Tuesday, September 29, 2009

True marketing is cultural marketing

I got the above image from here.

Marketers are driven by goals:
Objectives - both qualitative and quantitative - spur marketers to take up activities that increase consumption of goods and services. Goal setting depends on
1) spending power (or purchasing power) and
2) the culture of the target audience.

For example, a pork based food product will simply have no market in Islamic dominated societies. The consumption of pork based products is not a part of Islamic culture. The point is that even if there is purchasing power amongst the target audience, if the product is not a cultural fit, the consumption will not take place as per expectations!

Marketers have twin goals: Sagacious marketers have two marketing goals: one goal based on purchasing power of the target audience and the other based on the culture of the prospect population. Marketers not only try to influence the spend of customers they also try to redefine the tastes, consumption pattern, culture and lifestyle to favor the marketed product. Having cultural objectives of marketing is crucial for lasting success. In China for instance, the culture of using traditional medicine is more prevalent compared to Western Medicine. Thus, allopathic marketers need to do a lot of market building and market penetration activities to garner sales.

Identifying cultural strands: The shared set of values, attitude, practices, and beliefs characterize the culture of a group. These need to be understood by marketers before product selection and chalking out the strategies (or direction of use of efforts and resources).

Here are some cultural strands that work in Indian pharmaceutical marketing (disclaimer: these are not based on books but practical self experience) :

a) Use of English in detailing pharmaceutical products: As such, talking about pharmaceutical products in the local or regional language will not contribute to the process of increasing the perceived value of the product. On the other hand, it will reinforce commoditization and decreases brand appeal. To make a good impact with doctors, presentation of detailing, in English, makes the difference. The doctor will perceive the MR as well-trained, dependable and professional. However, there is a catch in this! The MR ought to use the local language to strike a rapport during pre- and post detailing discussions!! Or else the doctor may think the MR is snooty and rapport will not be established.

b) Use of a tie: Communication (ie., process of message transfer) is mainly dependent on appearance, body language, vocal tones (voice modulation) and facial expressions. In fact, nonverbal communication is 93% of the message transfer process. 38% of the 93% of nonverbal communication is through vocal tones. Voice modulation is critical for exemplary communication. The rest 55% of the nonverbal communication is through facial expressions. Hence, it is often said the face is the index of mind. Only 7% of the message is verbally communicated during communication process.

In this context, dressing is a powerful message transfer tool. When a MR wears a tie in an urban place during work, he or she commands better attention from the prospect doctor. This in turn improves message transfer process. However, wearing a tie may backfire when the MR works in rural areas where the doctor gets put off by MRs wearing ties and acting smarter than the doctor in the clinic (where the image of the doctor in front of the patients' may suffer). Hence, many MRs wear ties during work in urban areas while ties are avoided in rural areas. I have myself gone through such experiences during my field days of work.

c) Use of classy communication aids: A visual aid or leave behind literature creates a lot of impact in the doctor's chamber during product promotional activities. A doctor may not listen to the entire detailing of a visual aid page or may not read the leave behind literature completely, however, the few sentences he or she encounters, the quality of words, paper, visuals and presentation creates a quiet lasting impact. This influences prescribing habits significantly. Image matters a lot - it gives confidence. The entire sales building process is a play of confidence. If the MR is fearless or confident, and the communication aids contain information and data that builds the doctors' confidence, obviously the prescription flow will increase in favor of the marketed brand. Hence, use of classy communication aids makes a significant difference.

d) Remove the footwear please! In India, particularly in semi-rural and rural areas, many doctors do not want their patients and other visitors to wear footwear while entering the chamber. Simple, it helps maintain in-clinic hygiene! However, many urbane educated MRs or their field managers fail to appreciate the cultural sensitivities and go forth confidently with their shining boots on! Many doctors remain silent when this happens. However, it shows up negatively on sales!!

e) Caste, religion and prescriptions: Indians can be grouped on the basis of caste and religion. These social moorings influence the belief systems and behavior of doctors, chemists and MRs. When me-too products are marketed such social identities influence the adoption of products and prescribing behavior. This does give an edge or may act as a barrier. However, ultimately the medium to long term trend in prescribing behavior goes beyond these considerations. It is the professionalism of the MR and the company that finally wins the game. Caste and religious considerations may create some impact in the beginning, however, finally it is to be observed that pharmaceutical selling and marketing game is that of communication, innovation, service, quality, supply, safety, purity, patient acceptance and efficacy of the product.

f) Cigarettes stink, alcoholic breath is no-no! When MRs and field personnel promote products aggressively with a cigarette breath that puts off prospects, the prescription fortunes too go in smoke! Doctors also do not take kindly to the alcoholic breath of MRs/field personnel. In fact, in Gujarat, alcoholic beverages are banned. These cultural sensitivities need to be kept in mind while performing field duties.

Culture is a very important criterion of marketing activities. The cultural acceptance of a product or service concept is critical. If cultural sensitivities are trampled sales too get bogged down. However, in the mad rush for numbers do we have the time for cultural marketing aspects?

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down and click on OLDER POSTS wherever required to read all other blogposts, kindly inform your acquaintances of this blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Demand creation


The proof of the pudding is in its eating!! The effectiveness of marketing processes is measured through demand creation. The main motto of marketing is demand creation. During the process of marketing, goods move from producers to consumers. It needs to be accomplished in line with customer/consumer (prescriber and patient) preferences and spending power. Marketing inputs like strategic visual aids, leave behind literatures, point-of-Rx and point-of-purchase inputs, freebies, sponsorships, free goods schemes, site facility for wholesalers and retailers ... are used continuously to boost demand. Yet some marketers are more effective in eating the pudding than others! Why is it so?

Marketing depends on people and the climate of the organization

VALUE creation and delivery depends a lot on people and the marketing climate of the organization. Marketing achievements are made by people, and it requires an understanding of the climate of the organization to facilitate marketing achievements. Organizational climate refers to the features of the work climate as perceived by the employees. The organizational climate has a major influence on employee behavior.

Various organizations have different motives that are dominant in them. These motives shape the organizational climate. And in turn, the organizational climate shapes employee behavior and organizational results. The organizational motives are described as: achievement, expert influence, control, dependency, extension, and affiliation.
Thus, the employee will see the organization as having 'dominant achievement motive' or 'dominant control motive' or 'dominant dependency motive' etc. Let us see more details of these motives (in organizational climates below):
In Public Sector Units, the dominant motive is normally CONTROL (adherence to rules and regulations).

In family run businesses, DEPENDENCY is the usual dominant motive (there are key powerful decision makers through whom activities are done).

In specialized organizations, ACHIEVEMENT is a dominant motive. The achievement characteristic is more dominant in industrial and business organizations. If the organizational climate tilts towards excellence, the climate will be characterized by ACHIEVEMENT motive. For example, a biotech contract research organization will obviously offer greater freedom while doing work, with least bureaucratic controls. The focus will be on achieving certain key result areas - in organizations where achievement is the dominant motive.

In pure research organizations - for example - pharmaceutical colleges or departments of pharmacy, the dominant motive of the organizational climate is EXPERT INFLUENCE. The expert influence characteristic is more dominant in universities and scientific organizations.

Nonprofit healthcare organizations or pharma companies or certain departments of pharma companies that are involved heavily in community service or societal marketing have EXTENSION as the dominant motive in their organizational climate. Whatever marketers do in extension motive based organizations should produce community service effects or societal benefits. For example, marketers may have an extension program where poor TB patients are provided medicines at subsidized rates through key prescribers.

AFFILIATION motive is a major theme in the climates of organizations where relationships matter and people are from similar backgrounds. For example, the climate of a medical communications company may have affiliation motive as the predominant motive.

For marketers working in pharma companies or healthcare organizations, understanding the dominant motive of the organizational climate is critical for effective results.

The organizational climate, the dominant motives, and leadership influences the process by which ordinary people make extraordinary achievements.

In the Indian context, the motive of DEPENDENCY is very vital as it is common in traditional and family owned enterprises. The dependency motive is dominant in traditional and autocratic organizations too. A sub-type of dependency motive in organizations is the dependency achievement motive that refers to respect for individuals in certain positions of power. Key decisions are taken by these individuals in positions of power, and is required for achievements of the organization. This sub-type of motive (dependency achievement motive) based organizational climate is common in family-owned organizations. Thus, the dominant motives in the organizational climate and the consequent employee behavior shapes the organizational marketing results.

To produce marketing results in line with the corporate objectives, a keen understanding of the organizational climate is required by marketers. When marketing inputs are designed in line with the dominant motives of the organizational climate it becomes easier to make the marketing input (print or nonprint item), and it is even easier to implement them.

For example a very highly scientific leave behind print input for the retailer made in line with the dominant scientific 'expertise influence' motive of an organization, will obviously be poorly received in the market as it does not meet the customer (retailer's) requirement. For the pharmacist-retailer or chemist-retailer, the print leave behind literature input should be simple, elegant in presentation, and should avoid scientific information overload. So the marketer should be very tactful while designing and providing the product promotional item. On one hand it should satisfy the dominant motive of the organizational climate ie., scientific expertise influence in this case. And at the same time, the print leave behind item should have aspects that are appreciated by the more commercial-minded retailer.

When marketing inputs are produced in traditional family based organizations it is obvious that the dependency achievement motive will be dominant. Hence, keeping key management personnel in the loop will facilitate the making of the print or nonprint promotional input. In organizations with a dominant dependency achievement motive, only certain individuals by virtue of their power can make key decisions. Hence, the marketer will be wise to keep them in the loop for producing the promo inputs.

The marketer should be tactful

Marketers involved in strategy making, creating campaigns, and making promotional inputs (print and nonprint) need to balance marketing insights with realities of organizational functioning. Only then will the marketer be successful with his work. For instance, if a marketer has not understood the reality that the dominant motive is achievement dependency (where authorization or approval is required from higher powers; as in family based organizations), and tends to work as an achievement expert (where greater freedom is granted by the organization), he or she will inevitably come in conflict with the higher powers, and will get bogged down by the organizational climate. The wise marketer however will first understand the organizational climate and the dominant trait of the work environment; only then will he or she proceed to create strategies, campaigns, and promo inputs in line with the organizational climate and the market picture.

This implies that the marketer needs to have a binary orientation for successful functioning. Firstly, he understands the nature (or dominant motive(s)) of his work climate, and simultaneously he is also keyed on to market understandings. The marketer then goes on to produce marketing inputs in line with the organizational climate and market picture. This balanced way of working differentiates the successful marketer from the frustrated marketer. For effective demand creation realizing the realities of the dominant motive of the organizational climate and the market realities are equally important.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down and read all other posts, please inform your acquaintances of this blog. Click on OLDER POSTS wherever required.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A beast called cancer and a beauty by name Lisa Ray


It is the return of lifestyle diseases with a revenge! With lifespans increasing, lifestyle diseases like asthma, cardio-vascular (heart + blood vessels) diseases, cancer (medical word = neoplasm), joint & bone diseases like arthritis & osteoporosis, and brain diseases like Alzheimer's disease, are rearing their ugly heads. Our lifestyle and the higher level of environmental and food pollution has a lot to do with the increasing incidence of cancer. Lisa Ray the charismatic model and film star has announced in her blog that she is suffering from multiple myeloma (a type of cancer). M P Prakash, a senior politician from Karnataka, has just announced that he is undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Lifestyle diseases like cancer are a looming threat.

Cancer refers to the undisciplined growth of cells in the body. Most cancers cause tumours or swellings. Blood cancer does not cause tumours. Severe pain, bleeding or oozing, and swelling are important general characteristics of cancer. Sudden weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, and anemia (low haemoglobin pecentage) are other important signs and symptoms. 13% of all human deaths are cancer related. Most cancers are caused by carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals or agents) like tobacco smoke, radiation, microbes, and certain chemicals.

Cancer is a result of genetic abnormalities ie., DNA damage. The damage to DNA may be inherited (due to oncogenes) or caused by carcinogens. Cancer cells are invasive - they invade neighbouring tissues and cause problems. Cancer cells can become metastatic too. Groups of cancer cells break away from the mother tumour and lodge on to other organs to spread the cancer to other parts of the body. Thus, a breast cancer can spread to uterus too. In cancer, the body's own cells metamorphosize in to enemy cells, attacking tissues, organs, and causing death. This is why cancer is difficult to treat. There is great similarity between cancer cells and normal cells, hence, the body's immune system does not attack the cancer cells and destroy them.

Immunoglobulins as the name indicates are globulins (ie., proteins) that help generate body's resistance to disease (they are responsible for immunity). Immunoglobulins are antibodies (proteins) that destroy allergens and other foreign bodies. They are produced by B lymphocytes (type of fighter white blood cells). Natural immunuglobulins cannot differentiate between cancerous and noncancerous cells.

Antibody researchers are trying to create therapeutic proteins (or therapeutic antibodies) that can target cancer cells. Although cancer and noncancerous cells are very similar, there are subtle differences such as certain proteins on the cell membrane. Antibodies that can specifically lock on to these cell membrane sites of cancer cells are synthesized by researchers using rDNA (recombinant DNA) technology (Escherichia coli is used to produce recombinant antibodies) and hybridoma technology. Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a popular example of an anti-breast cancer therapeutic antibody protein molecule. Trastuzumab specifically binds with defective HER 2 receptor proteins. These HER 2 defective proteins are present in some women suffering breast cancer. Hence, trastuzumab is an effective antibody (protein) treatment for such women. A biotech company called Genentech (USA) invented this drug. The sales of trastuzumab (Herceptin) was 5335 million USD in 2007.

Treating cancer and the associated health problems is a major pharmaceutical opportunity area. For eg., bone disease and osteoporosis is a major and common side effect of cancer treatment. Hence, calcium supplements are prescribed in large quantities to cancer patients.

Multiple myeloma

This form of blood related cancer (haematological disease) is described as incurable. The B lymphocyte - a type of fighter white blood cells that provide antibodies (proteins that help destroy infectious agents) - converts in to cancerous cells. Multiple Myeloma in addition to the usual cancer signs and symptoms is identified by CRAB set of signs and symptoms (C = Calcium elevated, R = Renal failure, A = Anemia and B = Bone lesions or wounds on bones). Multiple Myeloma causes weak bones and they fracture easily.

Lisa Ray suffers from multiple myeloma. This form of cancer is particularly severe. An avid Yoga practitioner Jody Hughes (student of B K Iyengar) too died of multiple myeloma. Lisa Ray too is an 'alternative healthcare' person. Lisa too is in to Yoga, Ayurveda etc.

Pranayama is the missing link

Swami Ramdev is a major healthcare and spiritual force in contemporary global society. Swami Ramdev - the celibate swami - with unparalleled dedication and sincerity is healing and protecting humanity by teaching a combination of pranayama and yoga (pranayog). Swami Ramdev has a regular morning teaching session (from 5.00 AM) and evening (from 8.00 PM) on Aastha TV channel. There are crores of people who have benefited by applying pranayama and yoga techniques as popularlized by Swami Ramdev. The difference between Swami Ramdev and other Yoga educators is the emphasis on Pranayama. This is making a vast difference.

It would be a prudent decision for Lisa Ray and such others to take to pranayama and yoga as demonstrated by Swami Ramdev. This will make a big difference. Lisa Ray has bravely reflected that she wants to conquer multiple myeloma. But this beast of a cancer can be perhaps tamed only through Swami Ramdev's technique of Pranayog.

If you have a headache, you pop a Dart tablet. You don't attribute any religious thing to this. Similarly, Pranayog science from Swami Ramdev provides darting relief to suffering patients. There is no need for any religious complication when practicing pranayama and Yog. One has to have an open mind to try it.

I sincerely pray, that cancer patients like Lisa Ray and all others overcome their health problems and bounce back.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please do scroll down and read all other posts, please click on OLDER POSTS wherever required, kindly inform your acquaintances of this blog.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Marketers bring cheer


What do marketers do from the point of view of customers?
Are they just pesky & persuasive messengers putting pressure to create more and more demand? Do they vex potential and actual customers? After all, marketers are sworn by duty to increase the consumption of goods and services, by catalyzing the exchange process, and delivering value to customers. Marketers are the revenue generators from the point of view of the company, but what do the marketers provide to customers? MARKETERS PROVIDE VALUE, and this value brings smiles on the faces of customers. Verily, marketers bring cheer to customers.

This weekend was hectic - 'in-stall activity' during the annual mega conference of the Karnataka State Obstetricians and Gynecologists Association at Bangalore, kept pharma marketers busy. Pharma marketers were competitively outwitting each other to provide cheer to doctors visiting their stalls. The common idea of pharma marketers manning the stalls was to delight visitor doctors, engage doctors in tantalizing conversations, and reinforce brand prescribing habits.

It is truly ironic that while marketers and marketing activities are keenly measured quantitatively, the actual result of marketing activities depends on an intangible - CUSTOMER DELIGHT. If the doctor is delighted with the in-stall activities, he or she is sure to get her colleagues to visit the stall or the doctor her/himself would become a repeat visitor - visiting the stall the next day too. Thus, marketers constantly grapple with a common problem: HOW TO DELIGHT DOCTORS (OR CUSTOMERS) ON A CONTINUOUS BASIS?

Truly, keeping doctors or customers always delighted is an onerous task. Tachyphylaxis towards marketing activities can develop in the doctor's minds. This means the doctors' kind of get inured to the marketing activities and the marketer fails to elicit the same sense of delight from his target doctors. The marketer's charisma or joie-de-vivre is lost, a certain boredom penetrates the transactions. Hence, novelty is a key feature of marketing to keep delighting customers.

One important way of delighting doctor customers is providing the unexpected. For eg., let us say, the doctor comes to the stall expecting a polite greeting and a free literature with detailing. And if the doctor additionally gets a nice freebie or even a nice rose, then the unexpected happening delights him or her.

For instance, when a lucky dip of visiting cards is conducted on a daily basis among the visitors to the stall, the lucky dip winner values the gift (not for the monetary value alone); he or she values it most because it has come unexpectedly to him or her. Thus, doing something novel can provide delight to the doctor customers.

When a doctor gets a small freebie which delights him or her, the marketed brand creates a niche in his or her mind. But the offering has to be competitive. Something unusually delighting that does not come from any other competitor stall or company. This cachet in marketing activity creates the top-of-the-mind recall for doctors with respect to a brand.

Organizations should be customer-centric: An important prerequisite for delighting customers is that the marketing organization has to be customer-centric. There are many mindsets by which, organizations work. One easiest approach is producing quality goods and expecting them to sell. This is the production mindset. However, with most markets being buyer's markets today, it is imperative that the marketing personnel are part of customer-centric organizations. Such organizations will back the marketer's efforts, and the sales person will not end up being a toothless tiger in the clinic or any other market setting. When organizations are customer-centric they are in a better position to provide delightful inputs to customers.

Process interventions count a lot: When organizations become customer-centric, they begin listening to market conversations, analyze market data, and produce value that will truly delight customers. However, to make delightful inputs to customers or prospects, a sequence of actions involving many people will be required. Thus, this implies that team play and process interventions will determine the outcomes of marketing. A process is vital to create the delight generating marketing inputs. Process interventions are more powerful since there is a back end support to the frontline marketing personnel. The customer delight generated by a process rather than by the charms of a single marketing individual will be obviously more powerful. Process interventions can produce superior outcomes in terms of customer delight.

Talk in terms of how the pharma product will generate superior patient outcomes: The marketing talk should ceaselessly focus on improving patient outcomes. This is the final goal of every doctor. When, all marketing value pivots round this vital point of superior patient outcomes, the delight factor will be higher. This talk has to be embellished with service inputs to doctors. The winning combination will then generate greater customer delight and better sales results.

Small thoughtful touches can win customers. Many a battle for customers are won through small gestures or innovations or acts that delight customers multi-fold. When a customer visited a hotel and found a drape clip to help keep the hotel room completely dark - it delighted her. This reflected a mind-set of the hotel management that they look in to small details to delight customers. This is a very important lesson for marketers. Organizational activities that look in to ironing out small problems will surely go a long way - as it indicates a basic mindset to create customer delight and cheer.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please scroll down, click on OLDER POSTS wherever required to read all other blogposts. Please do inform your acquaintances of this blog!