Effective positioning of pharma products
Once you have taken a stance for your brand, the next step is to establish a position for it. In business, the views of the marketer must coincide with those of the customer for a brand to acquire a strong position. This is exactly what has happened in the case of Pepsi being the ‘choice of the new generation’ and Intel granting superiority to computer hardware by being ‘inside’. What about positioning pharmaceutical products?
Positioning pharmaceutical products is not as simple as positioning a cola drink. To begin with, since the use of the product affects human lives, all strategies must meet the stipulations of assorted acts and regulations. Magic Remedies Act; the code of Pharmaceutical marketing Practices and the Ethical Way of Promotion are some that lay down the rule. If you are logically correct but medically incorrect, be sure of government admonition.
Perceptions count for a lot. Tetracycline, an antibiotic, was not meant to be given to children below ten years of age because it was seen to cause discolouration of teeth. Thousands of reports were published over the years, and the government relentlessly highlighted this side effect.
Usage of Tetracycline slowed down. But when plague hit parts of the West in 1994, the product was accepted as an effective combatant and made a dramatic comeback. Despite some strict government guidelines, there is always room for an effectively positioning strategy. The key — it must be backed by the brand's major benefit.
A reputed pharmaceutical company wanted to become a big player in the lucrative market for hypertension products with its new anti-hypertensive, an ace-inhibitor. Rather than position it narrowly for the hypertension sufferer with renal impairment (such patients were fewer), it rolled out the product into a crowded wide-band market for mild to moderate hypertension.
Its purported advantage — it needed to be consumed just once everyday — was shared by several competitors. What happened? Physicians failed to take note, some even forgetting its name. Even the MRs could not explain how it was different. No wonder they could not meet their sales targets. That is the cost of ignoring the power of positioning.
Positioning is not word play. It is benefits that must differentiate the product from the competitors. And the benefits should not only be sustainable, but measurable by prescribers and users.
Marketers often leave it to the medical fraternity to define the uniqueness of a product. At best, they ask medical advisors. It is best that marketers handle this aspect, and use doctors only as ‘sounding boards’.
Many products are still positioned on indications. Ciprofloxacin (major brand: Cifran) is useful in typhoid cases. So long as this property is accepted by prescribers, you can sell it as such. It may work when you have very limited competitors, but if the market is fragmented and you get 102 of them, you need a new approach — natural positioning.
Revitalising the Pharmaceutical Business by R.B. Smarta, Published by Response Books