Strategic Creativity by Pavan Choudary


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Extract from business classic 'The Rx Factor:Strategic creativity in pharmaceutical marketing'

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Strategic Creativity by Pavan Choudary

  1. 1. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary CHAPTER 3 Purposive Strategic Creativity T he term 'strategic creativity' sounds paradoxical. Because to most, strategy implies a discipline in thinking, while creativity connotes gay abandon. The paradox quickly vanishes once you realize that the latter is not true. Creativity is not wild thinking, even though wild thinking can be adopted at times as a route to creativity. But it is incorrect to equate a creative route with the creative output. Let me recount for you the experiences of two medical representatives, describing in their own words, how they had handled a particular doctor who was hard of hearing. This is what Representative 1 said: My doctor was hard of hearing, To catch his eye, pink pyjamas I was wearing. He could not hear my detailing but I thought I heard him sigh, Whenever he looked at my pyjamas, there was a weird look in his eye. My efforts to be different went much in vain; He doesn't prescribe my products, even thinks I am insane. Representative 2 said: My doctor too was hard of hearing, But I didn't lose my bearing. I tactfully gave him a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a hearing aid; 31
  2. 2. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Understanding the Factor Before him a chart of yogasanas to improve his hearing I laid. I even presented him a book on lip reading; That's exactly how I did my seeding. My flowchart with big pictures I detail at the top of my voice. He writes many a prescription for me as I rejoice. All that Representative 2 did was aimed at improving the doctor's comprehension. And this brought him results. His effort was both creative and meaningful. Representative 1 however had missed the point. His pink pyjamas might have startled the doctor but in no way enhanced his understanding of the product Representative 1 was selling. He was different, but not creative. You cannot sell only by being different. Sometimes by so doing, you could place yourself outside the mainstream of commerce. As someone once said, 'If you are being different just for the sake of being different, you can always come down in the morning with a sock in your mouth.' When you are strategically creative, everything you say or do is different but also meets a predetermined purpose. Here, a distinction also must be made between originality and eccentricity. An eccentric is different because he wants to be different. The original is different because he cannot help being different; he is made so. Pharma Poets —Eccentric or Original? In the pharmaceutical industry, because the means of communication is audio-visual, there is a virtual flood of poetry. Rhyming many a time without purpose. The rationale given is that rhyming aids the doctor's memory. And that it makes the flipchart more pleasurable to detail. Yes, this is correct on both counts, but only if the rhyme develops on your strategy and does not dilute the image of your brand. If so, go ahead. If not, either make a rhyme based on your strategy (if your enchant32
  3. 3. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Purposive Strategic Creativity ment with rhymes is so compelling) or drop the idea. A poet writes for himself, a marketer for others. Only when poems are 'strategic' can they help to sell. For instance, the Nirma detergent cake jingle. The cake has been positioned on economy. The jingle goes thus: Nirma detergent tikiya, iski Jhaag ne jaadoo kar diya. (Nirma detergent cake—its suds cast a magic.) Ek so pachaas gram ki tikiya badi, (The cake is big—150 grams.) Bigness is one facet of economy. Phir bhi daamo mein hai kifayati. (Still it is lower priced.) Low price is another facet of economy. Paani main rah kar bhi yeh kam gale. (Even when it is in water it dissolves slowly.) Slow dissolution is another facet of economy. Dhero kapade dhoye aur zyada chalein. (Washes lots of clothes, lasts longer.) More washes and lasting longer are two more facets of economy. Nirma detergent tikiya, iski jhaag ne jaadoo kar diya. (Nirma detergent cake—its suds cast a magic.) The jingle has put in it, in a memorable way, all the meaningful aspects an economy buyer of detergent cake could seek. Music can indeed make a product sell, provided the brand name and the message are tied into the tune/rhyme. In the same league is the jingle that has sold washing machines. It goes like this: Videocon washing machine; It washes, it rinses, it even dries your clothes; In just a few minutes. You are ready for the show. Videocon washing machine. Note the benefit a marketer gains from juxtaposing his brand name with the generic (washing machine) in the advertisement. Videocon is not a great name for a washing machine. But it has always appeared alongside the generic in the advertisement. Could this be 33
  4. 4. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Understanding the Factor the reason why it stayed for long the leader in washing machines? Or is it because one never forgets one's teacher? Videocon taught the Indian audience the many things a washing machine does. Rhymes in sync are not just cute; they are compelling. Cute rhymes are good for the shower; compelling rhymes make the cash registers chime. In contrast is the obsession of some pharmaceutical marketers for wayward rhyming. The formula is to come up with some funny memorable words which rhyme and then write your advertisement copy around it. In short, suit the sales idea to the execution. Place the cart before the bull. And for this, the marketing team will go on a well-financed art trip. The owner doesn't mean to be a sponsor of arts, but as long as someone else is footing the bill for the team's so-called creative fantasies, sales messages are going to be sugar-coated with as many lines of meaningless rhymes as they will hold. All this hoopla is only an absurd cover up for the lack of an idea. It never fools the doctor. You get unfunny sales results from these funny lines. These poets do not realize that the doctor has not learnt his medicine in verse. That your delivery should complement your message, not overwhelm it. There are two rhymes which, perhaps, these poets would do well to remember: Tell me quick and tell me true, Or else my dear hell with you. If you can't make it great, play it straight. John Kallir of Kallir, Philips and Ross says, 'Dare to be simple. Puns, word plays, allusions, hidden quotations are an occupational disease of copywriters. Occasionally, very occasionally, they work. When you've coined an extraordinarily clever phrase, ask yourself, does it make things clearer? Am I running the risk of being misunderstood? In fact, it's a mistake to assume that our audience necessarily thinks like us. Frank Mann, long-time account manager of A.H. Robins, once told me, 'When I use a picture of a horse, I like to run a caption underneath, This horse is a horse! Excellent advice!' 34
  5. 5. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Purposive Strategic Creativity One brand of gastric prokinetic from a renowned company peddled itself on low earnings per share (EPS). The idea was that the words 'low EPS' with a background of a share index chart will make the doctor sit up and take notice. Subsequent pages in the flipchart will tell him that EPS actually stands for 'extra pyramidal side-effects'. The doctor will like the word play and write prescriptions. In fact, the doctor did not share the marketing manager's fascination for the share market and the market share slipped. The doctor didn't play. He slept through the detailing. If we don't wake up to the virtue of simplicity, we will never deliver. Creativity that Does Not Cloud Strategy To understand the term 'strategic creativity', let us first understand what it is not. A company wanted to launch an antihistamine - Terfenadine. (Antihistamines are drugs used to stop a running nose, sneezing and other allergic reactions.) The salt was to be promoted for its nonsedating property. Other antihistamines did cause drowsiness as a side-effect. On this count Terfenadine was better. So the strategy was that the company would hawk the non-sedating property of the brand. The message was to be executed in a creative and memorable way. The company's representative would go to the doctor and say: 'Doctor, if this 12 by 12 hanky is enough to relieve rhinitis we wouldn't even like to mention about it... (sic) give him (brand of terfenadine) (sic).' (And then the representative would take out a new handkerchief stuck on the flipchart and present it to the doctor.) Memorable and dramatic? Clever? Perhaps yes. But not creative, as it did not serve its purpose. It clouded the strategy. Why? Because the handkerchief does not supplement the non-sedating message. Could the company have given an alarm clock or even teabags or anything else to associate the product with alertness? The company's approach was clever and different but not creative. 35
  6. 6. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Understanding the Factor Creativity in marketing means the synthesizing of a unique impulse with strategic rendition. This unique note should not be out of place. It should arise from the composition and yet be able to make, by its presence, this composition unique. Strategy is paramount; it is the foundation. Creative output should grow from this foundation. A creative output, that is not in line with the strategy, is a waste at its best; it could be harmful at its worst. Purposive creativity does not challenge the strategy. It grows from the strategy. Creativity and strategy should never be at cross purposes. Creativity should not cloud the strategy. It must enable the strategy to stand apart. Strategic Creative Output Let us consider some examples of strategic creativity. There was a company marketing an antiflatulent (gas reliever) and the brief was to make a promotool (with a low budget of Rs 5) that reminded the doctor of the function and name of the brand. For the purpose of our discussion, let the name of this brand be 'Gascape'. The strategic creative output was a bottle-opener, mostly used to open cold drinks, sodas, etc. The company representative was to say to the doctor, ‘Sir, just as when you open a bottle gas comes out, similarly, when you prescribe Gascape the patient will be relieved of gas.’ Take another example. You have heard of Disprin. It is an analgesic. Reckitt & Colman could make the formulation so that it dissolved faster than other brands available. The objective was to link this faster dissolution with faster action. The strategic creative output was simple. The representative would demonstrate before the doctor this fast dissolution of Disprin vis-avis that of its competitor's. The representative would carry two glasses filled with water and in front of the doctor drop the competitor's brand in one and Disprin in the other simultaneously. Disprin, 36
  7. 7. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Purposive Strategic Creativity faster to dissolve, would naturally win the race. (How much effect this faster dissolution has on the pharmacological action is another question.) However, the doctor could see this happening with his own eyes. Picture being primal to human consciousness, the doctor could see the difference. The execution was brilliantly simple, completely believable and highly persuasive. Source credibility was established and the claims about Disprin which the representative then made were more easily believed. Disprin has ruled the ethical Asprin market despite a small field force. There is one more brand of this company showing a quasi-ethical profile which exploits the same 'seeing is believing' precept (though this time by default) and is No.1 in its category and in the consumer's mind. You got it. Dettol. Despite repeated attacks, this brand cannot be dislodged from its top position. Though, perhaps, ICI's product Savlon is as good if not better. TABLE 3.1 Comparative performance of leading disinfectant brands Product MAT (Million) MS (%) CHG (%) Antiseptic disinfectant 513.7 Dettol liquid (Apr. 1982), RCI 106.7 Betadine liquid (Sep. 1990), Win Medicare 49.0 Savlon liquid (Jul. 1993), now with J&J 15.6 100 20.9 21.1 5.0 9.5 5.1 MAT—Moving Annual Total MS—Market Share CHG — Change Source: ORG January,1996. One reason cited for its unassailed position by a researcher is that when you add Savlon to water nothing happens, but when you add 37
  8. 8. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary (1) Koi Khaas tel (Only some special oil) (3) Aap ke munne ki (your little one’s) (5) Tel ho aisa (An oil) FIGURE 3.1 (Contd) (2) hi kar sakta hai (can nourish) (4) twacha ka poshan (skin) (6) halka phulka (which is light)
  9. 9. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary (7) jo foran (and can quickly) (9) Dekha, yeb foran gayab ho jaye (See, how quickly it disappears) (8) sama jaye (get absorbed) (10) Johnson’s Baby Oil (Johnson’s Baby Oil) (11) Boond boond samaye twacha ka poshan kare (Every drop gets absorbed (disappears) to nourish the skin) FIGURE 3.1 Power of vision establishes credibility - not seeing becomes believing
  10. 10. Excerpted from the world-known "The Rx Factor" by Pavan Choudary Understanding the Factor Dettol, the water immediately turns cloudy (milky). The consumer imagines that the germs are being killed then and there. The claim of efficacy can be believed in this case because it is there to see. I am happy to note that since the publication of this book in 1997, this property of the brand is being used in the product's promotion. Johnson's Baby Oil is another example where the power of vision was used to establish credibility. The advertisement says that the oil is so light that it enters the skin and gives nourishment. (Halka phulka jo foran samajaye. Boond boond samaye twacha ka poshan kare. (See Figure 3.1.) The oil is light.... After rubbing it a little in your hands, you can hardly see it.) If in the case of Dettol it was the appearance of a white cloud that suggested it must be working (seeing is believing), here it is the disappearance of the oil that establishes that it is at work (not seeing is believing). Credibility established in both cases. You can't defy the eye. These examples show how it is possible to be creative while staying within the confines of strategy. It can be done. Let us see how. 40
  11. 11. Pavan Choudary (A Brief Profile) Pavan Choudary is the author of path breaking books like How a Good Person can Really Win, Broom & Groom (co-author Kiran Bedi), A Trilogy of Wisdom (on Chanakya, Confucius and kabir), Machiavelli for Moral People, Uprising 2011:Indians against Corruption (co-author Kiran Bedi), When you are Sinking become a Submarine and The Rx Factor. Pavan is also the Managing Director of Vygon, a leading French Multinational, chairs the Medical Technology Division of CII, hosts the TV program Hum Aise Kyun Hain on Doordarshan, and has written columns for The Times of India and Financial Chronicle. He sits on some of the most respected advisory boards of India and is a much sought after Management Strategist. To know more follow him on twitter @AuthorPavan or visit