Medicines: Quick delivery? Naah!

16 May,2022



By Vikas Mehta


Vikas MehtaI have been constantly writing about this year’s IPL being unusual. In many ways. And now when we are reaching the business end of the league, it’s getting obvious that the three most unfancied teams are set to qualify for the playoffs. Paying an ode to the unusual season, this column is also going to be unusual. This time I am taking up one category campaign and talking about it extensively.


In the midst of edutech, fintech, transport aggregators, there is also the medicine aggregators. And some brands like Pharmeasy and Pharmeasy have advertised heavily on IPL. Both have used celebrities. Both have done multiple ads. Both promise multiple benefits. And both, over-promise.


When anyone needs a medicine, usually it’s because there is an urgent need. The delivery needs to be in minutes. But my experience with both the apps show that the usual delivery time is anything between one to four days. Maybe because I am in a small town therefore the medicine logistics is still to be sorted out. But isn’t that an irony. A small town should be able to deliver much faster. Netmeds, I have walked into Reliance Smart stores with prescription, which have a small Netmeds dedicated pharmacy area, and the standard answer is that they will check and call me back. And call back is after a few hours which confirms that the medicine will take another 12-24 hours. Both times that I tried Netmeds, by the time the call came, I had already bought the medicines from an offline pharmacy. And of course the app showed at least two to three days to deliver.


Therefore, when I see the Kareena Kapoor ads which talk about quick delivery, the brand loses all credibility. Ditto with Pharmeasy as they clearly say same day delivery. Maybe they deliver cosmetics and other non-medicine products fast. But then are they just a Swiggy Instamart or Dunzo? They need to be Swiggy Instamart and Dunzo in medicines or else stop making these claims.


The Kareena Kapoor train ads go on to show other benefits like quality or range. Again, I am not sure if one needs to highlight these benefits for medicines. The app claims to sell medicines against prescriptions. So, do we assume that quality of the prescribed medicines is a suspect? Range is more confusing. Yes, generic drugs can be available but how many of us actually know about it or are willing to even order a generic and ignore the doctor’s prescribed brand? I suspect they are pushing more of the cosmetics or supplements or tonics rather than the prescribed medicines.


Pharmeasy with Aamir Khan on the other hand has chosen some relevant benefits. Ordering medical equipment like sugar meter or even organising for home medical tests. These definitely are relevant and benefits that matter to the category. And I quite liked the exaggeration execution of three Khans belabouring each point.


Ultimately, both these brands cannot overcome the lure of discounts. Medicines, by Indian standards are definitely expensive. So double digit discounts work. And the lure of a minimum discount always is music to ears. Specially, when one is on long-term medication for ailments like diabetes, cholesterol, arthritis etc. These medicines are expensive, they are required on a regular basis and most importantly can be ordered in advance, keeping two-three days delivery time in mind. So discounts do play an important role in both the brand communication.


As a marketer, I have always wondered at multi0benefit communication. Does it really help? Do the consumer remember all benefits? The classical theory says that let one benefit be emphasised so that it sticks. And can be owned. My thinking is that well executed multi benefits work if they are relevant. The target consumer picks out the benefit that he needs or that matters to him and that sticks. So, if we take Pharmeasy, someone who needs to buy a medical equipment or needs to do tests will remember the brand. But the irrelevancy of quality or range for medicines, makes me doubtful about Netmeds communication. And discount is almost like a must. It is a category given without which no brand will survive. In fact, discount is like a blind spot. Its presence is almost like a reassurance but its absence will be most glaring. As for speed of delivery, the brands need to either improve their delivery or not talk about it.


Episodical ads, which seem to be like a continuing story narrative, always create interest. And using a celebrity to anchor it is a good idea if the celebrity becomes an integral part of the narrative. The Netmeds ads with Kareena Kapoor reprise her role in Jab We Met. So all the episodes have good empathy. Pharmeasy, on the other hand is not episodical but Aamir lends it a nice ethereal quality which again piques our interest.


As I sign off this week’s column, I am aghast at seeing the new Budweiser ad. But in the spirit of being unusual, let me leave it at that. More about it, next week.



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