Wednesday, May 10, 2017


The logo defined

A logo (or logotype) is a design or symbol used by an organization to identify its products, programs, corporate identity and so on.  The graphical mark called logo helps identify a company, product, brand, or organization.  A logo may be a wordmark or shape or combination…it is used to help impress target audiences, create a memory hook, build trust, strengthen brand registration and recall, provoke purchase-pull, and adds to the intangible assets of a company.  A logo is part of the overall branding process and the brand itself.

A logo is responsible for recognition and trust building, when appropriately used in marketing communication.  TV channels have standardized logos to help viewers locate and stay on with the broadcast content.  Logos of TV channels build up a reputation for standing up to certain values and offerings.  Egs.,: the logo of MTV stands for English music and is youth-centric nature.  CNN stands for accurate and stylish newscast.  Recognition through logos makes a customer or prospect comfortable with the offered product or service.

Logo marketing for differentiation

Logos can go a long way in creating differentiation, trust and market-pull.  The best logo example is the green dot for vegetarian food packs and red dot for non-vegetarian food packs.  This has helped customers make their choice.  Similarly, ISI is a special mark indicating the acceptable and approved quality of a product.  The logo concept builds identity, trust, and reputation, and has helped in consumption of products.

The marketing of products with logos that stand for a certain assurance of quality or function helps in strengthening customer choice towards the marketed brand.  A logo is a graphical representation of a brand promise.  The successful marketing of a product is boosted by a recognized and trust-inspiring logo.

A new market segment and a new logo based system of marketing

Pharma companies have to make the inevitable choice to offer lower priced branded generics (these can be through umbrella branding or individual product branding), given the push for such products by Governmental policy makers.  There is sufficient evidence that an ecosystem for ‘lower priced branded generics or unbranded generics’ is being encouraged by the Govt. of India.  Hence, it is essential to wise up to this new market trend.  To enable brands, in this new market segment, gain recognition and trust at patient level, uniform brand colours, fonts and brand presentation needs to be done.  Along with this, the development of a logo will go a long way to sustain repeat purchases by customers and attract prospects towards the promoted branded or unbranded generic range of a company.

If the government is serious on building a “low cost generic (branded or unbranded) market” it can also launch a logo similar to ISI and encourage pharmaceutical suppliers to use this logo on their products to enhance patient/customer trust


The logo concept does to this new generic pharma market segment, what the MTV logo does to their TV channel.  NEW MARKET CHANNEL … NEW LOGO!!


One interesting logo concept used by Bangalore based Group Pharmaceuticals:

The above is a logo for assurance of quality and reinforces brand identity of the dental range from this company. 

The following are interesting newspaper article foto posts on the raging generic medicines issue, a logo concept will certainly help differentiate low cost branded or unbranded generic medicine offerings by various companies (including Jan Aushadhi) for ensuring quality, trust, purchase-pull, and building reputation.

The first one is from Deccan Herald, page no. 11, second and third ones are from Business Standard, 4.5.17, page no. 12

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The whey forward! Emotional triggers!!

Interesting article on whey from this link: click here!

Emotional triggers hold the key for sales.  For example, consider a milk-mix beverage like Horlicks: when a person uses/buys the brand, he or she is emotionally triggered positively by the aroma, warm memories of the brand, taste, health benefits (such as strong bones or energy or boost to immunity), and other confidence generating features of the brand, and so on… It is the marketer’s challenge to create such emotional triggers in the marketed brand so that prospects are converted to customers, and customers stay with the brand.

How to keep triggering the emotions to ensure successful purchase of the brand?

Companies and brands need to ride with the trends to ensure they keep prospects & customers emotionally interested in the offerings.  Positive emotions need to be generated by the brand – this keeps the brands fresh in minds of the target audience.  Thus, more prospects get converted and the customer bandwagon keeps on increasing.

Keeping with the contemporary trends by tweaking the brand messaging, packaging, creating line extensions etc, means the brand remains ceaselessly relevant to the customer.  Trends should match the core benefit of the brand.  All brand positioning and promotional activities are meant to strengthen the trust on the marketer’s brand(s).

Trust: cornerstone of pharma brand success

Pharma brands of the off-patent generics are successful in India, as they have won the trust of doctors (influencers) and patients.  Trust and feel-good factor make the pen habits.  Continuous product promotion to feed the trust and feel-good factor on the brand, reinforces pen habits of doctors.

Today, a welter of conversations on pharma brands is sabotaging the success of pharma brands.  It is the most CREATIVE OPPORTUNITY for pharma marketers to come out with campaigns to reinforce doctor’s pen habits and patient confidence.

Each brand is built on a foundation of trust (reliability) and brand benefits.  Contributors to this brand salience are -

a)      Quality – that the product meets certain predetermined standards (eg., uniform content tablet to tablet, amount of active ingredient in each unit dosage form, quality and type of excipeints in the formulation etc)
b)     Consistency – is another brand expectation.  Patrons, patients and doctors always choose time-tested moieties and brands to deliver therapeutic benefits
c)     Value for money – this is the point that needs to be emphasized upon.  It is time for pharma brands to talk on the brand attributes and service inputs, and justify the price for the brand.  Justification of price comes through convincing communication to doctors and patients.  For eg., when a patient buys brand A of paracetamol, the pack or strip or labeling or pack insert should reinforce the value of brand A: this can be done through reinforcing messages like: EACH SECOND SOMEONE SOMEWHERE - A PATIENT IS BUYING A TABLET OF BRAND A…trust Brand A. 

Today it is the time for brand reinforcing messages at level of patients also.  For which, technology needs to be used.
There are several challenges to trust building on the pharma horizon, the chief three being:

a)      US FDA Form 483 observations on manufacturing operations
b)      Policy shift regarding branded generics (non-patented drugs)
c)      GST implementation

Let us focus on the 'whammo (b)', with high cost branded generics now being bandied as a bad idea for patient economics - so what is the way forward for the multitude of pharma companies ?

1)      Trust building communiques (perhaps in packaging and pack inserts itself for patients and other collaterals for doctors) regarding the technological advantages, clinical case studies and trials on the brand, and brand surety - is certain to protect brands
2)      Launch of products that do not have much me-too competition and at the same time having growth potential (to gain scale) is another approach
3)      Another is 'going along with trends'…

One such novel idea is looking at whats’ trending in the marketplace: THE VMHS opportunity  

A McKinsey report of Dec 2013 says, (even at that time 4 years back) the global VMHS (Vitamins, Minerals, Nutritional and herbal supplements) market was valued at 82 billion USD.  EU, Japan and America are big nutraceutical markets.  Electronic developments like the internet have caused the collapse of information float, creating the empowered patient and customer, who uses word-of-mouth and internet based knowledge for choosing health promoting products.  There is an overall emphasis on preventative health (this is an important point for promoters of DENTAL CARE PRODUCTS).  This is the opportunity that business models can bank on and recreate a positive pathway for business success.

There are many nutraceutical concepts: polyphenol based formulations, health beverages, vitamin-mineral formulations, green tea concept (EGCG polyphenol)… and one can also see a WHEY FORWARD!

Dairy industry: milk and milk derived products are traditionally popular in India.  Lord Krishna was “maakhan chor” (he liked butter), and, in contemporary times, paneer (cottage cheese) is popular too for daily use.  India is the largest producer of milk in the world.  India accountsfor 9.5% of world’s production of milk!  In 2015 – 2016 financial year, India produced 155.50 tonnes of milk.

Milk offers an interesting culturally popular basis for nutraceuticals in India: whey, lactose, milk mineral concentrate, and milk proteins are part of the dairy industry products.

Milk is a good source of protein containing 9 essential amino acids - 82% of milk protein is casein and remaining is serum whey protein (18%).  

Casein is a collection of phosphorous containing casein subtype proteins (eg., alpha – s1 etc), casein proteins are suspended in milk.  Phosphoprotein casein is richly present in cheese.  Hydrolyzed casein is used to some extent in nutritional powders, however, it has a taste problem

The serum whey proteins do not contain phosphorous, this family of proteins contains subtypes like lactoglobulin, lactoferrin, alpha lact albumin etc.

Whey is largely produced as a liquid offshoot of cheese production (upto 95%), and whey is also obtained when casein is produced (upto 5%).  Whey is the liquid left over, after milk has been curdled and strained.  Whey is incorporated into products of various categories: infant nutrition, sports nutrition, clinical and medical nutrition.

The dominant type of whey production is in form of Whey Powder (WP) (about 70% of world production is WP, excluding lactose powder and permeate powder), and a fast growing type is Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) – the latter has a protein concentration of 50 to 89%.  The globally well accepted form of WPC is WPC 80 (ie., 80% protein).

While WPC 80 is a popular form of whey protein - WPI (Whey Protein Isolate), also has high acceptance in milk based formulations.

Lactose powder or milk sugar is a disaccharide – contains two sugar molecules (glucose + galactose).  This milk derived product is used in infant formulae, animal feeds, for standardization of milk, pharmaceutical uses (diluent and for compressibility of tablets), confectionary and chocolate…Lactose (2 to 8% of milk) is extracted from whey.

Milk mineral concentrate (MMC or milk calcium) is also derived from pasteurized whey.  This form contains milk calcium and other minerals in optimal amounts:  magnesium, phosphate, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, and vitamin D. 

Milk permeate powder is derived from skimmed pasteurized cow’s milk and protein is extracted from this.  Similarly there is whey permeate powder. 

So milk is not just about healthy taste, it is very much about offering well absorbed milk proteins for growth, development and immunity 


A)    Elderly, for helping avoid muscle loss
B)    Children, for health and growth
C)    Dieters, since milk proteins are a source of lean nutrition and increase satiety (also decrease cravings, hence useful in diabetics too)
D)    Sports personnel, for muscle building and recovery from work-outs.

Best of all, it is the unbeatable cultural acceptance of milk and milk-derived ingredients across India that makes this concept attractive.

While there may be a shift from high cost branded generics to low cost branded and low cost unbranded generics - in the pharma market, a concomitant development will be a growing nutraceutical market in India.  Indian pharma companies will surely weather this storm (in a tea cup?) and continue the winning streak through generics (formulations) and nutraceuticals in the global market.

However, a word of caution: it is wise if policy makers tread with care when changing policies.  And any policy change should be delivered with care…and the policy should not become a bull in a China shop.

Emotional triggers are very vital for any purchase or prescribing decision.  Emotional triggers need to be thoughtfully delivered.  Milk and milk derived ingredients are culturally acceptable; hence, there is an emotional trigger in-built in this category.  Similarly, herbs have good cultural acceptance and positive emotional appeal.  Thus products designed with in-built emotional triggers is the whey forward!!

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please read other posts by scrolling down, and click on older posts to read further; kindly recommend this blog to your acquaintances!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 2017: Marketing in a generics-rich environ

The above image from here: Yellow bulbs!

There is never a dull day in the pharma marketer’s life!  Respected Mr. N Modi, PM of India, has sent shivers down the spine of pharma marketers - on 17.4.17 at Surat during a hospital inauguration: Mr. Modi announced in his speech there that the central govt. will bring in a law to ensure doctors prescribe generic drugs (Ref.: The Times of India, page no. 1 headline, Ahmedabad edition).  The reference was that doctors should write unbranded generic drug names on prescriptions ie., for example, doctor will not prescribe Dolo 650, he has to prescribe paracetamol 650 mg! 

Now let us remember, almost entire of Indian pharma market is the branded generics market, which is promoted to doctors.  Pharma companies have built their fortunes and gained huge shareholder value on the basis of pen habit of doctors to prescribe branded medicines (me-too products) and earned profits.  This has helped pharma companies to recruit field personnel to expand operations, ensured market penetration of quality products to the nook and corner of Indian pharma market; this has helped pharma companies build manufacturing set-ups, and export products to almost every country of the world.  And pharma companies have also started R and D endeavours.

Overnight, with the PM's announcement, this pharma business model is under threat by the envisaged law.  No more will a doctor prescribe Taxim, he will write cefixime 500 mg, it is upto the patient and pharmacist to ensure the consumption of this drug, either unbranded generic or any one of the branded options available with the pharmacist.

Now, if the law that is to come, allows the doctor to prescribe both paracetamol 650 mg and his recommended brand in brackets eg., (Dolo 650), then there is some steam left in the branded generics pharma market space promoted to doctors.


During 1950s, the medical representative (MR) visit was a most welcome entry for the doctor.  Probably he would get one medical representative visit every day in urban areas, and in semi-rural and rural visits, if at all a MR would visit, the doctor would get a MR visit may be once a week.  Hence, the MR with his product updates and samples was a welcome presence to the doctor.

From 1970s, with product patent regime being abandoned (thanks to the Indian Patents Act, 1970), (the product patent was re-introduced in 2005), me-too product manufacturers and marketers burgeoned.  More medical representatives started entering the doctor’s clinics, bonus offers earlier unheard off…became a rage, pharmacies also started pushing brands that offered better margins or free goods (sales promotional offers).  As the number of medical representatives started increasing, the leverage was with the doctor, and he started gratefully accepting various quid-pro-quo gifts from pharma marketers.  Those who were aggressive in gifting grew rapidly…this story continued into 1980s.  However, there were also some pharma marketers who were not gifting or providing sponsorships adventurously.

The late 1980s, and 1990s saw the earlier conservative companies, shed their shyness, throw their ethics out of the window, since they saw their counterpart companies who provided gifts and bonus offers growing humongous, and got into the gifting and sponsoring of doctors gameplan.  Various wannabe biggie companies also started playing with penetration pricing to garner market share.  CRM (customer relationship management) was the core of pharma marketing.  PCD (propaganda cum distribution) companies started taking root and gained traction in the first decade of 21st century.  The party has become bigger and bigger.

Doctors are splurged; several unconfirmed legendary CRM activities make rounds during marketing “gupshup”:

a)   After the formal cocktail dinner launch of a breakthrough brand of antiulcerant, important doctors were given keys to a luxury car… and prescribers who were gifted their four wheels left broadly smiling
b)      Another leading doctor working for psycho-somatic health of patients, was given enough cars by various companies – one car for each day of the week!  And the day the doctor takes out a certain car, on that day the pharma brands belonging to the car gift-giver would roll out of the pen of the doctor
c)   Sponsored foreign tours for families and other indulgences in the foreign tours engrossed doctor fraternity and brands paraded in their minds
d)     Sponsorship of get-togethers, cocktail dinners and various other meetings masqueraded under the garb of CMEs (Continuing Medical Education)

And it goes on and on and on…each pharma marketer vying with each other to give and take…for mutual gains with the medical fraternity.


Consumption of medicines is decided by the doctor, in the current situation, it is by prescribing the branded generic.  If a doctor prescribes brand X, the patient buys it.  The patient has implicit trust on the doctor (the medical professional earlier definitely had a demi-God status in Indian society) and obediently goes with the doctor’s brand recommendation.  The result is pharma marketers who take care of doctor’s needs enjoy better sales outcomes and profits.

In this business, the patient does not make any choice between brands with the same generic drug.  It is the doctor’s business to choose the pharma brand for the patient.  But the payer is the patient!

Ignorance of brand options with same generic drug, lack of will by patient to exercise brand options, and non-encouragement by the environment to choose alternative brands or unbranded generics are the main reasons why patients go along obediently with the doctor’s brand recommendation.

This pussy footing by the patient provides an opportunity for the doctor to use his influence with patients and encourage consumption of his favoured brands.  And this gives an opportunity for the doctor to strike quid-pro-quo relationships with pharma brand marketers!  And both the pharma company and doctor enjoy the benefits of pharma brand sales, thanks to a very co-operative attitude of the patient.


Pharma brands are built by the doctors prescriptions, if a doctor gets 1000 to 2500 patient visits per month (average of 40 to 100 patient visits per day; 25 working days per month), and prescribes an average of four assorted pharma brands per patient, then, 4000 to 10000 pharma brand purchases have happened (it will not be 4000 to 10000 different brands, there will certainly be a number of repeated overlapping brands) - a doctor after all, may be able to remember maximum 100 to 200 different pharma brands? 

So the idea for the pharma marketer, is to be among the 100 to 200 brands or so,  which a doctor remembers (certainly some brands are etched permanently in the doctor's mind ‘non-volatile ROM brands’ and others are ‘volatile RAM brands’, the latter are the brands that float in and out of the doctor’s mind, depending on the regularity of product promotional activity). 

It is then vital to gain patronage of the doctor, and ensure the promoted pharma brands sell.  Thus, prescribing the pharma brand name is key to commercial success of a pharma company.

GENERIC PRESCRIPTIONS: death-knell for the pharma brand business

The ruling BJP party and Mr. N Modiji are focused on winning elections, the next big one is the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.  To gather votes, they need to say a story of doing good to their voters, mainly the middle class and poor sections of society.  Capping the prices of stents has endeared the govt. to the masses.  Now ensuring purchase of unbranded generic medicines, which are available at rock bottom rates will further make the government voter friendly.  There is a good talking point here for the ruling party.

a)    Branded generics promoted to doctors (these carry maximum premium (high MRP) and are hugely prescribed by doctors)
b)      Branded generics not promoted to doctors, sold by pharmacies to patients, and also purchased by dispensing doctors who sell them to patients
c)  Unbranded generics not promoted to doctors sold by pharmacies to patients, and also purchased by doctors who sell them to patients.

In developed countries, the patient is not ignoramus.  The doctor has to justify his recommendation to patients.  Normally, prescriptions are for unbranded generics in developed countries.  Many of these unbranded generic medicines sold in developed countries are manufactured in India and marketed abroad.

However, in India, it is a time-honoured practice to manufacture and market, branded generics and the prescriber chooses to patronize certain brands of his choice based on the doctor’s experience with the technology and quality of the brand, and marketing inputs provided by the pharma marketer.  The Indian patient is ignorant of his ability to make a choice between branded and unbranded generics.


The answer is yes and no!  Brands of the same category are chemically equivalent (contain the same quantity of the active ingredient).  However, there can be important differences.  This is with the excipients and the manufacturing process parameters of the brand.  For example, if you compare the dissolution profile of albendazole tablets, you may be surprised; Zentel from GSK is said to have the best profile.  Similarly, Advanced Crocin has certain excipients to improve dissolution and consequent absorption of paracetamol into the bloodstream, when ingested.

Pharma brands are also presented in unique differentiating ways that improves patient acceptance and brand salience.  The shape at the mouth of bottle in oral pharma formulations may aid pourability, use of certain permitted colours and flavouring agents also enhances patient acceptance, use of Alu-alu pack by certain pharma brands (may not be used by plain vanilla unbranded generic medicines) enhances patient compliance and patient acceptance.  Pharma brand marketers work on differentiating their products through value added excipients to improve organoleptic qualities (improved patient acceptance through mouth-feel, flavour, texture, odour, colour and taste); these are not a consideration in plain vanilla unbranded pharma products.

Though brands may be chemically equivalent, or even proven to be bio-equivalent, yet brand performance may not be same; and brand acceptance at patient level will not be same.  Furthermore, doctor’s confidence will not be same on each brand.  It depends on the doctor’s experience with the brand, technology used in the brand, and patient feedback to the doctor on the brand.

IS IT RIGHT TO DO ‘DEBRANDIZATION’ (brand-bandi in doctor's prescriptions) OF INDIAN PHARMA MARKET? 

Patient health, recovery and well-being are paramount for medicine marketers and doctors.  Quid-pro-quo relationships are at one level, but patient recovery & well-being (public health) is the non-negotiable foundation where pharma marketers, doctors and other stakeholders such as regulatory agencies agree to be on one page.

So the fundamental question to ask is, whether promotion of unbranded generic medicines - will improve public health?

The merits of ‘debrandization’ in pharma market:

a)      People will come to know of availability of unbranded generic and branded generic medicines (which are not promoted to doctors), so this option will gain traction; and patients can exercise this option if they wish
b)      Doctor-pharma marketer relationship will become “cleaner”
c)   PCD (propaganda cum distribution) companies who are known to offer robust services to doctors in exchange for their prescription or purchase support, will end
d)     Accessibility will improve
e)      Cost of therapy will come down.

The demerits of ‘debrandization’ in Indian pharma market:

a)      The current pharma marketing business model will collapse
b)    Shares of big pharma listed companies whose business depends on pharma brands will fall steeply
c)      Industry turnover will fall
d)     If the doctor stops prescribing branded medicines, medical representatives will not meet them, many medical representative jobs will be lost
e)      Companies will reduce jobs in marketing (particularly field jobs)
f)     Field personnel will focus on chemist retailers than doctors, offer incentives and freebies to retailers to stock and push their products (as per the Times of India, 19.4.17, page no. 19, Mumbai edition, retail margin on drugs may be as high as 1000%, this will stress pharma marketers, as they have to offer competitive margins and offers, this will erode financial strength of pharma companies)
g)   Innovation and technology improvements will not occur, all pharma companies will go for manufacturing the plain vanilla formulations (without any improvements), it will become a commodity game
h)      Quality will become a question issue.  For instance drugs (APIs) and excipients are available at various crystalline purities, and the manufacturer will go in for lowest acceptable crystal purity (only economy will weigh on the mind of manufacturer)
i)        Packaging will be passé and will not offer any improved benefits to patients
j)    With profit margin squeeze, companies will not have adequate surplus monies to invest on geographic expansion, export ventures, product development, R and D, new molecule research, social marketing etc
k)   Companies will reduce emphasis on launch and marketing of modern medicines, they will prefer to invest on nutraceuticals and Ayurvedic formulations.  These will not be affected by the proposed law (in fact, Himalaya Drug Company and other such companies will go laughing all the way to the bank, while rest of pharma will be stressed).  Besides Ayurvedic formulations and nutraceuticals can be advertised.  We will lose our standing, competence, global edge and knowledge of manufacturing and marketing of modern medicines
l)      In case of branded formulations containing multiple ingredients such as Becosules Z, it will be virtually impossible for the doctor to write names of generic drugs or vitamins/minerals included in the formulation on his prescription
m)  Monitoring the implementation of this ‘generic name only law’ for prescribers is nearly impossible…let us say there are about 10 lakh active prescribers (across India), and let us assume, every working day these 10 lakh active prescribers write about 50 prescriptions each.  This means 5 crore prescriptions per day!  And for 25 working days, it is 125 crore prescriptions per month!!  Are you going to monitor this?!!
n)      If a doctor writes some brand names, and in India where there is a situation of less number of doctors, and more patients, what punishment are you going to administer?  Prevent them from practising?
o) If medical representatives and field personnel lose jobs, in a country where under/unemployment is high, is this initiative worth it?  Please remember marketing creates more jobs than manufacturing or R and D (in pharma field)
p)    Doctors may give oral recommendations for brands, or unsigned slips containing brand names, or pharmacies will push certain brands on oral recommendation of doctors … there are ways to beat this law…
q)  There could be legal challenges to this ‘debrandization’ as it takes away the freedom to promote branded products and recommend them
r)   Patients may be unhappy with the generic name prescriptions since the doctor is not prescribing “quality brands” (it is a matter of freedom of choice and many patients want quality brands…brands are the covenants of trust)
s)    Patients and patient attenders may be upset with the tongue twister and complex generic names of medicines, in comparison to cute, easy to recall, easy to pronounce and easy to remember brand names of medicinal products.


PESTEL standing for political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal environment is always in a state of flux, depending on the various happenings on the PESTEL front, pharma organisations will respond in various ways: 

a)  Some will adopt the wait and watch, others will lead a counter response through various forums like IDMA and KDPMA; few others will use their good offices with various authorities and present their viewpoints.  Some others will present their take on social media and talk to the media
b)    Companies will start investing on new marketing technology to strengthen their patient-centric communication, and strengthen CORPORATE EQUITY and PRODUCT EQUITY at patient-level.
c)      There will be a rise in OTX (over-the-counter and prescription) route of marketing (including communication/advertising/digital messaging to patients) to strengthen sales outcomes; also OTX products will be launched in a rush: ayurvedic, dental, nutritional powders, nutritional supplements, health soaps, and other nutraceutical products (including in unique packaging like Tetra Pak based products or products with unique concepts like virgin coconut oil)
d)  A chemist-focused and dispensing-doctor focused working will be emphasised to ensure product availability
e)   Companies will go in for umbrella branding, umbrella brand colour concept, and uniform packaging for creating market identity for their products; so that chemist/pharmacy retail-push/pull will start; pharma marketers will also go in for launch and pushing unbranded generics and branded generics (low cost, that are not promoted to doctors)
f)     Companies will increase no. of medical representative calls to pharmacies (eg., 15 per day) and reduce doctor calls (to say 5 per day)
g)      Companies will probably rationalize field personnel count and coverage, and consolidation of divisions/SBUs etc., to reduce costs
h)    Companies will invest more on chemist coverage, example: paying chemists/pharmacies to book shelf space for their products, offer freebies to chemists, & having field personnel to cover more chemists/pharmacies and dispensing doctors
i)   Some companies with deep pockets may start their chain of pharmacies (for eg., Cipla pharmacy), and will also emphasize online pharmacy marketing toos
j)   Companies will invest more to make patented medicines, products with novel drug delivery systems or products that do not have many me-too products...

What may the Govt. do?

a)      Govt., may tighten doctor-pharma marketer relationships with new laws
b)      Govt., may ask doctors to write generic names only on prescriptions
c)   Govt., may ask doctors to write the generic names and the brand name alternative (in brackets), so that the patient will have an option to buy the generic name product if he wants or go ahead with the doctor’s choice of a branded product or the patient may choose another branded product, a company of his choice.

It would be prudent to go the option C, since it meets governmental requirements, patient psychology, doctor’s confidence and liberty, and Indian pharma industry traditions.

Thanks for reading this blogpost, please read other posts by scrolling down, and click on older posts to read further; kindly recommend this blog to your acquaintances!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Messaging and relationship management

Pharma Marketing has two major limbs: messaging and relationship management.  With technology having a profound impact on marketing process, new dimensions and possibilities emerge on the pharma marketing horizon.  Consider the following graphic of pharma messaging and relationship management:

The above graphic describes the conventional messaging architecture; however, technology enables us to provide messaging penetration.

Let us imagine, a MR (Medical Representative) manages 100 doctors, and each doctor prescribes the promoted brands to 10 patients/month (it can be any number of products).  Thus, in a month the MR gets about 1000 patients who consume the promoted brands.

In reality, it will not as perfect as above.  Alternatively, there can be 80 doctors giving 60% of the business or even the classical Pareto’s rule: 80:20.  But this point is only as a caveat.

In today’s scenario, most messaging and relationship management efforts are directed to the doctor (prescriber or influencer) for pharmaceutical products. 

In the messaging arena, the MR indulges in detailing of three types:

a)      Visual aid detailing (or using some other collateral)
b)      Extempore detailing
c)      Dialogue detailing with Yes momentum.

The realities and challenges to the MR in using the face-to-face in-clinic messaging routine are many: the well-established doctor gets atleast 300 different MRs every month.  This is about 12 MRs per day (and if repeat calls by MRs are factored in, it could be more than 300 MR calls per month to the doctor). 

If each MR is given 5 minutes by the doctor, then, it works out to: 12 MRs X 5 minutes = 60 minutes per day!  Now if a doctor is seeing 50 to 100 patients per day, you can well imagine whether he can afford to provide the 60 minutes to MRs, the doctor probably will offer only 60 seconds on a routine day (elevator pitch and no more!).  It is not an exaggeration to state that it is a great challenge for a routine MR to obtain adequate time and mind-space of the doctor!!

In fact, if the doctor gives 5 minutes per MR (and he has 12 MRs visiting per day, it is 60 minutes per day), then for 25 working days, the time for MRs would become 25 hours!  It is doubtful if a doctor can afford so much time to MRs.

Pharma companies are attempting to work round this problem, these days pharma companies give their MRs only about 100 to 150 or less than 100 doctors to manage in a month, and there is emphasis on servicing, client management and repeat calls.  In the 1990s and earlier, each MR would have to call on 250 to 300 different doctors per month.

To compound the problem of a hasty doctor call made by the typical MR, is the fact that he does not normally use this limited time effectively - due to lack of application of communication skills, discouragement by doctors to apply his detailing skills, and to top it all there is an overall dip in basic work skills of MRs, in today’s pharma world.


To overcome, such challenges, pharma marketers are on the earnest and constant look-out to use as many means of messaging and relationship management.  This includes in-booth or in-stall activity, sponsoring CMEs, advertising on websites, and print and e- medical journals…all to get valuable mindspace for brand messaging and relationship management.

Application of digital and other modern technologies to doctor-centric messaging and relationship management have limited scope, since doctors are hard – pressed for time.  Doctors find it difficult to balance their professional pressures, need for constant updation of knowledge and their personal lives.  Hence, application of tech enabled marketing messaging is difficult when it comes to doctors. 

One approach would be to gift a doctor a digital assistant that provides drug information (such as safety in pregnancy, drug-drug interactions etc on a portable palm top…and when a doctor checks up a drug the brand messaging can be done on the screen shot or at other points).  Nevertheless, these devices may not be patronized by the doctor constantly, since most of the patient cases are handled by his expertise and doctors may not need a digital knowledge or prompter crutch.  Young doctors may however find it a fancy for sometime atleast.

For relationship management with doctors, the time-honoured methods are appreciating and providing positive strokes, giving samples, knowledge and brand updates (through literatures, reminder cards, CDs etc), small gifts, sponsorships, and ensuring medical representation is pleasing and regular.  Such a MR call will ensure goodwill and catalyse doctors to favour the promoted brands.

All in all, it boils down to a very challenging script to implement modern digital non-MR formats of messaging and relationship management.


The marvels of information technology are such that it can catalyse messaging penetration to all other stakeholders! 

Consider the following hypothetical example:

Let us say in above graphic, 1000 patients are prescribed either an anti-diabetic brand or an antihypertensive or an antibiotic.  Now most of the pharmacies are nearby/adjoining the clinic, or at the hospital where the doctor prescribes.  And when the patient presents the prescription, a software “sitting atop the billing software” collects the patient’s mobile number and email/postal address (this is entered by the pharmacist who feeds the information after obtaining permission from the patient/patient attender.  For this effort the pharmacist can be given points, which can then be converted to a gift from the pharma company). 

The information thus collected from the pharmacist, is then sent by the pharmacist through autoemail or uploading (through wifi) onto the pharma company’s server. 

Using this information, the pharma company then sends regular brand sponsored messages that motivate the patient to take care of his or her health, or health tips through sms, or dosage reminders through sms, or reminders to take the medication before food and so on. 

This patient-centric messaging activity that is technology enabled, thus takes the pharma company’s messaging activity to the next level, adding depth to the messaging format of the company.  Brand registration, brand goodwill and brand loyalty are also built through this messaging format at the patient level. 

This database can also be used for inviting patients for health related events conducted by the pharma company either by themselves or in collaboration with health NGOs.  Example, a free yoga course for diabetics or a talk on millets and sampling dishes made from millets for diabetics…the possibilities are only limited by resources and imagination!

This is not an additional marketing cost to the pharma company, it is brand building through ethical marketing messaging penetration upto the patient level.  This approach will help secure the patients who are on the company’s brands.  Further, this avenue of patient-centric messaging and relationship management will help make up for the challenges in pharma marketing to doctors.  This will earn pharma brand owners great goodwill and brand loyalty (and strengthen corporate equity too).

One can loop the doctor in above communication strategies and events.

Cross-selling opportunity:  If an antibiotic is prescribed to patient X and if this registers on the pharma company site through the pharmacy, there is an opportunity to touch base with the patient to cross-promote a safe nutritional supplement (eg., a B complex vitamin tablet or a health drink containing a pro/prebiotic to strengthen the gut, overall well-being and energy of the patient, since antibiotics do cause weakness and other side-effects.).  The database verily opens up an opportunity for cross-selling of various nutritionals or allied products (eg., a specially formulated toothpaste for diabetics (mouth is the index of the body!)), or aids (such as diabetes friendly slippers etc), or even special foods such as VCO (virgin coconut oil)!  If an antifungal is prescribed, a special antiseptic soap can be promoted!!

While mapping data of patient purchase behaviour from the pharmacy is a fool-proof approach, since the sale of a target brand has actually occurred, patient – centric communication can also be generated from the doctor, if he is persuaded to upload patient data on company website. 

Certainly, there can be more than one approach to collecting patient – centric data and then adopting brand messaging approaches.

A unique challenge in India, is the language … one must find a method to message patients in the preferred language of the patient!

The central idea of marketing is to devise methods to create, communicate and deliver value so that customers are created, retained, and the exchange process is catalysed, benefiting all stakeholders.  Marketing is also about product penetration and increasing through-put from a customer.  The soul of marketing is creating customer delight.  Patient – centric communication as described above is another foray into the ever dynamic world of creating confidence and satiety in patients.  Thus, in the above hypothetical model we see a certainly ‘doable’ patient-centric brand communication and brand bonding exercise.  It is an example of marketing message penetration, taking the brand message next level, to patients through modern technology.

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