Third Immutable Law in Pharma Branding ~ 3rd of the 13 Immutable Laws in Branding

Don’t possess high technical skills? Then how can you ever possess a mega-brand?

  • Law 3 – Have strong technical skills of your and competitive brands.

Don’t possess high technical skills? Then how can you ever possess a mega-brand?

The iceberg concept

It’s surprising to find many brand managers do not know a lot about the products they are handling. Knowledge is power and for pharma brand managers, product knowledge can be translated into a superior branding experience. It is difficult to effectively manage your brand if you cannot show how your will address the physicians or the customers’ needs.

While it okay if the medical representatives knowledge is akin to the tip of the iceberg, the brand managers technical knowledge should be very deep.


Not just technical knowledge; the source of procurement of the raw material, the best batch size, the excipients used in the formulation, the coloring agents used, whether backward integration would be more cost-effective – be curious and you will get more questions.

With deep technical skills, you will be able to perform specialized tasks and will be able to communicate effectively with physicians, field colleagues and coordinate their efforts.

Why is so much importance given to product knowledge? There are many reasons.

Boosts Enthusiasm

Product knowledge builds enthusiasm. If your field colleagues see how enthusiastic and knowledgeable you as a brand manager are about your brand, from top to bottom it is one of the best energizing tools for field colleagues to get prescriptions from physicians. As you generate excitement for your brand, you remove any uncertainties. The easiest way to become enthusiastic is to truly believe in the product. Remember, the first sale you make is yourself; the second sale is to the internal customer and the third is to the physician. If the medical representatives and the first-line leaders believe in you, they will believe in your brand.

In order to be successful, you need to be confident about your product. And confidence comes from the depth of your knowledge.  If you know your brand inside and out, you can disseminate information as needed. The enthusiasm of your field colleagues will be organic.

Case Study – I

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is increased several fold in most patients with type 2 diabetes, particularly patients who are older and have other risk factors.

These associated risk factors include hypertension, obesity, and dyslipidemia.

Diabetic dyslipidemia, which has also been called atherogenic dyslipidemia (a term that describes the lipid abnormalities in people with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes), is characterized by elevated plasma triglyceride (TG) levels, low levels of HDL cholesterol, and smaller cholesterol ester–depleted LDL.

A brand manager handling sitagliptin or sitagliptin with metformin should fully about know ACCORD (The Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Type 2 Diabetes) Trial by heart.

At the same time she should know about the ADVANCE (Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease) Trial, the ADVANCE-ON Trial and the VADT (Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial) Trial.

This will help him get ideas to differentiate from the rest.

Building trust and confidence

Physicians have to trust the brand, the organization, and the persons they interact with before they come to a prescribing decision. By now, you would have guessed that the persons (i.e. the medical representative the field managers) with whom they interact with is weighed much more heavily than the other two sources.

If a physician is not fully committed to prescribing your product, it may be simply because of the lack of confidence he has on the brand or knowledge of the product which has not been communicated because the brand manager herself lacks adequate knowledge.

A well read brand manager will use product knowledge to help cement that confidence. Think about what is gained by reading more and more about your brand. By knowing more about it than your physicians, your medical representatives and field managers will gain a tremendous advantage that will lead to a stronger brand.

Physicians are more likely to trust field personnel who show confidence in themselves and in what they are promoting. You can instill this confidence in people by increasing your knowledge of your brand and disseminating this in a simple form which a medical representative can understand and then further communicate.

This makes it vital for your field personnel to be seen as trustworthy source of information. And it is only you, the brand manager, through superior product knowledge who can be the anchor.

Overcoming objections

Factual information gained from sound product knowledge, may be used to tactfully handle the objections voiced by physicians. Solid knowledge about your product coupled with parallel information about competitor’s products gives you that added advantage to easily counter objections. Your knowledge about competitor’s products should be as strong as your own brand.

Imparting product training with emphasis toward product knowledge will be an important tool to help you in making the physicians says “Wow” for your brand before they do it for your competitors.

Making Lasting Impressions

One of the reasons that customers are investigating systematically on your products is because of tremendous competition. With almost 20-25 brands of every molecule, for a physician, all products are similar to them. With hardly any difference in the product itself, companies are realizing that they can make up for the difference in other areas.

One easy area that you can make a difference is the amount of information which can be disseminated – medical updates, peer reviews and so on. It requires an in-depth knowledge of your product to do so.

For instance, a physician starts the conversation by asking about one product, but the medical representative recognizes that this physician is actually a better fit for another product in the company portfolio. It could even be an add-on product. The medical representative then proceeds to explain the reasons why, and in doing so, has now communicated to the physician something and shown that the medical representative has the patients and the physician’s best interest in mind.

With so many “prescriptions-share askers” in Pharma India right now, deep product knowledge of the brand manager is sure to create a lasting impression.

In closing and to reiterate the importance of product knowledge, here is another case study.

Case Study – II

Xenon Derma introduced a new moisturizer with a unique formula in the month of September 2012 The name was Crème Hydratante.

Perfect timing! Just before the onset of winter!

The sales zoomed! 90% of the annual target of Crème Hydratante was achieved in just 7 months.

Come April, and the sales came down by 75%. Further went down in May and June throwing all in sales and marketing into a tizzy.

Anything wrong with the strategy? Was it poor strategy execution post-April? Should the communication strategy be revisited? All were confused. No conclusive findings and the stalemate continued.

Then in October 2013, the sales once again started soaring, and till April 2014, showed Crème Hydratante had gained considerably in market share.

In the following years, the pattern continued. The conservative brand manager with shallow product knowledge acknowledged defeat and said it that it is not possible to get prescriptions of Crème Hydratante in summers. He had shop audit date to back it.

The CEO of the company however was not ready to accept this. He personally went to the field and spoke to doctors. He read more and more about the causative factors of dry skin.  And after reading he found a big vacant space for Crème Hydratante. As an adjuvant medication along with the drugs for atopic dermatitis and psoriasis!

It transpired that when Crème Hydratante is used in flare-us along with clobetasol or mometasone or other steroids, and the application of C rème Hydratante is continued even after during the remission period of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, Crème Hydratante can delay flare-ups and reduce the intensity of flare-ups considerably.

A niche was found for Crème Hydratante – an essential moisturizer to complete the therapy for atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

The Crème Hydratante brand manager then came with differential positioning – one for the cosmetologists and the other for dermatologists

With cosmetologists where Crème Hydratante was positioned for skin radiance and and freshness. The message was “ Crème Hydratante – see skin glow with a new fresh flawless radiance.”

For dermatologists, it was positioned as an adjuvant in psoriasis and atopic dermatitis and the message was “ Crème Hydratante not just delays flare-ups but also reduces the intensity of flare-ups.”

The prescription flow for Crème Hydratante increased exponentially, not just during the peak season but also during the so-called ‘

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Vivek Hattangadi

Vivek Hattangadi

Chief Mentor at ‘The Enablers’



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