Master Sun Consulting has done a study the “Brand Launch Failures in the OTC Healthcare Category”. The OTC products in the healthcare sector can be defined as the products which help in curing any day-to-day therapeutic ailment like cough, cold, fever, headache or body ache, weakness, tiredness. Some of the brand launches that were studied were the launch of Savlon, Disprin Plus (later Disprin Paracetamol), Chawan Junior, Duractin , Crocin Pain Relief, Crocin Syrup for Children, Dettol Plaster, Dettol Extra (almost a beauty soap), Vicks Cough Syrup, Gacidity (an antacid), Pediasure (an adult nutrition brand).
Some of the major reasons for failure observed by Jasravee Kaur Chandra, a Healthcare Branding Specialist were “Failure to understand usage of product by consumers, consumers’ attitudes and beliefs, consumer’s relationship with a brand and positioning of the brand vis-à-vis competition”. One of the most notable failures was the Savlon launch campaign. Savlon, a Johnson & Johnson brand, could not succeed since it went against the grain of consumer beliefs about the category. It was widely held belief that for an antiseptic to be effective it has to be perceived as making an effect- the sting of Dettol. Therefore Savlon’s no-sting & sweet smell went against the basic consumer attitudes to anti-septic category.
According to Sarvajeet Chandra. Managing Partner, Master Sun Consulting, “the clinical smell of Dettol enhanced the perception that the anti-septic was working. Consumers were not expecting to spray a perfume on their wounds; they wanted an anti-septic lotion which was seen to be waging a war” The other notable example was the failure of Disprin Plus by Reckitt Benckiser. The marketers extended Disprin brand into the Paracetamol category to launch Disprin Plus. Since Aspirin comes under price control the profitability of Disprin was very low. Even today the brand is sold at less than one rupee per tablet. To circumvent this issue, company launched Disprin Plus in 2001. It only had Paracetamol as the active ingredient (instead of Aspirin). The idea was to leverage the Disprin brand equity and also maximize the profitability of the brand (as Paracetamol is out of price control).
Again we see that the marketers dug their own graves without paying much regard to customer beliefs and attitudes. Jasravee observes “The core benefit of the brand was tinkered with a view to leverage the equity of the Disprin mother brand. What was ignored was the fact that ‘ingredient’ was part of the equity. Re-positioning efforts as Disprin Paracetamol also did not work. By 2005, the writing was on the wall”. Again the results were akin to the Savlon disaster. Sarvajeet remarks light heartedly that “It was like introducing a Bacardi brand of beer. A similar mistake was initially made when Crocin was extended into pain relief to take advantage of the analgesic market”. Similar example of marketers not doing their homework properly was the launch of Chawan Junior by Dabur. The consumers couldn’t connect with the product as one of the key ingredients of Chawan junior was Amla which doesn’t go well with milk - a common knowledge which was overlooked by Dabur marketers. Jasravee observes “This is a failure at the product formulation stage and again stems from inadequate understanding of product usage by consumers”.
Certain beliefs that are deep rooted in psyche will well serve if respected. In some cases the companies did not demonstrate adequate understanding of consumer purchase behaviour. An example of this was the launch of pediatric range of Crocin. Crocin syrup containing 125 mg of Paracetamol for 5 ml was introduced for kids to cure cold, cough and light fever. The syrup was introduced directly as an OTC product. Crocin syrup was not very well accepted by the parent community as they did not have the confidence on the product. Jasravee observes that “As with all the Pediatric drugs given to children, the parents always want to take any drugs only after the doctor’s consultation. Even parents who tend to ask chemists for an appropriate medicine of common ailments for themselves will not risk buying anything without the doctor’s advice”. The company had to remedy their strategy and ensure that Crocin Syrup was categorised as a prescription drug by GSK and doctors started providing prescriptions for Crocin Syrup for children.
The study also looks at various other case-lets of launch of Dettol plaster, Dettol shaving cream, and Dettol Extra soap (with moisturiser and a glycerine variant launched as a beauty soap). Sarvajeet observes “I am surprised that they didn’t launch a Dettol toothpaste to fight the germs in the mouth. Imagine using the toothpaste with a pungent taste and a clinical smell early in the morning. Makes you think you have woken up in a hospital bed”