Grow Talent, Grow Brands

Month: November, 2012

Differentiate by Design and Delivery!

In a crowded, hyper-competitive marketplace such as branded generics in India, differentiation is not something nice-to-have, it is rather mandatory. You cannot make a direct frontal attack on the brand leaders, who are firmly entrenched.

If you wanted to introduce an antacid brand in the 1980s or early 1990s, you could not venture to compete head-on with Digene or Gelusil. That would be setting on a collision course. You could, however take a different position, but that would mean creating a much-needed differentiation in your brand and make it stand out distinctly. The differentiation, of course, should be relevant, meaningful and perceived.

The Case of pH4

Biological E. Limited, in 1987 introduced a new antacid that jostled for space among a crowd of 151 brands in a ₹ 450 million-large antacid, anti-flatulent market. the company knew beforehand that it could not fight brand leaders: Digene of Boots (now part of Abbott), which had a market share of 19.9 per cent and Gelusil of Warner Hindustan (now part of Pfizer), which had a market share of 13.1 per cent, head-on. Therefore the company chose to create a perceptible product differentiation. It created differentiation in a number of ways – brand name, formulation, flavor, packaging, promotion, etc.

  1. The differentiation strategy started with the brand name itself. It christened its product with a highly suggestive, distinct name pH4, which suggests that it normalizes gastric pH, which is the treatment goal in hyperacidity as the normal gastric pH is 4. You cannot come up with a better and more appropriate name for an antacid.
  2. The company formulated the product differently with different active ingredients megaldrate and methylpolysiloxane while the rest of the antacids contained aluminium hydroxide gel and magnesium trisilicate and methyl polysiloxane.
  3. The promotional theme too was different. They called it the sodium-free antacid and created enough dissonance among the prescribers of other antacids as it was common knowledge that sodium intake is rather restricted in hypertensive patients. Furthermore, it is highly likely that middle-aged patients with sedentary life styles, who are more likely susceptible for hypertension are also likely patients of hyperacidity.
  4. The differentiation did not stop there. Even the packaging was different. pH4 tablets were punched exactly like chocolate bars in a square shape while the rest of the antacids are conventional round shaped tablets. To top it, it was not only the shape of the tablet that was similar to chocolate, but also the flavor. pH4 was the only chocolate-flavored antacid tablet in the market place.
  5. The samples of pH4 tablets were also presented in a distinctly different manner to induce trial. The samples were packed exactly like chocolates in the market and caught the attention of many a prescribing physician.

The company launched the product enthusiastically training its sales force adequately on the product and gave a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) with answers to make its team combat-ready. The company thus created differentiation and delivered it in a persuasive manner. The net result was that the product got a ‘niche’ for itself and gained a ‘foothold,’ which no other antacid introduced during the previous six years was able to. While the new  brand pH4 did not take away share from the brand leaders, it took away a major share of new prescriptions and share from other antacids, as the brand leaders had considerable OTC (over-the-counter) profile because of self medication of antacids by patients. The company by achieving a distant third position in the category, certainly shook the sleeping giants from their slumber, who stepped up their promotion of their respective antacid brands to defend their market shares. The brand leader, Digene had even introduced additional flavors.

It’s a different story that the brand did not sustain its presence in later years and the total antacid, anti-flatulent market has undergone a sea change with the arrival of H2 receptor blockers, proton pump inhibitors creating and expanding anti-ulcerant market, where low dose versions of these newer anti-ulcerants have been positioned as antacids for non-ulcer dyspepsias.

Differentiation can be done across different elements of the marketing mix. What is needed an in-depth analysis of the current situation, SWOT analysis of the brand, market, competition and a gap analysis to unearth the opportunities.

The key differentiation, however is in execution. In the competence and capabilities of your sales force, who are face-to-face with the physicians. The way they gain and sustain the attention and the impact they create in the minds of physicians are crucial determinators of success.

How Full is Your Jar?

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about 2” diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full?

They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar gently. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the spaces between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked students again if the jar was full?

They agreed that yes, it was. The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up everything else in the jar.

“Now,” said the professor, “ I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – the things that if everything else was lost only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your spouse and parents. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and socializing.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

– Unknown Author


Ad With an Attitude?

The ad with an attitude?

Can we learn from this brilliant copy of the Nike’s ad that gives the brand and the company the Attitude the craft of copy writing?

Can you think of  giving your brand the attitude that its personality deserves depicts? An attitude of irreverence, courage, confidence, self-esteem, can-do spirit as the brand demands?  Take for example for a brand of a very powerful antibiotic, or NSAID (non-steriodal-antiinflammatory drug) or any other category where strength and power matter?

This was the copy of the NIKE ad in the 1990’s. It is inspiring and telling clearly to listen to one’s own heart and believe in oneself rather than listening and conforming to what others are saying and trying to live up to their expectations.

What is the Best Policy?

How do you market your products and successfully to customers who are increasingly becoming skeptical? By being honest. Transparent. By showing integrity in all your actions and activities. Integrity is no longer idealistic. It is a necessity. It is the need of the hour for pharmaceutical industry in particular.

There is a general perception that pharma industry has to be forced to tell the truth. That is the biggest damage of all. Which is better, voluntary disclosure or forced disclosure? Of course voluntary disclosure. And yet pharma industry never disclosed anything until forced. That is the public sentiment and perception. Consider what happened to tobacco industry. They resisted, resisted and resisted as long as they could. The pharma industry is coming under such pressure.

Fierce Pharma reported that eleven of the leading drug majors such as Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Serono, GSK in the US have agreed to pay a total of $14 billion for their marketing offenses committed over the past ten years. Whistleblowers filed more than 900 suits last year.

Recently in September 2012, Ben Goldacre,  a British physician-academician published a book, Bad Pharma, which describes how drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. He argues in the book that drug firms finance most of the clinical trials into its products, and that the industry would routinely withhold negative data. The ABPI (The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry), the trade association in the UK for pharmaceutical companies issued a statement arguing that the examples the book offers are historical that the concerns have been addressed, that the industry is among the most regulated in the world, and that it discloses all data in accordance with international standards.

What is more, trust is the back bone of any relationship and marketing activity is a relationship between the manufacturer and consumer. People expect pharmaceutical products to cure their diseases. If they start hurting them either due to side effects, inefficacy the trust is broken almost to the point of betrayal. Another question that keeps popping up these days is why these drugs are so expensive, when generics are so cheaper? Why can’t everything be a generic? The public doesn’t care about the recovery of high R&D costs or the very low probability of new drug discovery pushing the ever-escalating costs still higher.

All these things are happening at a time when the industry is paying enormous fines for alleged malfeasance. It is almost coming to a vortex. The only way to rebuild the eroding trust is through disclosure, disclosure, and disclosure. The only option is to operationalize integrity. It is important to ask and answer some vital questions:

  1. How do you treat your customers? As partners or sources of revenue?
  2. Is your marketing message technically legal, but inherently misleading?
  3. How focused are you in building your share of credibility?

Building credibility and regaining the trust is possible only through inculcating a culture of integrity-based marketing. To internalize integrity across the rank and file of the organization, it is important to define integrity, measure integrity and recognize integrity. It is axiomatic that what we measure is what we get. Integrity is not only practical that way, but will also be your most sustainable competitive advantage.

Ultimately, both in life and in business honesty is the best policy.


Emotional Branding!

Health is the most important human need both physically and emotionally. How can you appeal to this vitally important need in creating your branding strategies? You cannot simply appeal to emotions by merely coining a clever tag line or putting a pretty picture (after product-usage?) or a distress picture (a target-patient picture before the product-usage). Emotional branding is about connecting. It is about connecting and building relationships with patients and physicians not merely through building physical contacts but relating your brands to them at an emotional level.

Move People to Move Products

You have to move people to move your products. That is the essence of emotional branding. Honesty in relationships is crucial but not enough. Trust is essential. You have to move from honesty to trust in your relationships. Because honesty is a given whereas trust has to be earned. You have to earn the trust of your target-universe (both physicians and patients) not just the vital few who account for 80 per cent of the prescriptions in your therapeutic segment of choice. You need to embrace and better understand the needs, and emotions of the vast majority of your consumers (patients) and customers (physicians) to grow your brand’s market share.

AstraZeneca’s highly successful emotional campaign (2006) of their oncology brand – Arimidex, a hormonal replacement therapy for reducing breast cancer recurrence is a good example. The integrated advertising campaign aimed at over coming the HRT-generated fear by negative press, and the reluctance of breast cancer survivors for even hearing about another treatment and achieved it remarkably. The company did not pursue a ‘hard-sell’ strategy as it was the brand leader and instead followed an unbranded educational campaign that generated a great deal of goodwill. Furthermore, research suggested that cancer patients rely heavily on survivors for information and support. Arimidex implemented a strategy that used real-life breast cancer survivors to talk to other survivors.

Emotional branding is not about writing compelling copy and creating arresting visuals. It is  gaining insights into the needs, wants, apprehensions, expectations, desired outcomes of the patients and physicians. To gain insight into these and whether your product can meet those needs lot of cerebral work. Here are four questions that you can use a starter to move on the not-so-beaten path of emotional branding. The efforts and hard work are worth taking as it gives a sustainable competitive advantage!

Key Questions:

  1. How does the disease condition affect the patient’s daily life? And how does your product help in overcoming, minimizing, or mitigating it?
  2. How does your product help the patients and physicians in this disease? How does it address in allying their feelings about this condition?
  3. Would the patients suffering from this disease condition and physicians treating it miss anything if this product is not available? If so, what would they miss?
  4. What do  other care providers – family members and friends feel about patients with this condition? How would your product help them?

Are You Going to Do It?

Lincoln Steffens (April 1866 – August 1936) was a New York reporter, who launched a series of articles in McClure’s that would be later published in a book titled ‘The Shame of the Cities.’

Nothing is done. Everything in the

world remains to be done or done over.

The greatest picture is not yet painted,

the greatest play isn’t written,  the

greatest poem is unsung. There isn’t in

all the world a perfect railroad, nor a

good government, nor a sound law.

Physics, mathematics, and especially

the most advanced and exact of the

sciences, are being fundamentally

revised. Chemistry is just becoming a

science; psychology, economics, and

sociology are awaiting a Darwin, whose

work in turn is awaiting an Einstein.

If the rah-rah boys in our colleges

could be told this, they might not all be

specialists in football, parties, and

unearned degrees. They are not told it,

however; they are told to learn what is

known. This is nothing.

– Lincoln Steffens, 1931

What Lincoln Steffens wrote is as true today as it was in 1931.

Every word of it. Nothing is done. Everything awaits for

You to do It!

Are you going to do it?

Photo credit: Creative Commons, Wikipedia

5-Step Process For Producing Ideas

A process for generating ideas? Ideas are a creative business not a mechanical one, do you say? In a world, where everything is process-driven how can creativity be an exception? In fact, scientists are trying to understand the principles (or process?) of even chaos to control it. We are digressing. Let’s stick to creative Process.

James Webb Young, the legendary advertising man wrote a great book – A Technique for Producing Ideas in 1960, which is a classic even today. He described the five steps in detail. Here is the essence:

Mind follows a method which is just as definite as a production process or even an assembly line. There is a technique for using the mind for producing ideas. Whenever an idea is produced, this technique is followed consciously or unconsciously. And the good news is that this technique of producing ideas can be consciously cultivated, thereby increasing the ability of the mind to produce ideas.

This technique of mind follows five steps. While you can recognize them individually, it is important to recognize their inter-relationships more than anything else. One more thing. The mind follows these five steps in definite order or sequence that is not interchangeable.

  1. Gather the raw material systematically for the product or service for which you are seeking to develop a great new idea. Gather as much as you can both the raw materials – raw material that is specific to your product and to the people to whom you want to sell your product.
  2. Masticate the material gathered and start the mental digestive process. Masticate the material till gastric (creative) juices are secreted. You have to digest before ingest.
  3. Now drop the whole subject and put the whole problem as completely as you can. Turn it over to your sub-conscious mind and let it work on it. Ideas come after you have stopped straining for them, and have passed through a relaxation from the search.
  4. When you are totally pre-occupied with it, out of no where the idea appears. This is your eureka moment! It will come to you when you are least expecting it – while shaving, or bathing or most often when you are half-awake. It may even wake you up in the middle of it. Remember what Sir Isaac Newton said when he was asked how he discovered the law of gravitation. He said by constantly thinking about it!
  5. Having produced one, don’t hold your idea close to your chest. Submit it to the criticism of the judicious. Because an idea has self-expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it.

What are you waiting for? Go and start producing those great, unique ideas you have been wanting to!

Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate!

Branded generics market in India is the most me-too of all markets with over 70,000 brands jostling for their share in the minds of and for the space on the scrips that the physicians write. The only way to stand out in that milling crowd is to differentiate, differentiate and differentiate. Consider the two cases – Gris OD in India in the 1990’s and Mucinex in the US OTC market in 2006 – and how they achieved success through differentiation.

The Case of Gris OD

Griseofulvin was the most widely prescribed systemic anti-fungal in the 1990’s with a market share of close to 80 per cent. Glaxo (GSK now) had a dominant market share with its Grisovin FP. The product had gastric side effects and patient compliance was an issue. American Remedies, then a young, dynamic, rapidly growing company looked at this market opportunity. The company knew that it was not possible to compete with the giant head-on and decided to create a product to meet the unmet need – convenient dosage and reduced side effects. It created the first-ever once-a-day dosage formulation of griseofulvin which was originally a QID (Quarter in die, which means four times a day) dosage. It was an instant success and displaced the earlier brand leader to the second position by a significant margin. DR. Reddy’s Labs acquired American Remedies a few years later.

The Case of Mucinex

The US OTC cough / cold category was very crowded and confusing as all the products had similar ingredients. Even their strategies were me-too centering around symptom-related promotion. Mucinex strategy had been distinctly different as it focused on the cause of the symptoms and not on the symptom relief like the rest of the brands. Mucinex team created an innovative brand icon – Mr. Mucus, a personification of Mucus. The brand promise was not only different, but also very memorable – Mucinex in, Mucus Out. This focus of eliminating the underlying cause of symptoms differentiated the product instantaneously. The strength of characterization of Mr. Mucus catapulted the brand into consumers’ minds.

Position or Perish!

The message or the lessons are simple. Position your product differently or you don’t have a chance of surviving in the unforgiving market place. What is needed is a thorough analysis of the market opportunity in the therapeutic segments of your choice; a thorough understanding of all competing brands and their offerings, perceptual strengths, weaknesses; developing insights into unmet needs. Once you are armed with these insights, you can formulate a winning strategy that is distinctly different from the rest of the competition. The differentiation, however should be relevant. Relevant to the patients’ needs. Remember the essence of your strategy is to differentiate, differentiate, and differentiate!

Be a lamp1

Anticancer Drugs’ Patent Wars!

India’s second largest drug maker, Ciipla announced today in The Economic Times that it is slashing the prices of three anticancer drugs by up to sixty-three percent. It has sent tremors in the ₹1500-crore large anticancer market particularly the multinational drug companies. Even the Indian drug companies marketing their generic versions of the drugs are being forced by this move to reduce their prices as you have to necessarily follow a price-parity policy in the undifferentiated branded generic market to survive.

This is indeed a welcome news to the cancer sufferers. WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that nearly 2.5 million patients are diagnosed with cancer in India every year and cancer would be the deadliest disease over the next decade.

Cipla said yesterday that it reduced its lung cancer drug Erlocip (Erlotinib molecule of Roche marketed under the brand name Tarceva) from ₹ 27,000 to ₹ 9,900 per 30 tablets and from ₹ 10,000 to ₹ 3,700 for 10 tablets. Cipla recently won a patent litigation battle with the Swiss drug maker Roche.

Furthermore, Cipla reduced the prices of two more anticancer drugs used in breast cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, and colorectal cancer -Docetaxel (Taxotere of Sanofi Aventis) and Capecitabine (Xeloda of Roche) by half to ₹ 7,000 for 120mg, and ₹ 600 for 10 500 mg tablets respectively.

Earlier, Natco Pharma won the first compulsory license for Bayer’s  kidney cancer drug, Nexavar (sorofenib tosylate) and cut the price to ₹ 8,800 from ₹ 280,000, which was the price before the patent ruling. Natco would pay Bayer a royalty of six per cent on net sales.

Last week, Pfizer was denied its patent rights to its anticancer drug, Sutent (sunitinib) indicated for renal cell carcinoma and imatinib-resistant gastro-intestinal stromal tumor (GIST).

Forbes recently reported that it has been a tough few months for Big Pharma’s business interests in India with all these massive price reductions, compulsory licenses and losing patent battles. That these anticancer drugs are expensive and unaffordable by many of the cancer sufferers in India is an undeniable fact.

The perception of the Big Pharma is that the Indian government is going to broaden the scope of this practice, and, in effect ignore the intellectual property rights that exist for hundreds of drugs. The secretary of India’s pharmaceutical department at the same time asserts that, “ Most countries follow some form of price control. We need to ensure that expensive drugs are available at affordable rates for the poor.” It would be callous to argue against this.

It is also worth noting what Marijin Dekkers, the CEO of Bayer said in an interview in this context. He said, “ The danger of pushing the prices of prescription drugs down, down, down is that at some point the business model of developing these drugs will lose its attractiveness… India is becoming very reluctant to respect I P (Intellectual Property) for western companies and that is becoming a challenge for us.”

Big Pharma may want to reconsider outsourcing R&D to Indian companies. If a biopharmaceutical company is going to invest its precious R&D resources someplace, where it would be mutually beneficial.

Both perspectives have merit. How to balance these conflicting interests? What is needed is not a rigid stance but out-of-the-box thinking to find a solution.