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Our strategy is to know consumers better than they know themselves-Anantha Nayak, Cipla

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Our strategy is to know consumers better than they know themselves-Anantha Nayak, Cipla

Cipla’s renewed focus on over-the-counter (OTC) products is redefining its relevance in the healthcare consumer category that is fast competing with FMCG products.

In an interview with exchange4media, Anantha Nayak, CEO, Cipla Health Ltd. about the marketing challenges in the healthcare sector, the need for competing with FMCG players and Cipla’s renewed focus on OTC category.


Cipla’s Nicotex has already won awards globally for its innovative campaign. How would you describe the success of your marketing strategy?

We are in the business of building brands. We are not leveraging one or two molecules, which is usually the pharma way of running the business. It has been almost eight months since we went with the launch of our new product- Nicotex, and in that time span it has won some prestigious awards for its marketing approach. If we had thought of it as another purely pharma or healthcare way of marketing campaign, we would not have been here getting all the accolades. But we competed with hardcore FMCG products to showcase the changing mindset with which we are trying to build our brands.

The other success factor is that we are looking at the unmet consumer needs, rather than popular segments, where Cipla can touch lives and make a difference.

What was the thought behind developing a product like Nicotex?

Despite big ad spends on anti-smoking campaigns, there is not a perceptible decline in the number of smokers. The ‘no-smoking’ communication is premised on the negative approach and smokers seem to have developed a blind spot towards such campaigns. Also, smoking is often seen as a fashionable statement and we wanted to make giving up smoking equally fashionable.

Have the accolades for Nicotex campaign translated to its success on ground?

Yes, we keep on receiving feedback from people, especially women who express their appreciation for the product, which helps in quitting smoking. This is the success story for us apart from the business figures that have almost doubled. According to our estimates we have helped half a million people so far in their efforts to quit smoking and that gives us an immense sense of accomplishment.

What are the key differentiating points between traditional healthcare marketing and consumer marketing?

The fundamental difference is that the pharma industry has always operated from the illness-to-wellness approach while the consumer industry uses wellness-to-prevent model. But when you want to create iconic brands in pharma, you have to look at it beyond just molecules and place pharma products as consumer propositions. Moreover the business models are also significantly different. Pharma industry invests hugely in the upfront R&D and manufacturing while in the consumer industry you invest in the brands for 4-5 years before they become profitable. So it requires differentiated skill sets and differentiated business models.

When it comes to promoting your products, what factors do you take into consideration before deciding on the communication strategy?

Our strategy is to know consumers better than they know themselves. Moreover we want to be available where they are most receptive, I believe it’s not the outspending that will build brands but it is outthinking and out marketing that will eventually build brands.

In the particular case of Nicotex, out consumers were very high users of social media and followers of sports and news channels. We leveraged all the three touch points; we leveraged Indian Soccer League, Social Media platforms and News Channels as part of the strategy and it really worked well.

What are the marketing challenges in the healthcare category?

There are 2-3 challenges one is facing, one is the regulatory framework, the other challenge is the propensity to duplicate products in India and the third one is how to effectively reach our consumers in an era where plenty of media platforms are available. Moreover with chemists’ shops increasingly becoming semi-grocers, the consumer healthcare products are now competing with pure FMCG categories. In that sense it is a challenging task on all fronts.

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