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www.expresspharmaonline.com FORTNIGHTLY INSIGHT FOR PHARMA PROFESSIONALS
1 - 15 November 2005  
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Home - Management - Article

OTC Marketing A Reality Check

As more and more Indian pharma companies resort to out-of-the-box marketing strategies to market their OTC brands, Nandini Patwardhan tries to determine whether it is just a gimmick or whether the unconventional strategies are here to stay.

Would you pop a tablet to have strong bones if Amitabh Bachchan says so? Or will you buy a particular brand of cough syrup if your local cable channel advertises it? These are not stray examples of one-off marketing tactics, but are carefully devised campaigns to capture the mindspace of the target audience in the cluttered area of OTC products.

Recently, Boots Piramal Healthcare has been in news for two reasons. First, for its in-film branding initiative in Salaam Namaste where actress Preity Zinta attributes her clear voice to Strepsils. Second, for the Strepsils-Sa Re Ga Ma tie-up to release 12 music albums (twin CD packs) comprising retro originals. The Sa Re Ga Ma tie-up is a unique brand exercise to leverage the brand's identity of a clear voice by associating it with public figures such as Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar.

In-film branding makes the product approachable to the consumers and also catches them at their attentive best. Explains Devendra Shinde, Marketing Manager for Strepsils, "You can appreciate these initiatives only if you understand the objective, which is to secure a good brand recall and present your product to the consumer in a relevant context."

Scrollers during cricket matches, news and even other shows are considered more important than the regular advertisements during commercial breaks which are being missed
Adarsh Somani
Director of Kopran Pharmaceuticals
Regulations do not permit marketers to sample allopathic drugs outside a drug store. In the early eighties our company hit upon a unique mass sampling idea
Rahul Malhotra
Head Marketing,
P&G india

The story so far

The Strepsils example is not the only case of implementation of unconventional marketing strategies in the OTC drug marketing space. Industry experts are of the opinion that out-of-the-box thinking is the mainstay of various marketing initiatives adopted by companies over the past few years.

Says Adarsh Somani, Director of Kopran which launched the Smyle Sore Throat Reliever in 2003, "The Reliever was not well received initially due to its gargle-and-gulp process. It took us some time to establish this product. We invested a lot in advertising and in building up the concept." A trend-setter in its ads constructed around Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Smyle campaign became the talk of ad circles. The advertisement presented a child actor answering a question, "Which is the best cough syrup?" The question was asked by a voice resembling that of Amitabh Bachchan on KBC. The child's answer, "Smyle Sore Throat Reliever," wins him a crore of rupees. The ad helped make the product a national brand.

FMCG major Procter and Gamble (P&G) India has emerged as a winner in the OTC category by implementing various promotion programmes for Vicks (Vaporub, cough drops and Vicks Action 500). Their Mass Consumer Contact (MCC) programme was a first-of-its-kind initiative that not only displayed the product but also allowed consumers to experience its effect first hand at small towns and villages, stores and cinema halls. Recalls Rahul Malhotra, the company's Head of Marketing, "Regulations do not permit marketers to sample allopathic drugs outside a drug store. In the early eighties our company hit upon a unique mass sampling idea. We released an ad in leading dailies which had a tear-off coupon at the bottom. Readers could exchange the coupon for two free Vicks Action 500 (VA500) caplets from the chemist store. This single initiative helped VA500 generate mass trials overnight."

P&G also conceptualised the House of Vicks, a counter display for chemists to store Vicks products so as to increase product visibility. Converting Vicks Inhalers into trinket key-chains proved a good campaign for the brand too.

Brand managers face two pressures in their jobs today. They have to make sure that their brand is identified by the target audience, and they have to do it in the most cost-effective manner
Yogesh M Agrawal
Executive Director,
Ajanta Pharma
You can appreciate these initiatives only if you understand the objective, which is to secure a good brand recall and present your product to the consumer in a relevant context
Devendra Shinde
Marketing Manager Strepsils
Boots Piramal Healthcare

Tried and trusted

Not everyone has rushed onto the innovative advertising bandwagon. Some continue to stick by the good old methods because they work for them. When asked about the limited advertising tools utilised for Gelusil, Hiroo Mirchandani, Director, Consumer Health Products Division, Pfizer, replied, "Important decision-making criteria for such activities are return on investment in terms of reach, awareness generation and relevance building."

Mumbai-based Ajanta Pharma, known for their Pinku Gripe Water and 30 Plus tablets, has made a conscious decision to avoid the regular television commercial and go in for below-the-line activities that take them closer to their target audience in the rural and semi-rural areas. Says Yogesh Agrawal, Executive Director, Ajanta Pharma, "To become a forerunner in the gripe water segment, 1993 onwards we organised the Healthy Baby Contest in our target areas, wherein a doctor checked the health of the babies and the fittest baby won." Ajanta pioneered the concept of awareness campaigns by means of mobile vans. In 1995 these vans went around a particular area displaying its gripe water product, educating the consumers and health authorities in the area.

Going the FMCG way

As pharma companies clamour for a larger chunk of the consumer's mind and wallet, many of them are adopting aggressive strategies similar to those of FMCG companies. "The target consumer for an FMCG product and an OTC product is the same. The only difference is that the FMCG product is part of the lifestyle, but the use of an OTC drug is need-based," elaborates Shinde. Thus, a consumer will buy toothpaste regularly, but he will consume a Disprin only when he has a headache.

"The Indian OTC market is estimated at Rs 2,800 crore ($542 million), and is growing faster than the prescription market at about 15-20 percent," informs Suman Shrivastava, President, Euro RSCG India. There is now severe competition which is driving companies to market OTC drugs as FMCG products have been marketed in the past. Companies, Shrivastava warns, will have to keep in mind that consumers today don't have time, and like to self-medicate or take advice from chemists for minor ailments.

Heightening brand recall

OTC advertising was undertaken even two decades ago during the days of Hum Log on DD. However, as commercial breaks aired only an ad or two at that time, the brand recall was high. Given the clutter in the media today, a regular TV commercial or a print advertisement doesn't help, which is why innovation has become the order of the day. "And why not innovate?" asks Asha Kapoor, Executive Director of Sudler & Hennessey, a full-service healthcare agency. Pharma companies have the necessary budgets to implement unconventional strategies, and they don't mind spending as long as it benefits their brand. As a result, we have many companies going in for television tie-ups, in-film branding and other novel methods to market their brands the way their FMCG counterparts do.

Pharma companies have realised that the target consumer may not pay attention to advertisements because he is watching TV, having dinner, and channel-surfing at the same time. "Brand managers face two pressures in their jobs today. They have to make sure that their brand is identified by the target audience, and they have to do it in the most cost-effective manner," remarks Yogesh Agrawal, Execitive Director, Ajanta Pharma. This has increased the need to be different, and hence companies are now going out of their way to attract attention.

Over the last few years, entertainment has become a significant medium to reach the target audience. This merits the need for entertainment deals such as television tie-ups and in-film branding, so companies cash in on the excitement that surrounds the glamour media to establish a brand presence. The odds of a brand registering by means of a commercial today are low, but by inserting a subliminal message delivered by a celebrity at a crucial movie moment, brand managers increase visibility substantially, and there is a fair chance the consumer will buy the product when he comes across it.

"Scrollers during cricket matches, news and even other shows are considered more important than the regular advertisements during commercial breaks which are being missed, thanks to the remote control. The other new media for advertising, still in their infancy, are the Internet and mobile devices. These electronic tools will play a dominant role in the times to come as Internet, communication and entertainment converge [into one medium]," adds Somani.

The first priority

One observer says that pharma companies have always tried to innovate in the area of marketing and advertising, but it is only today that everyone is analysing their marketing moves. For instance, it was in the mid-nineties that P&G India had launched the successful and famous 'Mother's Loving Touch — a touch therapy program.' And in 1999, Kopran had put up a 2 km-long banner starting from Nariman Point up to the Marine Drive Flyover in Mumbai. The publicity event, which was timed to coincide with the one-day cricket match nearby, gave the company an additional audience of 6,000 people. The event also received appropriate coverage in a few newspapers as Kopran had also provided TV screens on the pavement for cricket-lovers who could not get tickets into the stadium.

Then in 2003 Strepsils launched a Clear Speak column on the front page of The Indian Express. This 10 column centimetre (cc) fully-coloured column consisted of 5cc of Strepsils branding and another 5cc of an interesting comment from a commentator, cricketer or coach.

Reaching the target audience in the most cost-effective manner is and shall always be the first priority of brand managers. Given the current market situation, innovation is the need of the hour, and will continue to be so a few years down the line. As more companies look to acquire a larger share of the consumer's mind and wallet, we will soon be witness to various creative ideas which will become a constant feature of the marketing initiatives of various companies. Concludes Kapoor: "I think more challenging thinking, more open mindsets and more exciting strategies should see the light of the day within the next five years."

We're waiting.

 


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