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Podcast Transcript

Peter: Hello and Welcome to episode four of the Corporate Digital Marketing Podcast I’m very excited to welcome a new guest, as I always am, because we’re always getting some fantastic people on this podcast. His name is Mandeep Grover who is the General Manager of Refractive Surgery for Asia-Pacific and Japan with Abbott Vision. And, I have known Mandeep for some years; I met him when he was working for Johnson & Johnson who incidentally have just bought Abbott Vision worldwide. So, it’s like back to the future for Mandeep going back to Johnson & Johnson where he spent many years. He’s actually also been in Singapore for the last six or seven years.

So, one of the many insights that he’s going to give us in the chat that you’re about to hear with regards to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, the differences and what the opportunities are for marketers just like you. As you can tell from the title Mandeep is a senior person in his organisation and he still is very passionate about digital and as he said he’s even getting more passionate. So, it’s very interesting for people at all stages of their career to hear why someone so senior is so passionate and where he sees you can go in the what you do with your various programs and servicing your brands.

Peter: I’d like to welcome Mandeep Grover to the Corporate Digital Marketing Podcast, and I’m very excited to have Mandeep because he has excellent experience which I covered a little bit in the introduction. But, I just wonder Mandeep if you could give us an overview of your stellar career in the healthcare space and tell us where you are today?

Mandeep: Thanks, Pete, I must say you are very kind to actually invite me to the show. So I essentially started off my career close to about 20 years ago it just seems like a long time.

Peter: It was only yesterday Mandeep.

Mandeep: Well, if you look at the number of white hairs that I have now it reminds me every day when I look in the mirror.

Peter: You and me both, Mandeep.

Mandeep: So, essentially I started off in the healthcare industry here basically started to do a lot of ethical B2B marketing with a company called Pfizer.

Peter: Sorry, can I interrupt you there Mandeep because there are some people who are not in the pharmaceutical industry who don’t quite know what ethical means; that’s prescription only.

Mandeep: That is prescription only, and essentially I was working on different brands that are sold mainly through different pharmacies in different parts of the world, and they are sold by a prescription which is given by a healthcare professional either a GP or a specialist. So, I basically started with them almost 20 years ago, and my initial grounding was in the principles of understanding what the key behavioural patterns were for physicians and how they looked at different brands that were available in the market. And, the initial start of my career was in India, and India, as we may know, is a very diversified market in terms of having a lot of generic options for the different types of medications that are available.

Which is a trend which is also getting more and more popular in markets like Australia and New Zealand in our part of the world. So, after spending a few years with Pfizer I basically decided to take a break to pursue a full-time MBA in Europe. Because I wanted to get a toolkit of understanding how I could gain a much bigger view of the entire corporation and also get an understanding of building a network which would help me to support my aspirations. So, after my MBA, I was hired through my campus recruitment from J&J, and I started my first role with them in J&J Vision Care which was based in Singapore. And, that role essentially entailed establishing the whole the physician communication or the B2B marketing functions for Asia-Pacific using the principles that I had learned in my years in Pfizer.

So, it was an interesting couple of years, and I was able to get a few of the key processes established in a business which mainly dealt with contact lenses or Acuvue. From there I was a sent to head up our marketing in Australia and New Zealand that’s when I was based in Sydney, and that’s where we first met. So, for a brand like Acuvue that is dispensed mainly by an optometrist using a prescription that’s how the whole landscape works in Australia, we had essentially we could look at people who wearing glasses or even contact lenses from other brands who would be our core target audience.

But, at the same time, we had a major gatekeeper who was the optometrist who would essentially be describing or dispensing those lenses once a prospective patient walked in. So, it was in those early days when I spent a lot of time on a brand which had a lot of consumer appeal. But, because of the fact that we were working in a market that was primarily regulated we had to take care of the optometrist as well as look at finding cost-effective ways of essentially increasing our demand for contact lenses. And, I still remember it was the year 2007 we were being challenged by our competitor in terms of share, and it was the fourth quarter, and we had to do something quite drastic to basically get ourselves back on track.

And, that was my first experience of really working with an agency to understand the overall landscape for digital in Australia. And, it was that time, and we launched our first campaign on Facebook as far back as 2007 and Facebook was just in its initial phase of growth. And, that campaign which was called the Acuvue Wink was quite successful it was recognised within Australia and also within the entire Johnson & Johnson community as a best practice of using social media to basically get more people interested in contact lenses and get more people to try contact lenses and show tangible increase in sales as a result of using digital media to basically get more patients on the brand.

Peter: So, that was 10 years ago, and you actually achieved via Facebook that was the only social channel that you had. Quite frankly, probably apart from Myspace, there probably weren’t too many other social channels around at that time. But, you actually achieved those tangible commercial outcomes purely as a result of the Facebook campaign?

Mandeep: So, I would say that our campaign was an actually quite unique because it was 100% digital campaign. So, we used I would say most of our media spend investment to Facebook, but we also had contextual ads as well. We used a very cost effective way of reaching out to people who wore glasses which was using third party databases to send out electronic direct mail to people who were wearing glasses and who could be interested in wearing contact lenses. So, I would say about 50% of the spend went on Facebook, and the rest was on different digital media channel including online banners, SEM as well as doing a lot of electronic direct mail.

Peter: So, that was quite an innovative campaign at the time, and obviously, that was recognised internally and externally. And, that was only three years after Facebook was really established which is amazing.

Mandeep: Well, it’s actually surprising when you work for a brand, and you have declining sales and a lot of constraints on how much money you can spend. I think that really pushes people to come up with ideas that are out of the box and can really get the overall brand to get back on track.

Peter: It’s interesting you say that because my contention is that the best and most innovative thinking from a digital point of view is coming from challenger brands. The brands that are not the Cokes and the McDonald’s and that those that are the market leaders with the mammoth marketing budgets, they’re the ones that have to box smarter if you will to come up with new ways of doing things to really stand out and grab their share of their market’s attention.

Mandeep: Well, in our case I have seen this specific trend in a number of different segments. One example which actually comes to mind is J&J in the US has a brand called Tylenol which is probably sold in Australia under a different name. So, that brand has a certain variant that is used for people who have insomnia, so a brand like Tylenol which is considered to be a painkiller which has got low engagement versus the other brands the PC and the FMC segment. They came up with an app which helps you to track your sleep patterns, and it was a very simple app that people could use to track the impact on sleep on their overall mood the next day. So, I have seen examples where brands which are constrained and which have people who are entrepreneurial are the ones who are able to basically leverage the limited resources which they have. Because in effect if you look at the classic definition of strategy it’s all about allocating limited resources to get maximum outcomes.

Peter: And as you mentioned you are in a restricted and regulated industry, what do you see are the main and I know this is quite a broad question, but what do you see are the main opportunities for regulated markets and marketers who try to create outcomes for their brand’s given such restrictions.

Mandeep: So, if you look at health care and if I look at mainly, let’s say medical devices and pharmaceutical the industries which probably are always very heavily regulated and their products are prescription only. The classic business model in which information is disseminated hasn’t changed a lot in the last 50 years. You still have sales reps that basically go in they have their discussion with the physician for a very short amount of time that is available to them, and they try to influence behaviour using a business model which in my opinion is quite outdated. I think the real opportunities for these markets are how can marketers really spend time with physicians to understand the changing ways in which information is being consumed.

So, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the physicians who are the ones that are the primary targets in these market, we really have to understand for these time-constrained physicians who are spending so much time in their surgeries or seeing patients, what is the best way for us as marketers to serve them information on demand. And, at the same time help them in terms of achieving their continuing education requirements or even helping them to be better at serving patients. So, instead of this being a one-way communication where we go and see a physician and tell them how good our medical device or our drug is, can we turn the actual funnel upside down and ask the physician how they would like to be served information. So, that we can bring tools to them that will help them at their own time get the same information, and basically absorb it better and even help them in terms of getting their continuing education.

Peter: Is that a revolutionary approach in your organisation and in your industry?

Mandeep: I have seen pieces of that being implemented in my company as well as my industry, like for example there is a lot of movement for people going away from the conventional paper-based messaging or the paper-based detail aids which have been around for a long time. So, we’ve been able to slowly get examples off our reps off our iPads, and we have started to put messages on the iPads that can be customised to the physicians that they are seeing. So, there have been examples, but I think that the overall understanding or the overall ecosystem that these industries operate in still has a lot of people who are quite risk averse because of the nature of the industry. So, I have seen examples of people trying to do different things, but I think there is a long way to go as compared to what we see in the other industries that are probably not as regulated.

Peter: And, you’ve spent the last 6 to 7 years in Singapore, is that correct?

Mandeep: Yes.

Peter: And, having spent quite a bit of time in Australia as well what do you see are the differences in those two countries, or in Asia broadly and in Australia specifically?

Mandeep: Well, I think in Australia because the overall market the healthcare landscape is quite well developed the overall processes that are in place for the way communication is being done either at an off-line, or an online basis is quite well-defined. Easier if you look at different countries in Asia like let’s say from Southeast Asia to countries like Japan to countries like China and India. There are a lot of different key drivers and barriers which you see in every country. Like if you take for example in China, so any communication if you decide to develop a website which has medical information that will be given to prospective patients that needs to get the China government’s approval. So, if I compare that with Australia the only place where I had to get approval are in the ANZ space was if I had to send it out to consumers, I had to get the approval from a regulatory authority in New Zealand.

But, in this case having your entire website reviewed by the government authority and that process could take 6 to 9 months is something that people need to consider once they are doing campaign planning. The other thing is that as you start looking at all these different markets who have completely different rules from each other. The complexity of doing marketing or even having messages that reach physicians is completely different to what we would have in Australia and New Zealand which are again very well-defined, well-regulated markets where the rules of engagement are pretty clear.

Peter: That’s quite a substantial challenge particularly as you say you have got to horses for courses across different not just the region but across different countries. Have you tried to get a consumer healthcare website approved in China and gone through the process?

Mandeep:  I have, in fact, the actual timeline which I was mentioning were the true timelines that I did face in the market, and it took us about nine months to get the website live. And, even after getting the website live it has to be reviewed every year by the same authority even if you don’t change any content. So, from my experience, it’s really hard to play by the rules that the governments have established, and on the other hand, for us being an American company we have to follow the rules that are being developed in the US, and those rules follow everywhere in the world. But, we see companies that are European that play by a different set of rules which can get away with stuff which would not even go through our internal regulatory processes.

Peter: And, quite frankly it just occurred to me, with these sorts of given you’re in a regulated industry and facing these types of restrictions, and governmental rigour across different regions and countries that you are still passionate about Digital says a lot about you and I guess you’re belief in the value that it can offer your brands; is that true?

Mandeep: Well, yes because the overall media landscape, especially in the last couple of years in Asia, has completely changed. We predicted in 2008 that the number of hours that people spend viewing TV, reading newspapers would decline and all those initial forecasts that we looked at in 2007 to 2008 have literally come to life. And, if I have to get information to people they’re not going to be looking out for my TV ad at 9 PM at prime time because people are not using any of those channels, they’re consuming information on demand. They are especially for the young millennial’s they have a very different view of life as compared to the older folk like us who grew up in a very conventional way of consuming media. For them, they are all about experiences of life. In fact, last year we did a quick survey in Singapore to find out what motivates people to undergo LASIK versus using contact lenses and glasses. And, to our surprise we found that it was not because the younger generation wanted to look lame it was because they wanted to get their eyes fixed, or their eyes corrected so that they could pursue new experiences in life. For them, it was all about doing a bungee jump in Queenstown or basically exploring a new continent, and they were very clear that they wanted their eyes to be in perfect shape so that they could explore the world and basically partake in all these experiences.

Peter: And, you mentioned before about marketing to physicians and how they want to get information. How have you found the attitude from your partners and from your customers has changed over the last 3 or 4 years and what they demand from you and what they’ll respond to from you?

Mandeep: So, the human part of the organisation to physician relationship is still quite important, I think that hasn’t diminished in value over the years. What has changed is the relationship has evolved, so the physicians are pretty clear about how they want information to be basically served to them. So, I have seen an increase in online learning modules and increase in participation in web learning sessions where a physician let’s say in a different market speaks about their experience. But, I think what hasn’t changed in the overall landscape and in the way people are working with us is the content. So, as long as people find that the overall content has some value and will help them to enrich their learning and serve their patients better, they’re looking for ways in which they can get that specific content at their own time versus it being served to them and at a specific time and hour.

And, also they are basically coming forward and say well I’m really glad that I can learn from other people, I myself have also things to share that I would like to share with the overall community. So, in terms of content that hasn’t changed, in terms of people being involved in sharing stuff. I think those are the two key trends which I see is that there is a lot more openness to people coming forward and saying, well this is what I find in my practice versus waiting for something to be published in a journal 6 to 9 months later. People are a lot more open in sharing stuff so that they can learn as well as contribute to the overall community.

Peter: We talked before about opportunities in regulated markets would you see that your organisation being able to facilitate that sharing and that openness would you see that that’s a new opportunity that has opened up that wasn’t available to you before?

Mandeep: I would actually say so, and I think that’s what makes this industry so exciting because the overall process of taking care of patients has been enriched so much through the technology that we have available to us. We do a lot more live patient surgeries which is enabled by technology because we can stream what’s happening in Singapore to Australia and get people who are sitting in the US to basically comment on that. So, I think there has been a lot of enablement of the learning process with technology, and with that, I think it creates opportunities as we look at the overall speed of Internet becoming faster in the developed world. The concept of remote consultation, the concept of really the evolution of telemedicine is something which will really come up, and it’s the healthcare organisations which will help to enable that because we are the connect between the patient as well as the physician. And, going forward you see a lot more of these trends coming forward where we can facilitate this interaction and make it even better.

Peter: Going back to another point you made Mandeep is the healthcare industry or the people in it are somewhat lagging in the take-up of these types of initiatives? Do you see that trend moving at all or it’s still there’s not much change?

Mandeep: Well, in the last 10 years that I have been in this industry I have seen a lot of changes although they have been slow in terms of adoption of technology. I would say as we saw in FMCG like the P&G’s of the world where they mandated all their marketers to become digitally savvy, I think that same thing will also come in this industry. Because the old ways were the job of a marketing person was to create a messaging tool, and then the reps would use the messaging tool, and you would be doing that every quarter I think will be over soon. Because with technology and the fact that the information comes so quickly the advances in patient care are happening at a really fast rate, marketers will need to adapt to these new trends, similar to what happened in FMCG. And, those marketers who can leverage the core insight from the patient as well as a physician to make their communication more effective I believe are the ones who will really survive in this industry.

Peter: You’ve had senior corporate roles for many years, do you see your team speaking about what’s going to be happening in the next 3 to 5 years? Do see that your teams are pushing for more digital initiatives or they’re kind of pretending it’s not happening or is it front and centre on the agenda?

Mandeep: So, in my team currently I have I think about 50% of them are millennial’s. So, they basically grow up on….

Peter: How’s that going for you Mandeep?

Mandeep: Well, it’s been a shift for me in terms of understanding how to really integrate them into the team because their approach towards learning has to be grounded in the why. Unless you tell them why something needs to be done, they really don’t buy into it and their best self doesn’t come out. And, for them because they’re so attuned to technology from the beginning and for me being I would say a digital immigrant, I have had to understand what is the cool thing in their lives whether it’s Pokémon Go or whether it’s the new technology platform which they are discussing in their groups. And, I think for them a lot of these communication methods are quite intuitive. And, for me I’ve just been focusing on how can I encourage this behaviour and give them all the support that they need to basically get these new initiatives off the ground and also link it back to their overall business because a lot of the stuff that these guys do a is cool. The missing gap which I also found unless I was told is how does it bring in more revenue? And, I think once they get the connection between using these tools to get the overall business results it becomes something which is understandable for them and the organisation.

Peter: And, that’s becoming a pretty common discussion point for the senior people that we’re speaking to is that they are digital immigrants, as you say dealing or employing digital natives in the form of millennial’s who know the tools but don’t know the why. Who don’t know how to sheet that back or link that to helping to achieve sales and marketing objectives. So, I guess that’s where the grey hairs like you and I Mandeep can actually come to the table and say this is the strategy piece, you know the tools, let’s work together collaboratively and come up with the ideal solution that’s going to be meaningful to our stakeholders be they internal or external customers, end customers or trade partners.

So, going on with that looking as I say leadership is a very common theme in your social media postings having done a little bit of cyberstalking on you. What advice would you give a young corporate marketer who is just starting out, they’ve got their whole career in front of them, things are exciting, they’re working for a medium to large corporate organisation, they’ve got a lot of things that have been put in place already. What advice would you give them, particularly in the context of what digital opportunities are in front of them?

Mandeep: Well, I think for me the key thing which has always been a very common theme in my last 10 years is think about who are you trying to serve. And, as long as you start with either the customer in mind or the physician in mind and really try to find out what their needs are; if you can if you can crack that piece well and with more practice if you can really come up with the real understanding of what the insights are. The tools will actually fit into the overall landscape once you have really found out a way to unearth their needs, and it’s really easy for all of us to get swayed by the next media outlet that seems cool whether it’s Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. But, again unless we have that strong understanding of why we are doing this and how would it actually benefit the end user. It’s very hard for us to come up with compelling campaigns or compelling messages that will help to get our brands closer to them as well as give us an opportunity to increase our overall business.

Peter: Now, this is the time of the discussion, Mandeep, where we ask you to gaze into your crystal ball and tell us where you feel we as corporate marketers will be in five years’ time. And, I know that seems like an eternity away, but where do you think this service digital revolution will be taking us and where will we be in 2022?

Mandeep: So, I think there are a few trends which have been slowly emerging, I think one of the trends is the internet of things (IoT) and essentially that will give people in marketing a lot of things to think about. Because once the internet of things becomes mainstream you have so much information that you’ll get from the different devices which are connected in your consumers or the other customers’ homes. The key challenge will be how do you leverage all the information that is coming your way versus the old way of understanding retail trends using the AC Nielsen scan information.

So, I think the key thing is going to be how can marketers really understand and leverage the key trend of the Internet of things. One thing which I think will not change and this is like preaching to the converted, the human beings needs are the people that we serve. Their needs are still very basic and people who’ve been in this industry really crowded environment where we are exposed to 150 to 200 messages a day are the ones who can either connect with those needs at an emotional level or that can give people a way to solve their problems better than what the competition is doing right now. So, I think it will be a blend of completely new trends, but there will be still a lot of relevance in things that have held true for the last 50 years.

Peter: In others, basic marketing is understand your market effectively and give them essentially what they need.

Mandeep: Exactly and I think in this fragmented media landscape the role of insights is going to be even more important. Because in most cases people might not know exactly what they want and worse they might not be able to articulate it in the way that you really want to know. So, understanding human behaviour as a key trend, whether you are looking at it from, now we have research where people can look at your MRI of the brain to really find out which areas of the brain gets stimulated when you’re looking at a shopping behaviour. So, I think those would be the things that will start to get mainstream eventually where again marketers will get a lot of information about the things that they put in front of their customers. And, the ones who are really attuned to bringing in those, essentially taking the jump without knowing whether they land on their feet or their face are the ones who will be successful.

Peter: And, final question what would be your top three tips for corporate marketers in understanding and better leveraging digital?

Mandeep: For me the first tip is always start media neutral, don’t get swayed by everything which is out there you’ll get pitched to by agencies about the next big thing. And, again I think the more you understand your customers the more you’ll be able to understand what fits their needs. I think the second key thing which I always emphasise is ask why, and in the environment that we are in where the millennials have been asking why ever since they were born that whole concept of asking why.

Peter: About everything.

Mandeep: Absolutely, for us older folk, we have to really change our mindset where our bosses would ask us to do something, and we would just say yes. But, with these guys, they have to be convinced on why there is a need to do this, and I think that’s one trend which will become even more pertinent as we go forward. And, finally, the importance of market research and especially ethnographic market research is going to be even more important. It will give us a window into people’s lifestyles and into the way they consume different technology into the way they consume different products. So, the more we are willing to spend time and understand consumers in their own skin is the more successful we will be to get products and services to them which will endear them to our brands because the organisation that can do that will be the one which will be truly differentiated from what the other organisations offer.

Peter: Well, it sounds like particular with those three tips you have just given us, that’s sound marketing. And, as you said that’s been the way for decades of excellent marketers following those processes. And, I think that’s something that really the markers of all ages and stages should bear in mind that if you’re a good marketer yes there are different ways of thinking and different ways of doing things, but fundamentally and foundationally it’s very very important to get the basics right.

And put those foundations in place before you actually start saying okay are we going to use Snapchat, we’re going to have a Facebook page we’re going to do programmatic banner ads and all those types of things. And, they’re very important, they’re part of the delivery process, but really you need to get the basics and fundamentals right otherwise you’re going to fail. And, that’s a recurring theme in this podcast; it’s like you are just going to end up doing lots of stuff for no real reason other than it’s going to fill your day and spend your money.

Mandeep: Exactly.

Peter: Great. Mandeep thank you so much for your time today I really appreciate it I know you are a busy man and speaking to us from Singapore, you’ve given us some excellent insights from both your experience in Australia and in the Asian market as well. So, thank you again, and we look forward to speaking to you again soon.

Mandeep: You are most welcome Peter it was an absolute pleasure.

Peter: I hope you enjoyed that chat with Mandeep I think it was a really good and very insightful conversation that we had with him. One of the things I love about speaking to the more senior people in marketing is particularly when they see the value that digital can bring to the table not just in we can do this we can do that. But, also we can actually use digital to achieve these objectives that we need to deliver from a sales and marketing point of view, I think that’s fantastic.

And, where this chat was similar to the initial discussion we had with Tony Karras from Weight Watchers is that he’s looking at it from very much a strategic point of view of why we should be doing things as opposed to let’s just do this, let’s just build a website, let’s just create an app. So, looking at it from a strategic point of view first really creates that solid foundation from which you can then do the implementation side, but having laid that foundation allows you to create a much more robust solution for the organisation. So, thank you, thank you for your time thank you for listening, and we’ll speak to you again very soon. Bye.