Synapse Marketing Consultancy

The 4C's of Healthcare Brand's Strategy

Taking inspiration from Henry David Thoreau, who one famously said, “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”

Any healthcare project we worked on at Synapse, as a creative healthcare marketing agency begins with a deep dive understanding of 4 parts, of what we call the 4C’s.

  1. Culture (Category, market understanding, behaviours, past and present scanerios)
  2. Competition (Other Generics or similar players)
  3. Customer (Doctor/ Influencer/ Caregiver)
  4. Consumer (Patient/User)

The 4C’s are so well ingrained in our system at Synapse that it is probably the part that excites our account managers, and medical expert teams the most.

1. Culture

Any healthcare brand needs to first understand the market behaviour. The What, The How, The Why of their brand, their market, their customer, and why sales happen or don’t happen.

A deep understanding of culture is essential to being customer obsessed but not being customer possessed.

Market information is more than stats, data, and sheets, it about getting into the market and seeing why people buy what they buy. It’s the holy grail of marketing and very few people have managed to find it.

When we were working on a pitch for Loreal’s dermo-cosmetic brand – Cheryl’s, we had the opportunity to interact with a lot of beauticians, women and teenagers who got a facial done often. It was interesting to understand the culture of the facial market.

The market research began with a simple question,
Why did you get a facial done?

After speaking to more than 50 women in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Pune we managed to put the answers in 3 buckets.

  1. Occasion
  2. Skin Care
  3. Look Good

On digging deeper we managed to put all of them in one main bucket, which became the insight of the pitch.

They all did it to ‘Feel Good’.

A facial we realised was more than looking good; it was about feeling good, from inside. An inside just didn’t mean your dermis, and epidermis, but inside meant from your heart and mind. A facial was a treat. Treating themselves. Pampering themselves. Yes they wanted compliments, they wanted people to notice that their skin was looking cleaner, fresher and brighter, but often people didn’t notice. But the consumer did.

Our culture summary went like this.

A Facial Is Not Just A Skin Procedure.

A Facial Is Not A Lipstick, That’s Fun

It’s Not A Foundation, That Hides

It’s Not Makeup, That Enhances

It’s Not A Sunscreen, That Protects

It’s Not A Haircut, That’s Temporary

It’s Not A Treatment, That Cures

It’s Not A Nail Paint That’s For Today

It’s Not A Shampoo That Cares

A Facial Is An Emotion

An Emotion that they can Feel

A Facial ‘Feels Good Inside’

This understanding of the culture became the core of the pitch. We didn’t win this due to various other factors, but the learning was enriching and it taught us a lot on how we can use Culture understanding to define a brands communication.

Till date, the L’Oreal pitch deck is used as training for our new joinees at Synapse and we are proud of the mistakes we made, because it gave us more than an account. An account we would have loved to win, but yet it defined many changes we implemented post the experience.

2. Competition

We’d like to give you a brief for a brand launch.

This is something we hear everyday from clients that have trusted us, have heard of us from their colleagues or seniors or just called us without knowing us or our background.

No matter what, every client and every project is like a new inning in a cricket match, and we start from zero.

So to understand the brand better we need to ask some very important questions. Lets take a pharma brand brief for example.

If the brand exists what is the current Scientific Positioning?

What is the Current Marketing Positioning?

If not what is the desired Scientific/ Marketing Positioning?

Why do/would some doctors choose the brand/molecule?

Why do/would some doctors not choose the brand/ molecule?

Is there a belief that’s stopping them from prescribing them the brand/ molecule?

What knowledge gaps could we fill?

What is the common wisdom we want the doctors to have about the brand/ molecule?

What new points do you want the doctor to have about the brand/ molecule?

We don’t need the answers for all these questions, but the more the company knows the better ground we have to quickly take off from where they left it.

Competition is always a huge part of a brand plan and your strategy depends on that.

Primarily there are only two things you can do to grow.

a) Expand the market

b) Convert the market

But the common factor is that in both situations you are replacing a current practice with your offering and your only task is to identify your competition and show that you are superior.

In a very competitive market of oral contraceptives, I was working on a brand of Wyeth (now Pfizer) called Loette. Loette Tablet is a combination medicine used for oral contraception (prevention of pregnancy).

Loette was a challenger brand to other molecules and we wanted to show doctors that the dosage of Loette was much lesser than the competitor brands.

We understood the market in detail. The culture was changing slowly. The modern woman was health conscious, and was making wise choices. This woman wanted to be a part of the decision making process along with the doctor and would not just blindly follow what the doctor ordered. She wanted to know more. She had questions. She would not challenge the prescription but she needed to be given the confidence.

We had to keep this woman in mind when we were communicating to the doctor. This was something the competition wasn’t doing. They were harping about their brand safety, efficacy, power and control.

There is a rule I follow when I study competition. When others Zig, you Zag and one of the first times I executed that effectively was with Loette.

Lowest dosage contraceptive pill. This needed to come across without sounding like competition. We could not beat them at their own game so we needed to invent one of our own.

Taking the consumer mind-set, we came up with a campaign that said

Todays woman.

Low Sugar

Lower Weight and

Low. Lower. Loette.

The lowest dosage contraceptive pill.

It was a 30 seconder pitch that was crisp, made the point and created sales. Most importantly it did was competition wasn’t doing. Doctors resonated with the brand because this was the current problem in the clinic. A woman, who needed to be convinced that the brand being prescribed was one that fit her life.

In another instance, we were briefed by Unichem Laboratories (now Torrent). The brand was a newer and modified version of Cetrizine, called Levocetrizine. Now, a very popular brand- LeZyncet.

Since the molecule was new we had a lot of talking points. But instead of talking science, which most generic brands launching in the market at the same time would be doing, we decided to Zag.

Levocetrizine was a purer form of Cetrizine. Cetrizine was a molecule doctors knew, endorsed and prescribed in allergic conditions almost every day. Plus the audience was wide. There were GPs, CPs, Dermatologist and Respiratory experts.

Levocetrizine did have many scientific benefits like lesser sedation, which was a strong point. Sometimes stating the obvious is not always the best way to stand out because we knew that competition would be only harping on that. We wanted to say something else, something simple.

After a lot of discussion we narrowed down on one thought- LeZyncet is a purer form of Cetrizine and that’s why it comes with many benefits.

In one go we wanted to convert prescribers of Cetrizine to Levocetrizine and from other Levocetrizines to LeZyncet.

The question we were asking ourselves was how do we show effectively a purer version of Cetrzine, creatively and something that everyone understands.

Just then the office chaiwala walked in and asked everyone his or her preference. Some asked for tea, some tea without sugar, some coffee and some black tea.

It was funny how we all had made our own preferences based on our health conditions, taste buds and influences.

That moment we came up with an idea on sugar. Sugar, that comes from an impure version- Sugarcane. It would be funny if the chaiwala walked in with trays of chai and sugarcane instead of sugar. How primitive would that be?


That’s the emotion we subtly needed to convey.

Cetirizine was primitive. Levocetirizine is newer, purer.

The visual idea was already in front of our eye.

We took a plastic bottle with a flip-top cap. Put two sugar cubes in it. Printed a texture of sugar cane, and pasted it around the bottle.

You’ve used Cetrizine in allergies. Now introducing a purer form- LeZyncet – Levocetrizine from Unichem.

In one simple communication we converted doctors one by one. The communication was Ubiquitous and a strong field force team adopted it extremely well.

When Torrent acquired Unichem Laboratories, one of the brands they were interested in was LeZyncet. Even today as per the latest sales reports, LeZyncet is a brand to reckon with and continues its communication of the sugarcane vs. sugar.

Sweet, isn’t it?

3. Customer

Healthcare marketing has one big difference compared to any other industry because of one big factor- The Influencer.

In pharmaceuticals, it is the doctor.

In hospitals, it is sometimes the nurse.

In baby care, it is the mother, grandmother or mother-in-law.

In chronic care, it is the caregiver.

In OTC/OTX, it is the retailer.

In dermo-cosmetics, it is the beautician.

In small towns, it was a compounder.

In certain rural areas, it is the woman of the house.

In cell banking, it is the parents.

In diapers, we have also seen it is the father! (who sometimes has no role at all)

This is who we call the customer.

The customer is not necessarily the user. Their job is to only influence you to use, consume or try.

A good place to get this right is to start with some Customer Segmentation. You should understand the different types of customers you deal with and tailor your approach to them. Once you understand your customers you can really start to WOW them.

One of the ways we segment customers is an extremely simplified format. One that originated by simply listening to the customer.

In most cases it goes like this…

Heard of Brand

Uses Brand

Heard of Brand

Does not use the Brand yet…

Has not heard of the Brand

Might use the Brand if…

Has heard of the Brand

Will not use the Brand

Obviously getting into the mind of this huge stakeholder, segment by segment is an important and essential part of your marketing mix because they can make or break your brand like we have seen many a times in our experience.

You need to be extremely careful when communicating to the customer. Its one of the reasons why a brand like Fevicol chose to speak to carpenters, because they knew that the buyer was a carpenter and not a home owner.

Which brings another unique term in this industry?

Low Involvement Category

Mind you, there are some brands that thrive in this category because of blind trust in the brand and they don’t think twice before prescribing it. Brands like Calpol, Ascoril, Voveran , Electral, Saridon, and even Aquaguard have made huge dents in minds just by pure brand name equity.

A brand, that belongs in a therapy area where the doctor doesn’t think too much about.

And then there is a converse to it, which is High Involvement Category. Where a lot of thought is put behind the brand that needs to be prescribed and the influencer pays a lot of time to select the brand that fits the lives, pocket and needs of the consumer.

Our experience in Knee implants was a clear indication of high involvement of customers where the doctor, the interns, the anaesthesiologist, the patient, the caregiver, and even the medical representative played a role in the final brand of choice. Long discussions on the company equity, brand, material, contents, service, price, availability, fit, sizes, longevity, usage etc would be considered.

There is a very interesting example that comes in my mind when we were working with Glenmark and they were planning the launch of Telmisartan. Half the job was done by the marketing by obtaining a very unique and catchy name- Telma.

Little did we know then, that we had landed a brief of a brand that would become a blockbuster, or the pressure would have got the better of us.

The issue in the market then was that the existing brand in the market, indicated for hypertension had a half life of less of about 8 hours.

The other side was that a lot of patients suffered from incidents early morning.

When you put two and two together, you realise that this could be because of the short half life which was ineffective in the early hours of the day.

Telmisartan had a huge advantage of a longer half life, which meant that there would be lesser early morning incidents.

Once the strategy was cracked, the task was to ensure once again that the communication was creative and effective.

Fresh from our success with LeZyncet we were all charged up to come up with another blockbuster idea.

And we delivered.

The idea came from reading articles on the ‘alarming’ rates of incidents in the morning.

All we had to do was put it together.

Morning + Alarms.

Pun intended.

We stuck a loud alarm clock on the launch visual aid of Telma.

Hypertension incidents can be alarming, and the alarm would go off in the doctor’s clinic.

We got the attention of the influencer and hit the nail on the head. The exact need was spoken about. He had a reason to believe. Because there was merit in what we were talking about and there was a sharp creative communication to back it up.

The Alarm became the mnemonic of the launch campaign for Telma.

Today, Telma is a flagship brand of Glenmark, and I am proud to have been part of the team that conceptualised this super creative campaign that saved lives and created healthy bottom lines for the company too.

The above example is a clear indicator of understanding the customers pain point, and giving him an extremely effective reason to chose the brand, back it up with strong science and marketing communications.

No wonder the saying- Customer is King.

4. Consumer

The consumer is obviously the one who actually consumes the brand. Funnily the consumer is someone who sometimes has no role play in selecting the brand but their preference can drive the actual decision.

For instance the ‘taste’ of a paracetamol syrup intended for kids can be a huge factor when a doctor is prescribing a brand for a fussy child.

Or the size of a tablet can be a make or break for a brand when indicated for a senior citizen and the indication is chronic like diabetes, hypertension or cardiac conditions.

To top it all the consumer may have never heard of the brand name in their life sometimes.

I’ll share a story and case study of a brand very close to me, Suburban Diagnostics- A reputed chain of diagnostic centres in Western India. You will hear more of it as I have a dedicated chapter on it later in this book, but here is one is a clear understanding the consumer needs and mind set.

We were promoting preventive health checkups and being the torchbearer of this cause we had to continuously innovate, rethink and ideate on new ways to talk about it every year.

Healthcare is never easy to promote in a country where insurance is not the main spends in a middle class income, but medication could be.

In this case the burden of healthcare is always a huge issue and a large part of the family’s income goes into this.

Plus there is a boom of a new generation what I call ‘The Sandwich Generation’. Earning members of the family in the age bracket of 25-50. Living with elderly parents and young children in the same house or at least having the responsibility of taking care of both of them.

This generation is thinking ahead of time.

They don’t want their kids to go through the task they are undergoing and they will not abandon their parents responsibilities too.

In this case they wanted to be careful not to burden their children with their healthcare needs later on in life and want to live independent and without having their kids worry about their health issues.

The keyword was Burden.

The Burden of healthcare.

In hindi, there is a common phrase called, Boj. (means burden but with more emotional connect)

“Main tum pe boj nahin banna chahtha hoon” is a cliché dialog in many soap operas and hindi films.

But as dramatic as it may sound. It was the consumer truth.

We capitalised on the emotion and we launched the new annual campaign “Unburden Your Health”

The campaign was launched with a short film that spoke about a young girl who had got an offer to go to New York and pursue her dreams. She is visibly excited and walks into her house only to find her father unconscious and their family friend and doctor checking his father. The girl is obviously shocked when the doctor tells her that her father could be having a heart attack and she will need to shelve her plans to go to New York.

Her world is about to turn upside down when her father breaks into a loud laugh. He was playing a prank on her.

They playfully run around the house when the doctor talks to our audience. He explains that like you, the girls father doesn’t want to be a burden on his daughter and hence he gets himself a preventive health check-up every year.

The film was beautifully shot by a young team of film makers- Ten Color Productions and was trending on twitter the day it was launched.

I love seeing the expressions of people when I show them the film in conference rooms as part of our portfolio. We touched the consumers cord, and created a surge in people not just getting preventive health check ups done but also advocating it to their friends, family and colleagues. Luckily we were back by good press, great awareness and thanks to the efforts of the entire team we were seen once again as pioneers of the cause.

Getting into the shoes, hearts, and minds of the consumer is a very important aspect of healthcare marketing and luckily there is only one simple method – Listen.

Listen with an open mind.

If you are attentive you will find what the ‘brand’ needs and if are not attentive you will find what ‘you’ are looking for.

Now read that last line again.

I couldn’t stop myself on continuing my missing 4B’s, so here they are.


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The 4C’s of Healthcare Marketing

Taking inspiration from Henry David Thoreau, who one famously said, “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”

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