PR for drugs, in India

The products found in a pharmaceutical market can often be a tad ticker to sell than the ones found in the shampoo isle of your local 24/7. While for the latter – price offs, attractive packaging and the occasional placement of a lushly-haired Priyanka Chopra cut-out next to the product display works wonders, for the former, the advertising needs a more niche approach. An approach that sensitively touches upon the requirement, innovatively associates the brand with a need and aggressively markets the product through dealer distribution.

Here’s an example of a well marketed tablet. The requirement? A potency drug. The first thing, not even product, thing, that springs to mind is – Viagra. We’ve all heard of it, know exactly what it does and where you can get it. But when was the last time anyone saw a Viagra ad in India? Pfizer, the company that introduced the world to ‘the wonder drug’ in the 1990s, through – as legend has it, an accidental clinical trial, was quick to capitalise on it’s first-mover-advantage and began marketing it aggressively. Today, the drug is synonymous with ‘staying power’ (much like the brand Xerox is for photocopies), has one the largest distribution networks in the world, has been the central theme for a Hollywood blockbuster – Love and Other Drugs, and even has its own spoof t-shirt in India (a picture of the Taj Mahal, with the tagline ‘Via-Agra, man’s greatest erection for a woman).

The promising pharmaceutical market in India has tremendous advertising potential, but corporates are often forced to given in to social pressure. So just how are the 100s of drug companies to market their products? We had a few insights.

Touch upon the topic, don’t throw it in their face. It’s pretty obvious that in some aspects, our highly developed country is still a little prudish. When topics are sensitive or might imply some sort of social stigma, it’s best to adopt a humorous ‘double-entendre’ or tread lightly. The “yeh kya hua” Moods condom ad, lightly skirts controversy and comes across as rather cute, by the end of it, while the Whisper ads have been doing a marvellous job of advertising the advantages of their products without really broadcasting details.

Target doctors. While most ads seek to change patients’ behaviour, pharmaceutical companies should focus more on changing doctors’ behaviour. Drug marketers should work hard to persuade doctors to prescribe their branded drug over generics and other competitors, and to change other medical practices that limit company profits. To cultivate medical professionals, drug companies should try retaining a doctor as a spokesperson. A friendly medical ‘thought-leader’ for the media.

Build awareness and opportunity for the need and the drug. Having most recently claimed the life of ex Apple CEO – Steve Jobs, cancer is one of the most devastating diseases today; with no cure, and leaving a family with little hope. Being extremely specific and having only a select few remedial measures, one of the most trying ordeals a family can go through during a recovery is – not knowing. Is this the right medication? Is there anybody we can cross check with? Why is it so expensive? Is the Indian equivalent just as good? For example, there is opportunity in educating people about foreign cancer drugs – Arimidex (Rs.5,000) and Geftinat (Rs. 10,000) and then advertising aggressively about their, equally good, Indian counterparts (available at 1/50th the price). It can go a long way in building a loyal group of well informed customers.

Turn medical necessities into consumer choices. A few months ago, a popular woman’s magazine ran an issue dedicated to non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including the array of injectable wrinkle fillers. The articles outlined the pros and cons of each filler, evaluating injection pain, cost per injection and how long each procedure lasts. The magazine even hired a famous cosmetic surgeon to lend her thoughts, opinions and credibility, to the cause. The entire issue was an advertorial without anyone even knowing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *