How GSK uses data analytics to boost its consumer healthcare products

In the year since the British multinational Glaxo Smithkline (GSK) acquired Otrivin, the nasal spray brand, in a complex global deal with Novartis, its research team has been running the India numbers threadbare. Otrivin has been a bestseller brand for most of the 30-plus years that it has spent in the country, but the GSK team was reading a bunch of missed opportunities in the data. For one, even though one in three people suffer from a clogged nose in the country, only one in ten actually treat it, its research revealed.

To nudge what it saw as latent demand, into an active purchase, GSK Consumer Healthcare India (GSKCH) partnered with Google Analytics for a data-led solution. And the company believes, the use of analytics is helping design their communication better and driving efficiencies in cost and supply chain management. Otrivin’s is not the only brand narrative being crafted thus, Google Analytics influences the planning for Sensodyne, ENO, Crocin and other brands. Hindustan Unilever’s board approved a merger with GSKCH last year and will eventually hold  marketing rights over these brands. 

Naveed Ahmad, area marketing lead, Indian subcontinent, pain and respiratory, GSK Consumer, says analytics helps ‘sharp-shoot’ a consumer. “On television or any mass media, there is  significant amount of spillage. Using analytics, we can ‘sharp-shoot’ our communication to the audience that is most relevant to picking up our brand message,” he adds. 

For Otrivin, GSK used an analytics tool called ‘Ruled by the weather’ that helps brands serve up relevant ads based on real-time weather data. As Ahmad explains, nasal congestions happen throughout the year, but has peaks and troughs linked to the cold and flu season. The tool helps predict a potential outbreak. "As Brand Otrivin we wanted to be there when a consumer is genuinely in need of the product.” 

Google has an alliance with the Indian weather department which gives it access to variables such as wind direction, forces and such. The analytics tool has been created to capture the data and send out alerts to partner brands about an impending weather episode, say for instance ‘a cold and flu’ season for GSK. Ahmad said that having prior information (three weeks in advance) lets GSK do two things. First, reach out to the consumer with a contextual message and second, tweak its supply chain to be available at the right place at the right time. 

“Let’s say Mumbai is expected to develop a cold and flu outbreak. We developed a creative customised to consumers living in Mumbai (like building parallels with the traffic jam, or city landmarks). It was a contextual campaign linking back to a blocked nose and hence Otrivin,” Ahmad says. 

For Sensodyne, GSK tied up with Google Assistant for World Oral Health Day (March 2019) for a campaign called 'Hello Sensodyne’. The app urged users to seek more information about tooth sensitivity and then pitched the relevance of using Sensodyne. 

The digital medium is dynamic, flexible and, its impact is measurable. Ahmad points out, “Progress of our campaigns can be tracked transparently and at very short intervals. We can even customise or tweak our communication to deliver on the basis of consumer feedback.” 

For Otrivin Ahmad says, “We worked with our digital team to target the audience (let’s say a male, 35-45 years of age, working in air-conditioned offices). We followed it up with a call to action. If people were interested, they clicked on the banner which took them to an online pharmacy where they could buy the product.” The entire path to purchase was tracked and carefully mapped.

Ambi Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder of is sceptical about the efficacy of weather-based analytics tools. “I would like to know more about data, algorithms and models that Google uses to predict cold and flu outbreaks. In the West, this model (based primarily on keyword searches related to flu) has been disproven,” he says. 

However for GSK and 1Mg, the online pharmacy partner, the tool has paid off. “In terms of engagement, (click through rates), these targeted creatives got us three times more clicks. We saw sales grow by almost four-times on 1MG (albeit on a very low base),” Ahmad says. The company did not share sales numbers, however. Additionally, the Otrivin Cold and Flu Predictor campaign won the silver in ‘Innovative use of data and analytics’ category for Mindshare at this year's Goafest.

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