Friday, July 27, 2012


The above is the shocking image of a cigarette pack gifted to my neighbour from another acquaintance who had been on a tour to Malaysia and Thailand.  The recipient of the imported cigarette gift pack was so numbstruck with the image on the cover of the pack - that he did not smoke a single cigarette!  That is an example of high impact CLARITY!

A picture speaks thousand words!

We are now in a picture or image led world.  Facebook is less about words and more about pictures, tagged along with pertinent words.  To ensure clarity is the core of marketing messaging.  To create crystal clear clarity use of appropriate images and words makes the difference.  Spotting this trend Laura Ries has successfully marketed the concept of incorporating VISUAL HAMMERS or a visual hammer to reinforce messages.  A visual hammer is key to clear brand messaging.


Clarity is the bedrock of achievement.  Clarity is knowing what to do next.  Many a times, marketers or sales personnel, have confusion - not clarity, leading to unclear activities.  And the net result is that a suitable destination is not reached.  The fountainhead of clarity is the learning attitude and knowledge.

If a person wants to establish an enterprise, funds alone are not the enough, clarity on the method of administration of funds to obtain desired results is the key factor.  And clarity comes from  team knowledge and individual wisdom.

Training and clarity

Seniors are involved in formal or informal training activities.  The behaviour of a senior manager is followed by the impressionable juniors - this modeling creates new learnings in the juniors, this too is an aspect of training although it is not formal training. 

In all forms of training activities, the net result is clarity in the learners.  The attendees should get confidence that comes through clarity in the learner.  A simple aspect is knowing how to use a visual aid for effective detailing and in-clinic activity, it is also knowing the product profile in a nutshell so that talking points can be rendered with conviction to enable the recipient of the message prescribe the promoted product.

The ability of a trainer or manager to generate clarity among subordinates or colleagues is the hallmark of successful managership.  Clarity comes through knowledge and communication (through writing, audio, conversations, lectures, use of multimedia including graphics etc) - and presented in such a way that the message is understandable, which requires empathy.

Clarity makes things happen!  When there is clarity, there is automatic action in the intended direction.  Thus, results are generated in line with expectancies.  In today's information society, the challenge is to use information and make a sense of it all, to create clarity for furthering confidence and action.

Thanks for reading this blog DEDICATED TO THE CONCEPT OF CLARITY for success, kindly do read all other blogposts, please click on older posts, recommend this blog to your acquaintances!     

Sunday, July 22, 2012


The market need not be a physical structure.  The market is the description of any state where an exchange is involved.  Exchanges take place to satisfy needs, wants, desires and requirements.  Marketers stimulate demand by enhancing exchange processes.  In pharmaceutical marketing, the no. & quality of prescriptions, patient compliance and retail availability are critical factors influencing the exchange process of the pharma market.

Markets are also inevitably global today, thanks to the all pervasive media.  During my childhood, events in places like Syria or Egypt had that "far-off feeling" - there was not much connect to such global events.  The world has shrunk now.  Products are crossing geographies to meet the desires of a global community.

The collapse of information divide is yet another feature of the information society.  Gaining access to information was a challenge, years back, today, knowing what to do with the deluge of information is the challenge area.

The above points have a major impact on healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers.

For instance, Singapore is a gateway market, although it has only about 52 lakhs population, there is a 1.1. crore annual floating population from all parts of the world.  An interesting feature of the Singapore market is that entry barriers are lesser for entry of healthcare food supplements (nutraceuticals or dietary supplements) compared to entry of drugs.

In Singapore, the Health Science Authority of its Ministry of Health is the national regulator for health products.

The current situation of the healthcare supplements market in Singapore is summarized below:

qHealth supplements can be imported and sold without a license from HSA

qHealth supplements not subjected to pre-market approval by HSA

qDealers of health supplements are advised to comply with the guidelines for health supplements set out by HAS

qOnus of responsibility in ensuring the safety and quality of health supplements, and compliance with the guidelines for health supplements rests with the dealer

A body called Health Supplements Industry Association Singapore ( helps liase with the Govt. of Singapore to deal with issues of marketing health supplements in Singapore.  Health supplements in English packs are marketed.  Exposure to markets such as Singapore will help health supplements gain a global toehold.  Singapore is a sophisticated market, success in Singapore will help health supplements spring to other country markets!

The expanding population, knowledge feeding curious minds, and creating new desires and wants, are all interesting market drivers, which marketers take a note off.  The decreased physical activity of people in modern society is creating new markets for cardiometabolic disorders, obesity, low glycemic index products, and those that will help improve body mass index.  People want to live better and protect themselves from ill health, this need is driving hordes of health supplement marketers to provide trustworthy products for this segment.

Marketing as a game of differentiation.  With production systems expanding, value delivery is challenging process for marketers.  Marketing verily has now become a game of differentiation.  One has to make the product different from the crowd, a me-too brand cannot command high margins, the perceived value needs to be higher to command brand equity.  Brand ambassadors will help, but differentiation needs to come in a compelling manner.

Differentiation can come from the composition of ingredients in a healthcare or pharmaceutical formulation.  It can also come from the packaging and labelling, the way the product is presented to prospects and customers.  PET bottles, Tetra Pak aseptic packaging concepts, Alu-alu packs, calendar packs, tin packs ... these differentiators tell a story to target audiences, and hopefully the differentiation edge will be competitive and compelling for the customer to see it as a feasible solution to his problem.

Mobile, internet, social networking sites (mainly facebook) and e-mail have significantly impacted marketing messaging and influencing consumption patterns.  Besides the doctor, the internet is also a problem solving medium for niche segments of end-customers (whose nos. run in crores), they are looking to internet for information gathering and obtaining the wisdom of crowds for decision making.  This is influencing adoption of new and old products.

The market is a state of exchanges, happening in pharmacies, doctor chambers and internet sites.  The market is a continuously evolving place with new trends happening, always on shifting sands.  Macroeconomic indicators and factors like a good monsoon - all influence consumption patterns in the market (where exchanges take place).  A company is of the market, for the market and by the market.  Thanks for reading this blog, please recommend this blog to your acquaintances, scroll down and click on older posts, for reading all other posts!  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The development mantra

E-mamta is an exciting project of Govt. of Gujarat that is impacting mother and child health services positively.  The fact that developmental approaches are popular and striking a positive note in society is an indication to marketers on the way ahead to approach marketing problems and solve them.

The universal core of marketing problem is about increasing consumption in an ethical or responsible way.  In pharmaceutical industry it is about increasing the consumption of healthcare products.  An important avenue is by generating prescriptions in favour of the promoted generics/brands.  So how can we adopt a developmental approach to solving such marketing problems?

The development mantra!

Improvement of one's lot and positive developments in one's society is a strong desire among the laity today.  There was a time where a safe status quo was desirable by many, the need was for stability and certainty, very great developments was not the need, only stability was the need. 

However, the picture is different today, along with certainty the contemporary needs in India are for development and self-recognition, the youth longs for a platform for achieving and mirroring one's achievement.  Hence, all development oriented programs are a great hit in current society. 

Today, in the media, talent shows, or other programs that challenge status quo and seek better solutions are a great hit.

This is a major trend in society, which marketers ought to make a note of.  Today, people implementing marketing programs, for instance the field personnel (MRs, field managers etc) and the recipients of marketing messages and marketing programs desire self-development and self-recognition.  There is hunger for change in the air!

There was a time when prompt salary payments and timely reimbursements of expense statements gave a stable field force or a stable set of employees to a firm, now these are taken for granted, the youthful employees yearn to gain more, employees desire self-development and recognition, the customers also want these factors.

Development is change management

Development mindset is a different requirement from traditional mindset.  Development is constantly challenging the status quo, setting new standards, toying with paradigm shifts, creating and managing disruptive patterns, learning how to manage market disruptions and creating valuable solutions.

In the contemporary pharmaceutical market, there is a churn, with a lot of buzz on unbranded generics.  Patients and regulatory systems are seeing if it is possible to create an economical unbranded generic market.  With production sytems well in place and hypercompetitive conditions, there is scope for unbranded generics.  This will definitely stunt the growth of branded generic market, this is a new paradigm - it is not an exaggeration to call the pro-generic or unbranded market - a disruptive market force.

In Maharasthra exuberant drug regulators are preventing MRs from carrying sales stock to pharmacies (so that adjustment is not done!), non - allopaths are being prevented from prescribing allopathic drugs ... well, all these flash in the pan moves will die down.  Because societal and marketing realities are different!

Change means constant learning

It is said, minds are like parachutes, they work only when it is open!  If change has to happen -learning new forms of work, or new procedures and approaches is required,  and if learning has to take place there should be zeal for the same, it cannot come when the mindset is closed and refuses to look at things in a non-judgmental way.  Open minds are necessarily non-judgmental, if minds are judgmental, learning is difficult and change management is challenging.

How to inculcate change management?

To engineer changes, organizational flexibility is required.  Control of information by power mongers should go, disruptions should start in the internal environment!  It is not a prescription for organizational anarchy, it is about creating ferment and bombarding information or knowledge at organizational members, it is about creating a knowledge immersive environ.  Change can come only when there is knowledge energy going around.

Doing the same things won't do!

Responding to changes in the environment is normally by harping on the current approaches to a greater extent.  If gifting works, then go on increasing gifts to get better outputs!  Yes, the time-tested approaches are vital and will deliver, however, survival and growth of organization will not depend on this, it depends on weaving new strands of strategies, which will create a cachet and differentiate the value offering and thus promote top-of-mind-recall!

The marketing code is getting disrupted!

The greatest challenge to marketers today, is that the marketing code is getting disrupted!  Dept., of Pharmaceuticals wants a value based marketing approach so patients are not fleeced by the doctor-medical testing lab-pharmaceutical industry axis!  To a certain extent strict implementation of the marketing code will create some change - but the major change cannot happen, unless something more disruptive and in favour of patients is done ...

... a change in the Drugs and Magic Remedies Objectionable Advertisements Act is required!

The above out-dated act prevents "prescription only drugs" from being advertised to potential purchasers (currently advertisements targeting prescribers through medical journals is possible!).

This is the crux of the problem, bold thinking and regulatory changes are required, so that the layman atleast gets to know the brand names of the same generic drug.  Advertisements of brand names and generic should be allowed, without informing the usage or indications.  This way the purchaser can get empowered through the messages, and can ask the pharmacist to provide alternative options for a prescription drug.  This will also prevent the pharmacist from 'pushing a brand' which provides better margins to him, making the patient a sucker!

The conundrum here is that the layman is totally in the dark, the patient is hostage to the doctor-medical lab-pharmaceutical firm axis, so now is the ripe time to create disruptions and break that axis, in any case this axis is now aweary!! 

Top pharma firms are themselves tired of the unethical practices of marketing!!!  Unethical pharma marketing is now a millstone round the neck of each pharma marketer, and a disruptive force that will weaken the doctor-medical lab-pharma marketer axis will be a welcome change (for pharma marketers also)!!

Moralizing has limitations, change can come from overcoming inertia of status quo, this will require adopting the development mantra.  Mr. Narendra Modi, the development oriented CM of Gujarat is able to tide all criticisms and politico-legal problems only through his adherence to the development mantra!  A developmental approach to solve marketing problems or other organizational challenges is the need of the hour.

Hope positive developments will take the medical profession and pharmaceutical market to greater heights, with societal benefit, ethics and 'profit surges' going hand in hand.  Thanks for reading this blogpost, please recommend this blog to your acquaintances, scroll down & click on older posts wherever required to read all other posts.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

To brand or not to brand!?

Value delivery considered the core of marketing to stimulate consumption and improve market penetration, depends on the delivery of attractive, relevant, creative, persuasive, informative and timely messages.  Communication or messaging in pharmaceutical marketing is a challenging dimension.  The media of marketing messages remain print inputs, non-print inputs (like videos) and gifts or compliments that provide the interface for messaging.  When  a medical representative is involved in messaging there is an audio visual impact, the personal touch, and relationship building. All this translates into value delivery for improved sales outcomes.

Environmental developments have an impact on the process of marketing.  There is a discussion today in contemporary Indian society, on branded generics and unbranded generics - some patients are wondering why doctors are not recommending unbranded generics.  In India, right from pre-independence days, the culture of prescribing by doctors and product promotion by pharma companies has been in favour of branded generics.  The concept of unbranded generics has never taken off, simply because brands are a covenant of trust, brands are a symbol of reliability, and generate confidence, hence, doctors and patients alike prefer branded generics and unbranded generics.

The controversy is that pharmaceutical marketing processes of branded generics has created greater cost and has increased the MRP of medicines for patients.  Brands are commanding a premium compared to unbranded generics.  This is understandable.  It is however, market driven and patient (or purchaser) psychology based issue.  There are no easy solutions to this conundrum.  Pharma brands prescribed by doctors, has in fact helped improve market penetration and availability of drugs.  Since pharma brands have better profit margins than unbranded drugs, the surplus (or profits) has been reinvested by pharma entrepreneurs to launch newer brands and invest on marketing systems (including recruiting new MRs) to promote the drugs to newer doctors in newer territories.  It is this competitive situation that has helped market penetration.  If it was not for competition and pharma branding concepts, pharma companies would not have been motivated to expand to new territories for promoting products, and to promote products in new territories or launch new pharma brands, one requires monies, this comes from profits, which is through 'pharma brand' marketing.

Hence, pharma brands have not created problems in the pharma market, they in fact have helped many pharma companies to gain financial and marketing muscle, this bounty of profits has attracted many many pharma entrepreneurs, and the net result is that pharma products are available in plenty in India.

Imagine you have unbranded iodised salt and Tata iodised salt, any purchaser, would go in for the branded Tata salt, if he can afford it and not for the unbranded iodised salt packet.  This is because branded pharma products have a picture of reliability and win the confidence of buyers, prescribers and prospects.

The long and short of this matter, is that pharma brands are not an immoral part of the pharma industry, in fact, they are the pillars of growth of pharma industry.  If the unbranded generics market has to grow in India, it is not only competitive market forces which will make it happen, but it is also incumbent on the Govt., to provide unbranded options for patients.  This sort of scenario will further impel pharma marketers to offer quality corporate branded - pharma generic products (eg., Merck generics: Merck Paracetamol; Cipla Ibuprofen, Micro Metformin, Juggat Atenolol etc).  ONE CANNOT GET AWAY FROM BRANDING!  Even if the unbranded generic market is given incentives or encouragement to grow, corporate branding will start to happen - eg., in the chip industry, INTEL INSIDE is a famous branding example in a commodity based market.  Branding is what a marketer will inevitably do to secure his market interests.

There was a time when chakki atta was always an unbranded industry, however, with economic liberalization, branded attas have started becoming a part of the market.  When this sort of a branding phenomenon has become commonplace in commodity sector, and branded offerings becoming the norm to provide differentiation and create loyal customer pools, can pharma brands, which have been there ever since the pharma industry was born in India, be wished away?!!

Branding in pharmaceutical industry will take a new avatar if unbranded generics are encouraged by the Govt.  Corporate branding of unbranded generics will start to happen.

Raymonds is the premium clothes maker, the brand name gives the product its value, one cannot argue that unbranded clothes will be cheaper hence, unbranded clothes are more moral!  Unbranded markets and branded markets will always be there and they will co-exist.  Choice will be that of buyers.

The distinction between clothes and medicines is that the prospective buyer of clothes is the recipient of advertising messages, the people marketing medicines however, spend all marketing energies and communication towards the doctor, who does not consume the medicines, he only recommends them.  Hence, the format of pharma product communication creates a foundation for "hand-in-glove" relationships between pharma marketer and doctor.  

The Govt., if at all, should find ways and means to ensure that the patient too is brought into the circle of communication.  Why should a patient blindly buy what the doctor recommends, what are patient rights?  Why can't the patient exercise brand options or even discuss with a doctor for some other drug options?  Patient empowerment is the new thrust area that regulators and healthcare marketers need to focus on.

We live in a wired world, the internet and various other communication media have caused the collapse of  information float, today, people have good means to solve problems through information search, and problem solving is sophisticated and easier.

Marketers are essentially successful if they help in this problem solving behaviour of doctors and patients.  If marketers start to use various modern communication tools to participate in problem solving processes of doctors and patients, it will take marketing messaging to new highs and create a new way of delivering value for improved sales outcomes.

Brands are and were a part of the solution to various problems associated with assurance of quality, creating confidence in prescribers, patients and purchasers, and providing reliability in a health sensitive sector.  A bad drug can destroy the life of a patient, hence, doctors and others want reliability, which happens through quality and branding.  Brands are covenants of trust.

Branding cannot be wished away, simply  because brands are a part of the solution in problem solving by doctors, patients and purchasers.

So if the idea is that by promoting the sale of unbranded drugs, MRP can be reduced and access to medicines achieved to promote patient welfare, then the solution is not complete, it goes against human psychology which wants certainty and reliability.

If unbranded product generics should click, branding should come from elsewhere, eg., it can be from a branded retail chain which sells a bouquet of cheaper unbranded drugs (eg., TRUST GENERICS from Trust medical stores of Bangalore or Medplus generics etc), or from a corporate umbrella brand which sells a series of unbranded drugs (eg., Micro generics, or Juggat generics etc).

Like it or hate it, in today's contemporary society and market conditions, branding is a necessity, only the choice of the form of branding has to be decided, eg., it can be umbrella corporate branding or product branding or other types of branding!  The answer to the question, to brand or not to brand is very clear, in fact, there is no choice, you have to brand!!  Brands deliver value to prescribers, intermediaries, manufacturers, purchasers and end users!

Thanks for reading this write-up on branding and its inevitability, please scroll down and read all other articles, please click on older posts as and when required, also recommend this blog to your acquaintances!!