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‘In increasingly crowded markets like India, a recognised and trusted corporate brand is critical’

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After the hiving off of its proprietary pharmaceuticals business, about half of the new Abbott’s business is either direct to consumers or significantly influenced by them and increasingly in countries where the company is not yet well known. Paul Magill, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Abbott analyses the essense of the company’s new corporate identity to Viveka Roychowdhury

What is the trigger for Abbott’s new corporate identity?

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Paul Magill

Brand is an investment in growth. Building our corporate identity creates an asset that strengthens our relationships across multiple stakeholders. In increasingly crowded markets like India, a recognised and trusted corporate brand is critical.

People around the world are more empowered to make healthcare decisions for themselves and they care about the companies behind the products they’re using for themselves and their families. They want to be assured that the company is a good company they can trust. We know from research that two-thirds of consumers check labels to see what company is behind a brand and more than 50 per cent do research on the company. In emerging economies — like India — healthcare services and products are often paid out-of-pocket by the consumer, which means consumers consider attributes beyond clinical benefit in the buying decision, such as the reputation of the company or recommendations of friends and family. As our focus increases on India, it’s critical that we work to build a recognised corporate brand here.

The change you see now has its roots in the company’s separation almost two years ago of the proprietary pharmaceuticals business into a completely different company called AbbVie. The new Abbott consists of four businesses — nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices and branded generic pharma — of roughly equal size. The new Abbott is also increasingly consumer-oriented, with about half of our business either direct to consumers or significantly influenced by consumers.

How does it differ/diverge from the original values and mission when the company was started 125 years ago?

Abbott’s new corporate identity builds upon our 125-year heritage and begins a new chapter that fully expresses what Abbott is about, championing the enabling power of health and celebrating what people at all stages of life can achieve at their healthiest.

At a fundamental level, the DNA of Abbott does not change. Our core values remain the same. Our focus on science and innovation is still our guiding star. Abbott has always been about delivering the enabling power of health to people at all stages of life.

What is changing is the way in which we are telling our story. Abbott has historically relied on the strength of our diverse and high quality products to tell our story. It’s a strategy that served us well in the past but today’s global marketplace is changing faster than ever before, demanding new and innovative ways to connect with consumers.

As more and more of our business goes direct to the people who use our products, and to countries where our company is not yet well known, it’s more important than ever before that we have a highly recognisable and meaningful identity which speaks to our company’s purpose. In this way, people around the world can know who we are, what we stand for, and what Abbott means to them because many of them will be touched by an Abbott product at some time in their lives. Our new brand positioning ‘Life. To The fullest,’ embodies our continued focus on the enabling power of health.

Are these triggers restricted to Abbott or are they a reflection of global trends? If yes, what are these trends?

Abbott has been one of the world’s most successful companies for more than a century because it has continually transformed itself to meet the changing needs of patients and consumers and to tackle society’s most significant healthcare concerns.

Today, 70 per cent of Abbott’s business comes from countries other than the US. Be it the strong growth of emerging economies, the out-of-pocket nature of the customer in these economies, or that consumers are vastly better informed about healthcare than ever before, we look to understand, anticipate and adapt to these trends.

One trend in particular that we see in most countries of the world is the shift in how people think about health. Health is no longer just about treating disease. It’s not just about ‘patients and pills,’ it’s about people living healthily, so they can open up possibilities in their lives. There’s an increasing recognition that when we are at our healthiest, we can unlock all that life has to offer. Health is the great enabler of doing more, achieving more and experiencing more in life.

About half of the company’s product portfolio is now directly consumer-facing. How will this re-branding transform into new strategies (marketing and other wise) on the ground for the company’s employees (sales force, etc)?

At a product level, marketing strategies that are decided by the businesses will continue. You will continue to see the Abbott ‘A’ on our products.

What really changes is the manner in which people will experience Abbott’s corporate identity. You will see associations with events which illustrate and demonstrate the core purpose and character of Abbott, for example, our sponsorship of the recently concluded TEDx Gateway in Mumbai. The TED movement is all about making great ideas accessible and sparking conversation with a belief in the power of ideas to change attitudes and lives. For more than 125 years, Abbott has been doing exactly that – inspiring breakthroughs in health that would lead to people living longer and better lives.

India also represents one of our largest employee bases outside the US, and employee engagement is critical to corporate identity. Corporate identity provides a North Star for employees, helping to align the organisation and fuelling further pride in the company. So we began by unveiling the new corporate identity to our employees, before unveiling it externally.

The new identity will also be leveraged across the businesses whenever we are talking about ‘all-Abbott’ and want to reflect our purpose and contributions as a company.

In terms of sales, which are the most important emerging markets for Abbott?

Strategically, India, Brazil, Russia, China and the Asia/Southeast Asia and Latin America regions are among the important markets and regions for Abbott, globally. 40 per cent of Abbott’s sales come from emerging markets.

With emerging markets proving to be growth drivers for most sectors, including the pharma/healthcare sector, how does Abbott plan to translate the new brand values into practice in India?

Abbott’s focus is on building the new identity globally through strong engagement with a number of stakeholders, told through compelling stories and experiences. While consumers are at the centre of the company’s new brand identity, the effort goes beyond consumers to other stakeholders, including making Abbott even more attractive to top talent across the world.

This is not a traditional marketing campaign, but rather we’re investing in a number of different expressions and sponsorships that speak to different aspects of what ‘Life. To the Fullest’ means to our different audiences.

For example, in 2015, we’ll be supporting runners as the first-ever title sponsor of the World Marathon Majors. This underscores Abbott’s commitment to helping people be proactive in their approach to health and wellness and experience all that life has to offer.

Specifically in India, in October 2014, we began revealing our new corporate identity to our employees and then to external audiences though the TEDx Gateway sponsorship, our refreshed Abbott India website (www.abbott.in), as well as visible outdoor signage and print advertising. This is just the beginning, expect to see us even more visible next year.

Kindly comment on the opportunities and challenges of doing business in the pharma/ healthcare space in India.

We see the changing healthcare space as an opportunity. In increasingly crowded markets (business-wise) like India, a recognised and trusted corporate brand is critical.

Abbott’s diversified healthcare businesses are well positioned to help play a big part in improving health and wellbeing in India.

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