Heritage healthcare brands – bringing back the spotlight

Top brands are heritage brands

Average age of a top-10 pharma brand in India is about 19-20 years. Of the top-300 brands, as many as 260 are vintage says a study by IDFC Securities. Some like Betnovate from GSK have navigated a fantastic 50 years in India. Majority of them belong to fast moving classes of medications like painkillers, cough and cold medication, antibiotics and nutra-ceuticals. Most are made by the prescription of the primary practitioners and in time have become popular with consumers. Over-the-counter may simply be put as over-the-years. Sample a Voveron, a Crocin, a Benadryl. Every organization has brands which are their face to the world. If these have sailed through happy and rough times and have yet remained intact in the minds of customers, still have a healthy core, a healthy cash flow, they may well have made their way into the list of heritage brands. To survive long they have forged strong emotional connects
with their audiences. They have transcended the functional and have moved into the experiential realms.

Functional over experiential

Heritage healthcare brands big

Marketers of prescription brands are bound by clinical evidences and scientific proofs. They therefore may not be very forthcoming in acknowledging the power of experience in the making of these heritage brands. Functional benefits are the decree. Proofs of elemental iron content, grammage of protein, 52 ingredients, ‘RDA’ promises are customary even after several decades of a brand’s existence. While claims need to be responsible, the experience can be multi-sensory.

Line brands

One of the commonest interventions to this life cycle management of heritage brands is adding a market segment. Voveron tablet was followed by Voveron gel and thermagel. Benadryl was followed by Benadryl allergy. Line brands have the ability to expand the user base and inject enthusiasm and innovation when done right. However the scope is much narrower as compared to FMCG. In the pharmaceutical world a molecular entity is the brand. This limits the possibilities of a line brand except for an extension to the type of formulation. Regulatory does not permit the retention of the brand name for the next in class molecule and hence limits the line brand concept considerably. Rx to OTC switching and co-marketing and co-distribution are some of the other life cycle boosters.

Reviving the experience stories

Can the experiences be revived? Can healthcare brands ride on nostalgia too? How else can those with a glorious history reinvent themselves to address the time out from the spotlight? It’s got to be the fine amalgam of what made them successful and adapting to today’s realities. It’s time to acknowledge that even pharmaceutical brands have evolved from being products. They have personality traits that draw from and lend themselves to the lives and lifestyles of the current generation. It will work well for these brands to rediscover what brand elements really appealed to consumers and to modernize these elements to reach new generations and at the same time revive the nostalgia of their long-time consumers. Identifying and intensifying the past brand experiences, rekindling the stories, reviving the nostalgia will be the ways to remove the layers of dust that have settled on heritage healthcare brands for years. The stakeholders for communication are much wider than when the brands started off couple of decades ago. Not just the physicians and pharmacists, the patients, caregivers, relatives, payers, healthcare administrators all are a part of the brand ecosystem. Every experience recounted counts. The ‘burn’ of Amrutanjan, that warmth of Benadryl, the sure-to-work tag of Augmentin – every experience is unique.

Insights drive Innovation

Understanding brand associations allows for innovations to be built around them. As P&G’s Bob McDonald notes, “we know from our history that while promotions may win quarters, innovation wins decades.” Each year P&G invests millions in foundational consumer research, conducting thousands of studies involving millions of consumers in hundreds of countries. Regional research showed that about 80% of consumers in India wash their clothes by hand. This needed to choose between detergents that were gentle on the skin but not very good at actually cleaning clothes, and more-potent but harsher agents. Tide Naturals was born-which cleaned well without causing irritation. Discovering customer realities is the start of putting life into heritage brands and bringing the heritage back into our lives.

– Rashmi Thosar
  CEO, Brandcare