When a consumer is approached in their native language, it helps in creating a far better connect, shares Vikas Gupta

Dr Vikas Gupta Cipla Interview

In an exclusive conversation with Social Samosa, Vikas Gupta from Cipla sheds light on marketing strategy for healthcare brands, the relevance of social media and influencers in the context, and more.

The pandemic changed the paradigms of marketing with a significant acceleration of digital transformation since the last year. Vikas Gupta, Rx Head at Cipla India, speaks on the relevance of channels such as social media and OTT, along with pertinent strategies that will stand out, especially in the healthcare marketing sector.

Edited Excerpts:

In terms of advertising & marketing, how was 2020 for the sector? Top 3 Healthcare marketing strategies that stood out during 2020?

2020 was a challenging year. With growing uncertainties, we were compelled to quickly adapt to the new environment and create strategies that would demonstrate the best marketing practices. In terms of advertisement, the health care sector has become more sensitive and empathetic with its messaging.

Speaking of the top 3 healthcare marketing strategies, with the pandemic hitting us, we saw more and more people staying indoors, which led to a boom in video streaming/OTT platforms. Designing a marketing strategy around the OTT platforms is something that stood well.  We saw not just healthcare but other sectors also heavily invested in this.

The second marketing strategy that stood out was companies investing in localized content to drive engagement in tier II and III markets and position the company as a trusted expert.

If we further slice down the content marketing, visual/video stories were widely used on social media platforms to stay relevant and start a meaningful full conversation.

The third is the use of influencers in the campaigns. Influencers help create visibility for the campaign and connect with the audience while bringing credibility to the messaging. 

What were the marketing tactics that you adopted earlier? How has evolved now? What are the initiatives taken by the brand to help people during the pandemic?

The patient is at the core of everything we do. Our endeavor is to go beyond the pill and help patients to the best of our abilities, even by empowering them to stay healthy. As a pharmaceutical company, in line with established Indian norms, we do not advertise our products. Our narrative is on helping patients become aware.

Our efforts are focused on driving awareness about a disease, getting people to engage with the information, encourage them to take necessary actions for appropriate treatment, and even foster the prevention of deterioration. This pro-patient approach and intent remain constant across therapies, be it cardiovascular, urology, or respiratory.

We understand the power of social media and this has been a major part of our all campaigns and have been exploring this medium for quite some time now.

The digital platform has become even more important in the current scenario with the sheer flexibility of formats that it offers for communicating a message.

Measuring the impact on a digital platform is more precise and, in several formats, we have the option of real-time optimization. Here, geo-targeting is more systematic and since patterns of content consumption on digital build more engagement, garnering an understanding of responses from the people is also easier on digital. 

Analysts suggest a growth in the sector with the new year seems to bode well for the pharma industry. What are your thoughts on the same? Are you expecting 2021 to be better in terms of revenues?

2020 saw the pharma sector in the midst of molding-and-remolding itself with a sudden focus on healthcare due to pandemic.

The pharma industry has learned new ways of working within the new constraints built by the situation. We are very optimistic about 2021 and anticipate key therapies like respiratory, urology, ophthalmology, anti-infectives to see substantial progress. As the markets normalize, we expect to see a rebound in the non-COVID-19 portfolio.

Please take us through your marketing strategy at this time. What would the media mix for the company be? Which medium will occupy the lion’s share?

Our marketing campaign strategies are designed to create awareness about therapies and their right treatment. If an attitudinal and behavioral change with respect to disease is possible, we try to make that happen by empowering patients with more information and understanding of the subject besides the wherewithal to deal with it better.

We have seen a surge in digital media with people engaging on this platform. Therefore, this year, we are taking a digital-first approach and will be leveraging platforms like social media and OTT.

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Being a global company, how do you plan to tap on to the regions in India? Which will be the key target markets and how does the marketing differ from other cities or towns?

Regional content has gained momentum across the nation.

When a consumer is approached in their native language, it helps in creating a far better connect with them.

Simultaneously, helps in understanding their requirements better, making the brand more relevant to them. Our aim is to engage with people at large by creating content that people relate to.

Health and medicine as a subject are serious topics; content marketing can make it more accessible to people. Building relevant content that resonates with people helps strengthen people’s reception and understanding of the topic, thereby helping the brands

Influencers, celebrities, micro-influencers- how does the influencer marketing strategy stand in the scheme of things for you in the coming months?

Influencer marketing is critical for us, and it is equally important that we associate with the right influencers for the same. It helps the brand build a sense of value and trust among consumers through an influencer with considerable reach and influence.

We also have many doctors supporting us on social media, and their opinion is key to build credibility to our message as they are the experts. Besides this, the audience seems to engage with the brand on a personal level, which is where our stories by real patients come in.

If we speak about our biggest campaign #BerokZindagi, last year, it inspired numerous patients to come forward and speak about how they live unhindered lives because of inhalation therapy. The campaign is now in its third year and like earlier campaigns, this year too, we had hugely invested in influencers, celebrities, and micro-influencer to take our message across. Ayushmann Khurrana narrated the stories of two achievers – Michelin star Chef Vikas Khanna and Arjuna awardee badminton player Parupalli Kashyap, who overcame asthma and simultaneously, encouraged asthmatics to adopt the right treatment method i.e. inhalers.

Celebrity engagement plays a significant role in creating awareness for disease or treatment, especially where stigma is strongly associated.

Celebrities/influencers have the power not only to take the message across the audience but also to help start a social conversation which is a critical requirement in campaigns like ours.

In the coming months, we will rely on regional celebrities/influencers to help us connect with a diverse group of audience.

In 2020, we saw the core fundamentals of consumer behaviour changing. As the need & wants of the consumers change, should the measurement parameters of marketing campaigns change too? What kind of measurement metrics do you have in place to understand RoI on your marketing initiatives?

Under the current scenario, we have seen a lot of change in consumer behavior, and suddenly the focus has shifted to well-being. The consumer has become more health-conscious, especially towards lung health. We see this as a good opportunity to drive awareness on lung health with our campaigns such as Berok Zindagi & Lung Attack.

While fundamentally the measurement parameters will remain the same, digital medium allows us to track the engagement better and understand consumer response. The measurement parameters on awareness, perception of treatment category, and consideration will continue to be valid even in the changing scenario.    

 3 Marketing trends you foresee for 2021

  • Content marketing is still the king: Health and medicine as a subject are serious topics. Content marketing can make it more accessible to people. Relevant content which is constructed with a personalized approach will always resonate with people and help strengthen people’s reception and understanding of the topic thereby.
  • OTT platforms are the next big thing: In 2021, we will see many brands integrating content on the OTT platform. With OTT, it becomes far easier to penetrate the regional market, with regional content. I believe it has emerged as the best platform for storytelling.
  • More data-driven marketing: with the surge across digital platforms, the marketing will become highly data-driven with systematic geo-targeting and analyzing the patterns of content consumption. Simultaneously, understanding responses from the people is also easier on digital.