A recent print ad for GSK’s Crocin created buzz. A look back at this fascinating rivalry that reflects our times.
In a print advertisement, Mr. Sachin Khurana promises readers that Crocin 650, equipped with “Optizorb technology”, will provide pain relief in just five minutes. If this sentence sounds confusing, you are not alone.
Most major Indian newspapers recently ran a print ad for GSK Healthcare’s brand of paracetamol Crocin 650, featuring a man in a white coat, promising fast pain relief.
It’s unclear who Mr Khurana is, but it’s abundantly clear who the ad is targeting – the popular paracetamol brand Dolo 650 from Micro Labs. She has seen an unprecedented level of popularity during the COVID pandemic.
Praful Akali, Founder and Managing Director of Medulla Communications, points out that it makes sense for Crocin to take this stance, as most marketing tends to be opportunistic.
“From a marketing point of view, it’s obvious. Crocin wants to take this opportunity and respond to what is happening with the growing popularity of the Dolo 650.”
According to a report by Business Today, the tablet has generated sales worth Rs 567 crore since March 2020, selling over 350 crore of pills and 7.5 crore of drug strips.
Akali adds that it’s nice to see a product in the over-the-counter (OTC) healthcare category and mainstream healthcare so quick to respond to a trend. This is something you normally see in FMCG products and consumer-facing brands. For example, when Pepsi posts an ad, Coca-Cola responds quickly and vice versa.
He explains that most brands in the paracetamol industry focus on communicating with doctors. It can be communicated directly to consumers, but most brands choose not to. Instead, these brands choose to generate sales through prescriptions and, therefore, market to physicians. This is the area in which Dolo 650 has been.
He explains that GSK has drugs Crocin and Calpol in its paracetamol category. Calpol was the top-selling paracetamol drug until recently. Calpol is a prescription-only brand. Crocin, on the other hand, is available over-the-counter and is consumer-oriented.
“Several years ago, Dolo was the first brand to create a story around the 650mg variant. The variant was so successful that even before the lockdown, other brands started creating 650mg versions of the tablets, like Calpol 650,” Akali mentions.
He explains that what happened during COVID is that an increasing number of doctors started prescribing the tablet, as it tackled common symptoms of COVID – body aches and fever. Therefore, the popularity of the drug began to spread by word of mouth.
“This brand started in the direction of medical prescriptions and worked its way into consumers’ lives, and it’s absolutely phenomenal. People tend to forget how powerful an OTC brand is. The doctor may have prescribed you this drug to begin with, but it came into your life and now a customer swears by it. That’s the power of the brand. It went beyond a drug and even became a meme,” says Akali.
He adds that GSK’s brand ENO (an antacid) also promises action in just six seconds. Fast acting results are something that is usually promised in the OTC space, and even Crocin Advance has used this fast acting claim.
According to Gulshan Singh, Chief Strategy Officer at Tilt Brand Solutions, Crocin is trying to catch up with the tremendous success of Dolo recently. This campaign is trying to foster preference for Crocin.
“The way it was presented looks like a vanilla ‘health’ ad, nothing that really stands out at first glance. Quick pain relief is an important factor. So I can see the logic of calling, ‘starts working in five minutes‘. Optizorb as a reason for purchase (RTB), also fits into this context. »
Singh adds that the terminology – calling this brand Crocin, Crocin 650, to step up and compete with Dolo 650 – certainly seems intentional. “It may strike a chord, but as consumer preference for Dolo 650 is driven more by ‘dolo‘only for’650‘, I don’t know how effective that would be.
What intrigues Singh is why the ad uses a model in a white coat to drive the point home. “The model is wearing a white (lab) coat, which is shorthand for a doctor in India; at least in Indian advertising. But Sachin Khurana is not a doctor, and you call him using the prefix “Mr”. Mr. Sachin Khurana in a white coat was totally avoidable. They could have used the model without the white coat, or even gone without a model and just focused on the five minute request.
Singh adds that communication does the brand a disservice if it leads consumers to think the brand is trying to get them a quick one. “This has major blowback potential for consumers – something that has already started happening on social media.”
We wondered if the expression “Optizorb technology” was purely fanciful or if it would really be enough to convince consumers. Singh envisioned that in the normal course of things, consumers are likely to consume (pun intended) “Optizorb technology” in the context of it coming from a well-known brand like Crocin.
“They’re not necessarily going to ask by name, but it reassures them as an RTB. But if they start questioning Mr. Sachin Khurana, they’ll do the same with Optizorb,” he concludes.
On the GSK Healthcare website, the Optizorb technology is explained in the context of the paracetamol tablet Panadol – which is popular in the US. The site mentions that the technology helps the tablets break down faster in the stomach to facilitate rapid absorption of the drug.
Ayushi Mona, a LinkedIn-based influencer and content creator, explains that medical advertising is a niche category in itself and it’s refreshing that an ad in this space is getting so much attention. “My first thought was that it’s a change that we saw an advertisement for a medicine on the front page of a newspaper because it requires a lot of investment and resources, which we don’t traditionally see in medicine” , she says.
Talking about the Optizorb technology claim, she mentions that it’s not uncommon for an advertisement to use a scientific claim to support the product. “It’s great to use it as an RTB, but it won’t help create product differentiation because the customer might not understand RTB from the get-go,” she explains.
As for Mona, she adds that in India paracetamol is synonymous with Crocin and there is a strong sense of nostalgia attached to it because of this factor.
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