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Dear Pharma Veterans. This series of Blogs is to share my learning about Pharma Business in Pakistan. It will be a series spread over several parts covering the entire spectrum of Pharma business.

Pharma Business – Marketing

We continue with the functional elements of Marketing.


Marketing is communication. In the Pharma setting, marketing communicates in the following ways. Usually, several means are employed at once.

  1. Promotional Theme for the month and quarter. It is entirely the prerogative of marketing to decide which theme will be used for promotion in a given period. This is based on:
    1. the clinical evidence – new indications, new study in existing indication, some particular point of greater interest from clinical evidence, etc.
    2. market research – may provide pointers about which direction to go to; based on customer feedback, vis-à-vis competition, etc.
    3. strategy – the overall grand strategy about the product, portfolio, corporate, etc.
    4. seasonal consideration – seasonal indications for antibiotics such as respiratory in winter and GI in summer; seasonal products such as cough syrups, etc.
  2. Detailing Story. It was customary that the marketing will give the promotional folder/ card and shall also give detailing story. It was a good way to control what the sales team would say to customers. The story was usually complete in all respects. Few companies like Abbott insisted that the sales team memorized the detailing and delivered to customers verbatim. It appeared straitjacketed, but it improved Abbott team’s quality of communication immensely.
  3. Promotional Folders – creative ideas, attractive visuals and catchy slogans have been the hallmark of promotional folders. There are many variations depending upon the need. From Permanent Detail Aid (PDA) to 8-page to 4-page to 2-page and drop-card. The purpose is the same; tell a story.

The promotional folders have been largely discarded by some generic companies as unnecessary expense; in others, the folders are still made but not with the creativity and zest to make them interesting; these are more like fillers. In my view, we are missing one extremely important point here. When a salesperson got a creative, high-quality folder coupled with an interesting detailing story, he got hooked himself in the first place. When he took it to customers, he did so with energy and excitement. Stories are the most powerful way to communicate and connect. The salesperson enticed the customer and connected with her/him. This is sadly missing now. The salesperson does not have a decent promotional folder and story most of the time. What he has is not fully understood by him and he cannot build a story around it. Therefore, he only dead-delivers the poor folder, without any sentiment or story. The result is very few salespersons are connected with their customers at personal level; some are connected purely at commercial level, others are not connected at all.

  1. Gifts/giveaways – have seen a huge variety and even bigger changes in reasons. Long time back, a giveaway was strictly something to be used in the clinic. Then few things on the border of clinical/personal were added, then purely personal-use articles were included and finally, family use articles were brought in. The range of giveaways has certainly become wider, quality has gone down and so has the quantity.
  1. Posters – informative posters, beautifully designed and executed are another means of communication and have always been around. These are designed around anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, drug administration, drug interactions, etc.
  1. Campaigns – There may be following types of campaigns. The ultimate purpose in any case is to promote certain product(s).
    1. Promotional campaigns – usually based on some new information, or to reinforce old information. Forceful promotion of malaria and artemether/lumefantrine is such an example.
    2. Awareness campaigns – calcium for strong bones, osteoporosis in middle age, vitamin D deficiency, ORS in diarrhea, Zinc for health are some examples of effectively run awareness campaigns.
    3. Screening campaigns – diabetes screening, osteoporosis screening, cholesterol screening are some examples of such campaigns. These are always run for chronic-care products. In acute-care products, the fight is to get bulk prescriptions. In chronic-care products, the effort is to get new patients, hence the need and usefulness of screening campaigns.


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