Reaching out desired destinations
Destination is not targets but a progressive demand growth. Target is not what the market needs but the company’s wants, states K V Narayan
CREATIVE Strategy is what helps build brands in pharma marketing. It is relevant to both exclusive and me too products. Strategy is a process to chalk out a relevant pathway to reach the desired destination. The destination in pharma marketing is the registration of the brand name in the pen of the potential prescriber. The destination is not targets but a progressive demand growth. Target is not what the market needs. It is the company’s ‘wants.’
Strategy is defined as ‘‘A plan, method or series of measures or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.’’ The specific goal in pharma marketing is Prescription Generation. Product strategy in pharma marketing is a comprehensive approach that:
- Builds brand value through creative message development
- Plans and achieves adequacy of field force deployment to reach the message to relevant customers
- Plans needed tactics to facilitate reach of message to the relevant customers.
Creative strategies have failed to achieve necessary impact because of indifferent implementation. How can any strategy work if the medical representative (MR) fails to cover even 50 per cent of the listed doctors? How can any strategy work if the field manager spends 60 per cent of his working time in non-field working activities? This shortcoming is the cause of unsatisfactory growth. Though we talk of customer delight and bench-marking, there is hardly any system in place, for the audit of doctor selection and once approved, the complete coverage, even today.
Complete strategy approach
For the strategy to be complete both the promotional plan and implementation plan should be simultaneously made. Such an approach works even today despite competition. One should remember that competition is in numbers, not in quality.
Here are recent experiences of two products in me-too situations becoming successful with the support of creative strategies. There was a need to launch yet another brand of a molecule where there were already twenty brands existing in the market. Developed a brand name that would help the physician to recall it easily. Having studied the leading brands’ progress, both of big and small companies we decided to launch the product on a scientific plank.
A programme of CME lasting for one year was planned around the exclusive attributes of the product and needs of the indications. Identified the target audience, frequency of visits and made the field management accountable for the implementation, with an audit every promotional cycle. Tactical elements, such as physician samples, desktop reminders etc were planned to facilitate strategy implementation.
At the end of year one, the product achieved a progressive prescription support and started making rapid strides from year two onwards. In yet another task, the brand name of a nutritional product had to be changed. One third of the company’s bottomline was contributed by the product. It took around one year to study and add additional values to the product. Besides the packaging was also improved to add to the personality of the product. The new brand name, around the product attributes was chosen. A carefully tailored pre-launch, launch and post-launch action plan to register the new brand name with the targeted customers was closely monitored for implementation through the field-management. Even then the strategy was implemented completely only in 60 per cent of the markets. In spite of this the new brand not only replaced the old one unit to unit, the sales grew by 10 per cent every month at the end of six months on the previous MAT average. Simultaneous planning of promotional and deployment strategies and accountability to implement gives results even today. If this can happen to a new brand in a me-too situation and to a changed brand name, the established brands which have relevance in current medical practice, have immense opportunities to grow.
It involves looking at these brands afresh and developing new personality, new context of usage based on current clinical opinion and thereby adding new value to the old brand. Renewing relationship with ‘My’ product is of question.
One should not forget that principles are important in Brand Management as is the case with any organisational endeavour. In the absence of principles even the successful brand becomes a commodity in the discounts war and gets into oblivion.
Strategy that works
It is the ability to develop a deliberate context in the action plan relevant to the current situation both internal and external in order to be capable of being counted. The starting point to develop relevant context is situational analysis. It comprises:
- Study of the market and top brands’ progress
- Study of message strategy of top brands
- Study of unique reasons for the success of top brands.
The objective is to appreciate market, market potential and the creative approaches of the competitive brands, to benchmark.
- Progress of company’s product overtime and progress of marketshare at constant prices.
- Study of previous two years progress Sales change from one promotional cycle to another
- MAT sales progress territory, area, region wise to understand growth in territories/ area/ regions/ (MAT sales to be without hospital sales)
- Study of promotional plans both message and material over two years and its impact in growth territories and reasons for lack of it in others.
- Effort analysis of field managers in the markets during these promotional cycles, to understand the extent of their involvement in strategy implementation
- The study helps to understand the quality of message and the extent of message reach and the consequent impact.
Besides quantitative analysis, the product manager under the guidance of the marketing chief and directions of the medical adviser should spend adequate time to study the product in the areas of:
- Pharmacology of ingredients
- Latest understanding and treatment approaches to the product indications
- Current clinical opinion on product.
from these studies the value-adding message can be developed.
From the study of the above three chapters one can develop a deliberate context in the message strategy as well as coverage strategy. In addition planning aptly supportive elements in the form of physician samples. CME material, mailings, doctor meetings, conference participation, desktop reminders would support the reach of product message meaningfully to the potential prescribers. It does not help for the top management to spend lot of time in planning supportive elements without spending meaningful time in assessing the message and implementation strategy.
Maintaining fact files
All these data and information that are periodically collected and analysed should be kept in the ‘Fact file’ for the product under different chapters. Subsequently only updating the information needs to be done. The ‘Fact file’ would provide the product manager an overview of his product and the ability to look at the market meaningfully and relevantly for his product growth. In addition the ‘Fact file’ would help any new incumbent to pick up the threads from the past and maintain continuity. This continuous diagnostic approach would help the product manager to be in the ‘‘I know’’ mode. This mode gives added impetus to the creativity of the product manager. Such research-oriented approach enables marketing team to develop and implement growth oriented marketing strategies for the product.
There is intense competition for every product. Therefore the market approach should be one of being competitive. There are many brands of a molecule recording progressive growth in many therapy areas. Being competitive is a conscious approach to the market. It does not mean price discounts and bonus schemes. Being competitive is to strive to make ‘‘My performance’’ better than in the previous situation in a way the next strategy becomes more impactful. It is being competent contextually in the marketplace.
In fact the extent of success of a strategy is directly proportionate to the intensity of Creative Relationship of the Marketing Management with the product and the field-force. It comes from the ownership one takes of his assignment.
K V Narayan is a Chennai based writer