Wednesday, April 25, 2007


When a ‘small Pharma company’ MR gets in to the doctor’s chamber, why does he bow out to the ‘big Pharma company’ MR? How can alternative medical and healthcare systems come close to mainstream therapies?

How can Davids take on Goliaths?

The answer may lie in displaying an undercurrent of strength and dominance in one’s marketing activities. It is a fine difference – the line is thin – marketing behavior should display dominance but the marketing presentation should not be construed as over- aggression or intimidation. Dominance behavior builds a perception of strength. When used carefully, dominance behavior in marketing gives confidence to the prospect; raising the chances of conversion of the target prospect to a customer.

The state of dominance
Dominance refers to the state that exists when one person or group has power over another. Dominance is the ability to influence behaviors and control resources.
People engage in dominance behavior all the time, starting with natural or inflated attempts to use body size and space to look larger and more powerful It is not just natural body size but how people take up more space that conveys dominance.
In global Pharma business, the word ‘dominance’ brings to the mind one and only one name – Pfizer. Yes we seen this company dominate the Pharma space like no other company!

In the Ayurvedic business in India, there is one company that straddles the herbal segment like a colossus. It is not brute financial muscle. It is an overpowering brand presence. The company is The Himalaya Drug Company, Bangalore. The company’s brand presence is truly dominating.

India’s answer, to the dominant brands Starbucks and Barista? It is Cafe Coffeeday.

There is always the experience of seeing someone in a group who stands out, who seem more compelling, more able to get what they want.

Vijay Mallya is successful and as a brand personality epitomizes the word ‘dominance’. As a brand he is dominant, consistent and bold. And so is his brand asset KINGFISHER. Red is the color of Kingfisher. The brand experiences that Kingfisher Airlines provides, is unique and compels brand loyalty. The brand Kingfisher is truly a dominant one.

Among the fast growing Pharma companies in India is MANKIND – a company that stands out, who seems more compelling and able to get what it wants from the market. In all the print advertisements of Mankind in CIMS or IDR, its growing dominance in the Pharma field is brought out in a focused manner. This gives additional confidence to doctors to prescribe Mankind products.

Dominance behavior gives people the edge. Dominance behavior lies in visual and verbal clues that convey dominant behavior. Dominant people have open posture, have appearance of height, willingness to gaze directly at others, speak loudly in a deep or low voice, and interrupt frequently, use of strong, hard gestures, standing or leaning close, and reducing interpersonal space.

Viagra is a runaway Pharma success story. Right from the name, which comes from Niagra and Vigor – the brand has potency. So is Pfizer’s new brand acquisition – Exubera. Today, if controversial Exubera needs some demand stimulation, Pharma marketers need to think boldly and portray the brand and product Exubera in a dominant mode. The brand is on the defensive thanks to the bong-like-look and that has even made me write a limerick on Exubera. Even I have pulled brand Exubera’s legs! However, if there is one Pharma brand that needs a marketing makeover through a message of dominance then it is - Exubera. The brand communication for Exubera needs to play on its strength – avoiding pin pricks (associated with injectable insulin) – in a dominating way. If Pfizer could dominate the Pharma market with Viagra, then why not some dominance brand behavior for Exubera?

In India, the launch of the Maruti van was not met with initial success due to its size and other factors. However, some great print advertising made the product successful from its initial poor market performance.

Exerting dominance delivers interpersonal benefits. When people engage in dominance behavior, others see them as smarter and more competent.

Here is a true story:

In Mysore, in the late 90s, three MRs would combat each other for market shares: Mr. Girish Damle promoting Brufen (from Boots, now Abbot), Mr. Vivek Balse promoting Dolonex (Pfizer) and Mr. P promoting Voveran (Aventis). All were titans in the field.

Once, Mr. P met a doctor, promoted Voveran intensively using a clinical study that established Voveran as the only NSAID that has spasmolytic effect. The doctor was convinced and excited too.

The same day afternoon, Mr. Vivek met the doctor. Before Vivek could promote Dolonex, the good doctor very forcefully put across the same points about Voveran that were detailed by Mr. P. He wanted Vivek to basically surrender and accept the superiority of Voveran over Dolonex.

Vivek paused, then forcefully said, “Dr., in every spasmodic pain please prescribe Voveran and in every other pain please prescribe Dolonex.”

The doctor was stunned. You see, if a doctor gets around 10 patients complaining of pain, only 2 will have spasmodic pain. Further, in such patients there are other preferred spasmolytics. So in effect, Vivek had taken commitment for Dolonex for maximum prescription mileage. The doctor was amazed with Vivek’s response, got up and shook hands with Vivek, and said “That is why Pfizer is Pfizer!”

One can analyze the dominance behaviors in the above example and how it has helped in doctor conversion and retaining prescription base.

Dominance in effect, communicates confidence. Dominant persons are viewed as influential.

Men are conditioned to display more dominance than women not surprisingly men emerge as leaders and accrue more benefits in power, prestige, rewards, and status. When women display dominance, they gain advancement opportunity. However, women are effective in being dominant through non verbal routes and verbal routes.

But beware:

Dominating people are perceived as less nice, less likeable, and less warm.

Dominance behavior in marketing activities helps maintain existing customer base. It gives confidence to customers to stay on with the existing product or service. Dominance behavior and dominant presentations in marketing can help produce exciting results. Confidence building in prospects is the essence of converting prospects to customers. Underdog brands and underdog marketing approaches cannot build markets, confidence, and brand communities. If Ayurveda has to come close to the mainstream it requires a promotional theme of dominance. Today if homeopathy is a sought after therapeutic approach, it is thanks to the domination of Dr. Batra’s in the alternative therapy media space. They have done some very successful market building.

2006: The Emerging Dominance of Internet Media

Person of the year in 2006 of Time magazine was the internet user. Hence, for dominance in marketing it is vital to use e-marketing principles. Watch the You Tube video by clicking the link below:

(VERY IMPORTANT: This blog post is based on the article available at the following STANFORD url: PLEASE CLICK. It is this article that has inspired me to pen the present blog post. The lines in italics in the blog post are based on the STANFORD article. Hence, this blog post is dedicated to STANFORD and to Dr. Ms. Larissa Tiedens, Assoc. Prof. of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

High time to permit Pharma DTC product promotion in India


India is on the throes of radical socio-economic change. Globalization, liberalization (both economic restructuring and social liberalization) and the telecom – internet revolution are transforming lives of Indians. Liberal social attitudes born out of better communication and understanding is leading to dramatic changes in terms of dating, friendships, marriages and conduct of business. The entrepreneurial culture is gaining more steam in India. Credit availability is boosting business prospects. India is shining!?

Writing in The Times of India, 7.4.2007, in the Times wellness section, Dr. B Ramana Rao, a leading light physician of Bangalore, with a roaring practice, has written some revolutionary lines on the changing paradigm of healthcare in India. The writings were on the occasion of World Health Day (7.4.2007). Dr. Ramana Rao writes: ‘Health is no longer just a matter of preventing infections. Health is no longer in the custody of medical professionals alone’. He goes on to elaborate that the community as a whole is a stakeholder in health.

Another important trend in India – the world’s capital for outsourcing activities - is the rocking growth of ‘medical tourism’. The private healthcare sector is positioned as a tourist attraction. The medical tourism market is pegged at Rs. 1200 crores with a growth of 30%. And leading light doctors like Dr. Aniruddha Malpani MD, IVF specialist, Malpani Infertility Clinic contends patients from the West have high expectations from doctors. The medical tourism sector is attractive through its fast treatment with modern technologies (no long waiting lines as in the West); ayurveda, naturopathy, English speaking staff, and low costs. For eg. liver transplant in USA costs USD 3,00,000 while in India it is 69000 USD. Heart surgery costs 30000 USD in USA, while in India its 8000 USD. Thus the focus in India is to have a world class Pharma – medical sector.

Dr. C J Thakkar, a leading joint replacement surgeon at Leelavati, Sion, Mumbai says: ‘Medical tourism is like - buy a bucket and get a mug free! This is like fix the knee and also send the patient to Goa for a holiday to help recuperate faster!!’

So how can we summarize some of the current trends in the Indian society?

India is moving up the global ladder, there is a more market savvy behavior of businesses, open society, liberal attitudes, and fast access to world class information through the telecom revolution, greater patient empowerment, consumer protection act extended to Indian patients and integration of Indian medical sector with the global market.

DTC in Pharma promotion

The current Pharma marketing communication scene in India is communication through MRs and advertisements in medical journals. DTC (direct to consumer) product promotion is prohibited for Sch. H and Sch. X drugs. In India, the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 controls the advertisements and DTC product promotion. In USA and New Zealand, DTC Pharma promotion is a big avenue of ‘mar-com’ activity. In India, DTC promotion is mainly in the sphere of social marketing ie on family planning initiatives, health awareness, and hygiene and disease awareness. DTC product promotion is permitted for Ayurvedic proprietary medicines. ‘DTC therapy advertising’ has worked wonders for homeopathy. As per reports in Economic Times, a business daily, the organized homeopathy market is worth Rs. 630 crores with branded players such as Baksons, Dr. Batra’s, SBL and Schwabe India slugging it out. Therapy DTC advertising has worked the magic in market building for homeopathy.

Another factor that has restricted the growth of DTC Pharma promotion in India is the need for prescription secrecy by doctors. As such, doctors do not prescribe ‘popular brands’ and prefer to prescribe those that enjoy unfamiliarity with patient population. However, this scenario is changing with the trends of an open society, liberal attitudes, and fast access to world class information through the telecom - internet revolution, greater patient empowerment, and consumer protection act extended to Indian patients and integration of Indian medical sector with the global market.

In short, it is high time and the ripe time for Pharma DTC product promotion for the following reasons:

Ø Open society and liberal attitudes
Ø Fast access to world class information through the telecom - internet revolution
Ø Greater patient empowerment
Ø Consumer protection act extended to Indian patients
Ø Integration of Indian medical sector with the global market
Ø DTC Pharma product promotion will enhance disease awareness and ensure patients will seek right medical help. The social objective of Health for All will be achieved faster. Even leading doctors contend that health is not just the medical professionals’ responsibility
Ø Ayurvedic proprietary medicines find a place in DTC Pharma product promotion. So why not extend to all types of medications?
Ø DTC Pharma product promotion will enhance disease awareness, therapy promotion and thus will create an ecosystem of empowered patients who will seek the appropriate health management opportunities.

Pharma DTC product promotion is a big subject and big business too with positive ramifications for healthcare from society’s perspective and the Pharma marketers’ angle. Pharma DTC product promotion has promise and useful contributions to make for India’s health goals.