Friday, September 07, 2012

Dynamics of Medicine Promotion Online and Offline

Recently, I gave a talk at an internal pharmaceutical event sharing my perspective on how medicines are being promoted through television and online. In addition, explore ways on how e-commerce can be tapped as an alternative channel.

Some thoughts on this matter:

1. Consumers awareness now stronger online. It also made a lot of wary of accepting claims easily.

One thing that makes social media interesting is that consumers can now voice their thoughts actively and share what they think.

Take the case of the DOH earlier initiative where they want to re-phrase labels to state "no approved therapeutic claims" to "Mahalagang Paalala: Ang (name of product) Ay Hindi Gamot At Hindi Dapat Gamiting Panggamot sa Anumang Uri ng Sakit”.

There was public support then for such clamor but sooner or later got drowned out by other issues. Today, the said initiative seems to have died as that change in labeling was not put into practice.

Although this doesn't mean that the war is lost. It has made consumers conscious on what to realistically expect with these type of products.

2. Loyalty gimmicks might click but it is the community that counts.
Orlistat is one pill that I have been taking for awhile whenever I tend to overeat. One brand, Xenical, created a loyalty site where consumers can enter a code to rack up points and be able to get stuff in the process.

Admittedly, it has encouraged me to keep the boxes and input them when I have time. But when I started receiving calls scheduling me for consultation, it wasn't that welcoming for me.

First, I don't know who I am talking to over the phone and whether I would feel comfortable in sharing my personal information and diet habits.

This in contrast when I got the chance to join the Immuvit MetaFit Challenge and eventually joined the FITFIL community. Becoming part of a movement made me realize that becoming stronger is more important.

If Xenical customer care program have reached out to its consumers much earlier, perhaps it would have been different. Definitely, I still buy the product but reluctant in responding to their customer outreach efforts. But their efforts are much better than traditional social media initiatives that relies on contest and the likes.

3. Consumers reacting to how brands are positioned and promoted.
Awhile back, I wrote about the politics of cough medicine. This is the ongoing war between synthetic and herbal medicine as to which one is better. It is a concern especially if you are loyal to a brand that appears to be antagonistic to its challengers that offers an alternative approach.

Of course, they have to deal with that in their commercial ways but brands have to be sensitive on how it affects their consumer choices.

The same can now be said on pain relievers. Biogesic released a commercial amplifying that it is safe.

This is a concern to me. It opened a question but it didn't answer the question - but simply referring to its brand.

For pain relief due to sports activities and other illness, I usually take either Ponstan, Advil, Alaxan, Biogesic, and others depending on the condition am in and which brand a doctor recommends. Am not certain which one is safe and not.

Then lately, while preparing for my talk, I researched on write-ups on various medicine brands promotion. I saw a few bloggers raving about an advertisement released by Saridon as it touches on Pinoy humor.

The ad is actually eye-catching but what I don't like about it is the violence especially if kids will get to watch it. There was even a Cebuano version of the ad online. Another version of the ad is a man "stamping" on the main character's head.

Saridon, two years back, was a controversial medicine brand due to its product history and was written about by several columnist in the past. My understanding then and now is that it is still a popular brand in the Visayas and Mindanao region. I am not sure if ads of this nature appeal to its target audience there.

Based on its Wikipedia entry, Saridon is tested to be competitive in comparison to its counterparts although safety issues were also indicated.  

But definitely, in my opinion, violence in medicine ads should not be encouraged as it can have varying effect on Filipino audiences especially to children who would like to mimic "interesting" and "funny" ads.
Moving forward
I still believe that the Department of Health should set clear guidelines on how medicine brands are being promoted online and offline. They should also be required to have a website that can handle all product inquiries and disclose issues that will affect the public greatly.

Until then, we can only take what medicine brands say about themselves as pure promotion where we all still have to be "buyer beware".