Consumer preferences should determine brand positioning

In an interview with WCRC Leaders Asia, Deborshi Moitra, Associate Director – Marketing, Consumer Health, Merck Limited, shares his view on brand leadership with Viral Vyas

How do you define the word ‘leadership’ when it comes to shepherding a business?

Deborshi MoitraThere has been a transition in leadership styles from an autocratic to a more inclusive one. Participative leadership cultivates a more transparent, open, and healthy work atmosphere, thereby encouraging a collaborative effort towards achieving brand success.

What is the toughest challenge you have faced in building up this brand?

The toughest challenge faced by marketeers today is to differentiate their brand from that of the competitors. Consumers are the biggest stakeholders in any business and it is important for brands to be positioned as per their needs and preferences. Conventional media vehicles are so cluttered with information that unless there is differentiated communication, it cannot penetrate across to consumers to generate the desired impact.

How central are people or employees to a brand?

People or employees are the best brand ambassadors. However, they will endorse the brand through wordof- mouth publicity only if they have the conviction and confidence in it.
The brand management team plays a very important role in the brand’s success by taking utmost care in maintaining brand reputation. The sales team, along with all the other support functions, needs to play a pivotal role in the execution of brand strategies so that the right brand message comes across.

What is the first thing that strikes a consumer’s mind when he/she thinks of Merck? How do you make this clear through your brand communication?

The consumer is the most important stake holder in the brand value chain. It is important for the brand to create an impression in the consumer’s mind in order to ensure top-ofmind recall. Through robust market research, we understand consumer insights and align our communications accordingly. We have processes in place to ensure that our communication creates the desired mark on our consumers’ minds.

What’s the annual turnover of the brand and where do you see things five years down the line? Please throw some light on the market share too.

The annual turnover of our brand is Rs 191 crore ($33 million) with an annual growth rate of 13 per cent. All our strategic brands are among the highest ranked in their respective categories.

Merck’s Consumer Health business in India continues to grow with its flagship brands like Nasivion®, the second largest nasal decongestant brand in the country, growing annuallpage-53_texty at a strong 16 per cent. Seven Seas®
Original Pure Cod Liver Oil has garnered nearly 47 per cent market share by value in the cod liver oil category since its launch in 2012. While Neurobion® Forte (tablets), which was transferred from Merck Serono in 2014, is the undisputed leader in its category. It has acquired a 88 per cent market share by value of the Vitamin B1, B6, B12 oral solids market; and has a solid double digit annual growth of 25 per cent. We aim to garner greater market share in the years to come and sustain our leadership in the categories we offer.

Leading and managing brand operations are extremely taxing roles. How do you work on your concentration levels? And what do you do to relax?

Managing and leading operations for such a robust network necessitates greater responsibility and expectations; the key to sustain this responsibility proficiently lies in effective time management. I find this process very enriching and enjoy working on the challenges my role has to offer. Hence, it is more interesting than taxing for me. I am a Bollywood buff and relax by watching movies that help me rejuvenate.

Although India has the talent and wherewithal, Indians have not managed to create an iconic brand like Google or Apple from the scratch. Where do you think Indians fall behind?

We have some of the best talents in the world and have been scaling the peaks of success in a number of fields. It would be unfair to say that India is not home to iconic brands. The country has seen the birth and rise of some of the biggest brands who are leaders in their categories. Thums Up, Maruti, Moov to name a few. All of them are home-grown brands having a global footprint. Further, we have several CEOs who are heading some of the most well-known global bands across industries.

What are the future plans for your brand? Any exciting launches that our readers should look forward too?

India is a key market for Merck Consumer Health and we have sketched strong growth plans for all our key brands here including Neurobion®, Nasivion®, and Seven Seas®. You will soon get to hear more about that.