like Freshchlor play a significant contributory role.

Mouthwashes are often considered a fancy item of oral healthcare.  It is not seen as a useful daily use product.  However, mouthwashes are science-backed products.  In people susceptible to gum disease, rinsing with mouthwash reduces havoc of bacteria in causing gum problems.  The specialty of an active ingredient like stabilised chlorine dioxide in products like Freshchlor is the marked bactericidal (this means bacteria killing) effect on bacteria associated with gum disease.  Hence, in vulnerable patients like diabetics and prediabetics, use of Freshchlor mouthwash is sagacious.  Particularly, night-time oral rinsing with Freshchlor will prove beneficial since diabetic or prediabetic subjects are susceptible to early morning dry mouth syndrome. 

Severity of gum disease is directly proportional to level of hyperglycemia.  Cardiac and renal problems in diabetics normally occurs alongside severe gum disease.  So if a diabetic suffers severe gum disease, there could be systemic complications like cardio renal problems, hence, it is a vital sign.

The current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has increased the use of handwashes and emphasized importance of hand hygiene.  This is because hand hygiene reduces viral contamination.  People  habitually touch the face, mouth, eyes and nose - so virus contaminated hands will lead to entry of disease causing viruses into the respiratory system.  Yet it is to be appreciated that lack of oral hygiene will also increase concentration of disease causing bacteria and viruses in the mouth.  They cause destruction of teeth through bacteria - induced acid attack and gum tissue infection.  Some virulent viruses and bacteria also enter the body and cause severe infections.  Oral healthcare problems lead to several whole-body complications.  Inflammation of gums causes leak of pro-inflammatory molecules into the bloodstream, the general inflammation in body goes up and causes other health problems.  This is very evident in diabetic subjects.  Incidentally, diabetic subjects are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and can be fatal to them.

In this backdrop, it is wise for diabetics and prediabetic subjects not to treat handwashes and mouthwashes as fancy items, but necessary self-care health products for hand hygiene and oral hygiene, respectively.

Periodontal disease or gum disease in diabetic people is considered the sixth complication of diabetes.  Cardiovascular disease, neuropathy (nerve disease), retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disease), skin complications (dermopathy) and finally gum disease (periodontal disease) are the six complications of diabetes (consistent elevated blood glucose levels).  Gum disease and whole body disease is a two-way relationship, gum disease causes whole body problems, and problems in the rest of body will cause also gum disease ie., vice versa. 

So all in all, the mouthwash formulation is not a fancy concept of health, it is as important as the hand washes.  Hand hygiene is vital for health and so is the aspect of oral hygiene - a great enabler of physical, mental and social well-being.  Mouthwashes are a friend of good oral health (physical, mental and social well-being).