Astute marketers understand that over several decades, the much-known phraseology – ‘marketing mix’, has remained the bedrock of marketing a product or a service. The ‘Father of Modern Marketing’ - Philip Kotler defined this terminology as the “the set of controllable variables that the firm can use to influence the buyer’s response.” In this context, the controllable variables are referred to as the 4 ‘P’s - Product, Price, Place and Promotion, which remained the basic focus areas in the brand building strategy of pharma marketers, as well.
With an unprecedented transformative impact within the pharmaceutical and biotech industry during the Covid-19 pandemic – for various reasons, ‘purpose’ is fast slotting itself as the 5th fundamental ‘P’ of the marketing-mix. The changing market - triggered by changing customer dynamics, entails the need to clearly define, to the satisfaction of customers, the”purpose” of a business, brand, or service.
As it is increasingly critical to achieve business excellence in the changing paradigm, in this article I will focus on this area from the point of view of goal-oriented pharmaceutical marketing. Although, I wrote before on the need of creating purpose driven brands, this discourse is with a different perspective.
A classic concept gets a fresh impetus in Covid pandemic:
Peter Drucker, whom the Business Week magazine termed as ‘The Man Who Invented Management,’ in 2005, once wrote: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer, so well the product or service fits him and sells itself… The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” I reckon, this vision epitomizes the core concept of ‘purpose driven marketing.’
Understanding ‘purpose driven marketing’:
In an article, published on February 01, 2021, Ad Council wrote that after 22 years – a recent CEO roundtable deliberation decided to amend the definition of ‘purpose-driven marketing.’ The previous one was centered around ‘maximizing shareholder return.’ Whereas the amended one, in addition to serving shareholders, defined ‘purpose-driven marketing’ as ‘a strategy used by an organization to center its external communication efforts around a social cause that aligns with its core values. The goal of purpose-driven marketing is for an organization to develop a deeper rapport with their consumers by creating authentic connections based on shared values.’
This new statement reflected the changing culture in the days before the Covid-19 pandemic, when many people are more vocal about their expectations and spending. For which, they are even switching brand or service preferences in line with their values.
Covid prompts consumers rediscovering the value the industry delivers:
Covid -19 crisis has driven the positive consumer sentiment way up, as people are rediscovering the value the industry delivers to meet their new reckoning. This was also articulated in a related article. This was published in the Fierce Pharma, on August 13, 2020, as the pandemic overwhelmed the world. The same consumer sentiment also gets reflected in a first of its kind global study - ‘The 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study,’ published on June 17, 2020.
The survey was carried out against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, covering 8,000 consumers across eight countries - United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia. The findings of the research ‘sheds new light and unequivocal proof that the companies leading with Purpose will prevail.’ Vast majority of the respondents ‘have spoken and stand ready to give their hearts, voices and wallets in support of Purposeful brands.’
Especially, the healthcare consumers are now stepping up to stand for something more than hard facts on the features and benefits of products and services – something very meaningful that can influence positive changes in their minds. When it happens, the companies’, in tandem, will also be positively impacted to significantly improve their bottom-lines.
Some key findings of the study:
After in-depth study over 75 brands, the researchers of the above study found that:
- 94 percent of the respondents value the companies with a strong sense of purpose and are willing to reciprocate through brand loyalty.
- They are 4 to 6 times more likely to trust, buy, champion, and protect companies with a strong purpose over weaker ones.
- Only 37 percent believe today’s companies are reaching their potential on this front
The paper concluded, ‘it has never been more important for companies to not only articulate their Purpose, but to consistently demonstrate that Purpose – how they operate, support issues and engage with all stakeholders.’ As the above Ad Council article articulated, the above findings also ‘mean that purpose-driven marketing can’t be cosmetic. It must be reflected in every aspect of a brand’s business model and culture, or that brand or organization can expect to be called out for hypocrisy – more on that later.’
Who’s driving the ‘purpose driven marketing?’
As I wrote in my previous article, today’s new generations, such as, Millennials - regarded as ‘digital pioneers,’ and Gen Z – the true digital natives, approach their health care in drastically different ways with new sets of expectations. These are quite different from the members of the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, or Gen X. As the core concept of ‘purpose driven marketing’ is meeting Gen Z’s one such expectation, this population is regarded as the key driver of ‘purpose driven marketing’, in the pandemic-driven changes in the paradigm of the old normal.
I quoted in the above article, ‘Gen Z people are likely to turn the health industry on its head with their unique expectations for how healthcare should be delivered.’ Moreover, this genre of growing population is slowly but steadily gaining a critical mass to hasten the process of change that pharma marketers should take note of.
According to a paper of the World Economic Forum, published on November 08, 2021, there are 1.8 billion Gen Z around the world, equal to 23% of the global population. Yet, another paper of August 11, 2020, reconfirms that Gen Z comprises 1.8 billion people, making up for almost a quarter of the global population. India stands out with a population that includes 375 million Gen Z people – 27% of the total. Thus, Gen Z and millennial populations are considered at the forefront of shaping this new purpose-driven culture.
The Gen Z populations prefer companies contributing to social causes:
The third annual, international study of Gen Z, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine, launched on July 07, 2020, reveals some interesting facts. These relate to new expectations for the web by Generation Z in comparison to other generations, including Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. The findings reiterate, ‘72% of Gen Z are more likely to support a company that contributes to social causes.’ It further emphasized, Gen Z is acutely aware that in today’s digital world, anyone can use their voice to ignite change, and that includes those brands which don’t take explicitly socially responsible stand in their branding strategy. Thus, imbibing ‘purpose driven marketing’ is likely to help pharma players to effectively engage this new breed of the target audience for desired long-term financial returns.
Further, based on the same logic, it is not difficult to fathom that ‘stakeholder-trust’ will also play a pivotal role, while delivering consumer expected value, and demonstrating the purpose driven actions of the business – to the Millennial and Gen Z population.
Stakeholder ‘Trust’ is critical in a value and purpose driven business:
This is a new reality, as vindicated by several recent global surveys that include India too. According to Edelman Trust Barometer 2022, ‘business holds on to its position as the most trusted institution, with even greater expectations due to government’s failure to lead during the pandemic.’ This survey – conducted against the backdrop of the pandemic, involved 36,000+ respondents in 28 global markets, including India to look at how institutions are trusted against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Some key findings of this latest study:
- All stakeholders want business to fill the void, with nearly 60 percent of consumers buying brands based on their values and beliefs,
- Almost 6 in 10 employees choose a workplace based on shared values and expect their CEO to take a stand on societal issues,
- 64 percent of investors looking to back businesses aligned with their values.
- Most respondents (59 percent) said they tend to distrust until seeing evidence that something is trustworthy,
- 64 percent believe people in their country lack the ability to have constructive and civil debates.
- Technology (74 percent) was the most trusted sector, followed by education (69 percent) and healthcare (69 percent). Social media (44 percent) continued its decline with a 2-point slide, solidifying its spot as the least trusted sector.
- While Germany (65 percent) and Canada (65 percent) remained the most trusted country brands, India (36 percent) and China (34 percent) remain the least trusted.
The evolving trend indicates that the new generation, ‘wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and they are looking to their employers to curate a fulfilling, stimulating and purpose-driven environment,’ as the article underscored. In that sense, ‘purpose-driven marketing’ has also the potential for pharma players to attract the best talents of the new generation. Conversely, it is quite likely that any organizations inability to do so, willingly, or otherwise, could help gather rust, blunting its cutting-edge for performance excellence.
There isn’t any doubt that Covid-19 pandemic has initiated a paradigm shift in the expectations of the stakeholders, especially the customers and the employees from the companies. They no longer expect the organization just to focus on profit goals. Alongside, most of them also want the employers to focus, in equal measure, stakeholder value, expectation, dignity, besides social purpose and goals.
When a pharma player is seen solving societal issues, e.g., protecting the patient-health in a patient friendly manner, or saving the environment - with concrete, quantifiable measures, it creates a competitive edge for the company, fetching significant business returns from stakeholders. Surly, the pandemic is further augmenting expectations of the growing population of Gen Z – for responsible business operations = driven by value, purpose, and goals of the society – where we live in.
Consequently, it’s now becoming clearer that sustainable business excellence of pharma players can no longer be just on ‘maximizing shareholder’ returns, in terms of profit. Thus, it calls for the purpose-driven marketing, where organizational contribution to society would provide a significant competitive advantage. From this perspective, in my view, the Indian pharma marketers would now need much greater focus on the 5th ‘P’ of the marketing-mix – more than ever before.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.