Positioning in the Indian pharmaceutical industry
Positioning in Pharma Industry
“Positioning is a concept that has changed the nature of advertising – a concept so simple that people have difficulty understanding how powerful it is”, say Al Ries and Jack Trout in their now legendary book “ Positioning- The Battle for your Mind”.
Product positioning is the art of tailoring the image and presentation of a product or service to appeal to a selected market segment.
At its best, product positioning enables marketers to draw a direct link between an existing product attribute and a specific customer need, in our industry, the doctor.
Positioning is not what you do to the product but what you do to the mind of the customer i.e. the doctor. Positioning also shows you how to use ad techniques to capture the biggest market share and become a household name
Examples of successful positioning in consumer products are aplenty; e.g. Lux- ‘The Beauty Soap’, Liril – ‘The Freshening Soap’ and Lifebuoy- ‘The Health Soap’- all from the same manufacturer! All of them successful!
How one would like to see such powerful positioning in the pharmaceutical market in India- and the scope here is much more than anywhere in the world.
Witness the fierce battle amongst 3 powerful brands of Ciprofloxacin! But has even one of these brands been able to effectively occupy the mind of the doctor on any particular attribute? It is today being widely prescribed in “Fever of Unknown Origin”, which was never the intention of any company marketing ciprofloxacin.
Simply, positioning is how your target market defines you in relation to your competitors.
A good position is:
1. What makes you unique
2. This is considered a benefit by your target market - the doctors
Both of these conditions are necessary for a good positioning. Does your target market consider this a good thing?
Positioning is important because you are competing with all the noise out there competing for your potential prescribers attention.
If you can stand out with a unique benefit, you have a chance at getting their attention.
It is important to understand your product from the customers point of view relative to the competition.
Positioning is a crucial decision and should not be taken in the air-conditioned chambers of the Marketing Managers.
It has to be done after meeting the doctors.
Right positioning can make even an ordinary product an extraordinary brand.
In order to begin positioning a product, two questions need to be answered:
1.What is our marketing environment?
2.What is our competitive advantage?
The marketing environment is the external environment. Some things to consider:
How is the market now satisfying the need your software satisfies?
What are the switching costs for potential users for your market?
What are the positions of the competition?
It is important, therefore, to know the perceptions of the brand in the doctor’s mind before a positioning decision is taken. Your position in the market place evolves from the defining characteristics of your product. Yes, meet the doctors, (No- Not an opinion poll).
If the Brand Manager believes that there is an area, which can be exploited, through proper promotion, and he has enough reasons to believe that it is a relatively strong, take a stand and position the brand to change the perception of the doctors.
After meeting the doctors, address the following issues:
a) What are the major needs of the prospect in the identified segment?
b) What is the order of those needs?
c) What is the vacant slot in the mind of the doctor?
Address these questions before determining the positioning the strategy.
Pharmaceutical products can be positioned and measured against a number of parameters.
A pre-requisite to positioning is to identify the market segment.
Product positioning is the process of matching product features to the needs of selected market segment. This can be done through the following thought process.
Let us consider some of the ways that a positioning strategy can be conceived and implemented.
What are the needs of the doctor?
What are the benefits of the product?
What features can substantiate the claims?
a) Positioning by attribute
Associate the product with past experience with the company. A new product can be positioned with respect to an attribute that the competitors have ignored.
b) Positioning by price/quality
The price/quality dimension is so useful and pervasive that it can be a separate topic by itself. A high price serves to signal higher quality o the customer.
c) Positioning by indications
Another positioning strategy is associating the product with its indication. This is the obvious course to follow when a company has two or more products in the same therapeutic segment.
d) Positioning by the product user
One more approach is to associate a product with the user or a class of user. Sometimes a product can have multiple positioning strategies, although increasing the number involves obvious difficulties and risk.
e) Positioning with respect to a competitor
In positioning strategies an explicit or implicit frame of reference is the competition. First, a well established competitors image can be exploited to communicate another image referenced to it. Second, it is not important how good customers think you are; it is just important that they believe you are better. Build your strategy around your competition's weaknesses. Reposition a strong competitor and create a weak spot. Use your present position to its best advantage
Analyze recent trends that affect your positioning. Al Ries and Jack Trout provide many valuable case histories and penetrating analyses of some of the most phenomenal successes and failures in advertising history. When the positioning has been decided the positioning statement has to be made known not only to all involved in the marketing process, but also to people in the manufacturing finance, HRD and to all in the company. And of course, the grass root must understand the reasons for the position strategy.
Positioning an anti- anxiety drug: A case study
A new non-benzodiazepine immediate acting anxiolytic is being introduced for the first time in India. This anxiolytic has no sedative action unlike the benzodiazepines. Another interesting feature is that this anxiolytic has no drug-drug interactions. It is a long acting anxiolytic and its dosing is just one tablet a day.
Osborne Pharma Ltd. (OPL), the company marketing this new anxiolytic is already well entrenched in the cardio- vascular market.
Two of their products, a nitrate and a beta-blocker are the brand leaders in the respective markets and their ACE-Inhibitor and calcium channel blocker are very strong brands in their category. Moreover, OPL has a moderate presence in the macrolide and the quinoline market. No doubt, doctors prefer to call OPL as, “The House that Repairs Weak Hearts.”
This anxiolytic is the first “psychotropic” in their product portfolio.
OPL is invading into a new product category. Three more companies are also on the verge of introducing the same molecule. All of them more or less are of the same size. It would be an interesting battle amongst equals.
Market research reveals that anti- anxiolytic drugs have very strong co- prescription profile and the prescriber base from cardiologists and gastroenterologists and consultants nears 100%. At the same time, the prescriptions from psychiatrists for anxiolytics are very frequent. In fact, the most frequently prescribed drug by a psychiatrist is an anxiolytic.
Around 40 doctors are met determining the positioning. The positioning analysis is done and few questions are raised:
Would the profession accept a psychotropic product from a “Cardiac- Care” Company?
Has the vacant slot been determined?
Does OPL enjoy the same sort of equity with the gastro- enterologists and psychiatrists as it does with the cardiologists?
Will the psychiatrists accept a ‘psychiatry’ product from a “Cardiac Care” company?
Will the cardiologists accept an anxiolytic product from a “Cardiac Care” company?
Undoubtedly, had OPL introduced a product for cardio-vascular disease, success would be instantaneous. A sound positioning strategy, however, would make this anxiolytic a success.
The logical approach would be to position this product as a “co- prescription with the basic drug for cardio-vascular disease” as OPL has a “Cardiac” profile. It could be positioned as an ‘essential co-prescription’ in hypertension, and coronary artery disease. It would be easy for doctors to retie the connection that already exists for this company. His mind would readily accept what matches his prior knowledge and the experience with OPL!
Yes this would be a narrow but very powerful positioning for this company. But isn’t this what positioning is all about?
Here, OPL has made an overt decision to concentrate on a certain segment. This requires commitment and discipline because it is not easy to turn their backs on potential prescribers like psychiatrist and gastro-enterologists. A distinct, meaningful position is to focus on the target segments and not to be constrained by the reaction of other segments.
“Narrower- The Stronger”. A question can be raised at this juncture as to whether it would be prudent for OPL to re- position itself from its current position as a “Cardiac- Care” company to a “Total Healthcare” company.
The anxiolytic from OPL should be successful as the attempt is to distinguish it from competitors. Thus would help the doctor to know the real differences between the OPL brand and the other 3 brands.
- Ries, A. and Trout,J.
- David Aaker
- American Marketing Association
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