Aishwarya Ramesh

Paracetamol Wars: Amid Dolo's rising popularity, Crocin defends turf

A recent print ad for GSK's Crocin has created buzz. We take a look at this fascinating rivalry that holds a mirror to our times.

In a print ad, Mr Sachin Khurana promises the readers that Crocin 650, equipped with ‘Optizorb technology’, will provide pain relief in just five minutes. If this sentence seems confusing, you’re not alone.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Recent print ad for Crocin 650</p></div>

Recent print ad for Crocin 650

Most leading papers in India recently carried a print ad for GSK Healthcare’s paracetamol brand Crocin 650, featuring a man in a white coat, promising fast pain relief.

It’s unclear who Mr Khurana is, but it’s amply clear who the ad’s taking a jab at – Micro Labs’ popular paracetamol brand Dolo 650. It has witnessed an unprecedented level of popularity during the COVID pandemic.

Praful Akali, founder & MD of Medulla Communications, an advertising agency that specialises in healthcare communication, points out that it makes sense for Crocin to take this stance, as most marketing tends to be opportunistic.

“From a marketing perspective, it's a no-brainer. Crocin wants to take this opportunity and respond to what’s been happening with the increasing popularity of Dolo 650.”

According to a report by Business Today, the tablet garnered sales of value worth Rs 567 crore since March 2020, selling more than 350 crore pills and 7.5 crore strips of medicine.

Akali adds that it's nice to see a product from the over the counter (OTC) and consumer healthcare category so quick to respond to a trend. This is something normally seen in FMCG and consumer facing brands. For example, when Pepsi puts out an ad, Coca-Cola's quick to respond and vice versa.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Image courtesy: Twitter&nbsp;</p></div>

Image courtesy: Twitter 

He explains that most brands in the paracetamol space focus on communicating with the doctors. It can be directly communicated to the consumers, but most brands choose not to do that. These brands, instead, choose to drive sales through prescriptions and, hence, market to the doctors. That’s the zone that Dolo 650 has been in.

Praful Akali
Praful Akali

He explains that GSK has Crocin and Calpol medicines in its paracetamol category. Calpol used to be the highest selling paracetamol medicine, until recent times. Calpol is a prescription-only brand. Crocin, on the other hand, is available OTC and is consumer-focused.

"Dolo was the first brand to create a story around the 650 mg variant of paracetamol."
Praful Akali

“Several years back, Dolo was the first brand to create a story around the 650 mg variant. The variant was so successful that even pre-lockdown, other brands started creating 650 mg versions of the tablets, such as Calpol 650,” mentions Akali.

He explains that what happened during COVID is that an increasing number of doctors started to prescribe the tablet, as it tackled the common COVID symptoms – body pain and fever. Hence, the popularity of the drug started spreading by word of mouth.

“This brand started in the doctor prescription direction and made its way into the lives of the consumers, and that’s absolutely phenomenal. We tend to forget the power of an OTC brand. The doctor may have prescribed that medicine to you to begin with, but it came into your life and now a customer swears by it. That’s the power of the brand. It’s gone beyond a medicine and has even become a meme,” states Akali.

He adds that GSK’s brand ENO (an antacid) also promises action in just six seconds. Fast acting results is something that’s commonly promised in the OTC space, and even Crocin Advance has been using this claim of acting fast.

According to Gulshan Singh, chief strategy officer at Tilt Brand Solutions, Crocin is trying to play catch-up with the stupendous success Dolo’s had recently. This campaign is trying to help drive preference for Crocin.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Gulshan Singh</p></div>

Gulshan Singh

"Quick pain relief is a significant driver. So, I can see the logic of saying, ‘starts working in five minutes’"
Gulshan Singh

“The way it was presented looks like a vanilla ‘healthcare’ ad, nothing that really stands out at first glance. Quick pain relief is a significant driver. So, I can see the logic of saying, ‘starts working in five minutes’. Optizorb as a reason to buy (RTB), also fits in with this.”

Singh adds that the terminology – calling this Crocin brand, Crocin 650, to step up and compete with Dolo 650 – certainly seems intentional. “It may strike a chord, but since consumer preference for Dolo 650 is driven more for ‘Dolo’ than for ‘650’, I don’t know how effective it would be.”

"They could’ve used the model without the white coat, or even gone without a model and just focused on the five-minute claim."
Gulshan Singh

What puzzles Singh is why the ad uses a model in a white coat to drive the point home. “The model has a white (lab) coat on, which is shorthand for a doctor in India; at least in Indian advertising. But Sachin Khurana isn’t a doctor, and you’re calling it out by using the prefix ‘Mr’. Mr Sachin Khurana in a white coat was completely avoidable. They could’ve used the model without the white coat, or even gone without a model and just focused on the five-minute claim.”

Singh adds that the communication isn’t doing the brand any favours, if it leads the consumers to think that the brand is trying to pull a fast one on them. “This has potential for major consumer blowback – something that has already started happening on social media.”

We wondered if the phrase ‘Optizorb technology’ was purely gimmicky, or if it would actually work in convincing the consumers. Singh contemplated that in the normal course of things, the consumers are likely to consume (pun intended) ‘Optizorb technology’ in the context of it coming from a well-known brand like Crocin.

“They aren’t necessarily going to ask for it by name, but it helps reassure them as an RTB. But if they start questioning Mr Sachin Khurana, they will do the same to Optizorb,” he concludes.

On the GSK Healthcare website, Optizorb technology is explained in the context of the paracetamol tablet Panadol - which is popular in the USA. The site mentions that the technology helps the tablets break down faster in the stomach to aid speedy 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 garnering so much attention. "My first thought was that it's a change that we saw an ad for a medicine in the front page of a newspaper because that takes a good amount of investment and resources, which is not something we traditionally saw in medicine," she says.

Talking about the claim of Optizorb technology, she mentions it's not uncommon for an ad to use a science based claim to back the product. "It's great to use this as a RTB, but it won't help in terms of creating product differentiation because the customer might not understand the RTB to begin with," she explains.

As far as Mona is concerned, she adds that in India, paracetamol has been synonymous with Crocin and it has a strong sense of nostalgia tied to it because of this factor.

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