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It takes a long, long time to choose Nicotex

The clinical practice of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) has been established with 30 years of study. This therapy is recommended as an effective means of smoking cessation by leading global bodies like the World Health Organization.

Soon enough, commercial players commoditised this practice with a range of products like gums, lozenges, patches, sprays and sublingual tablets to cater to the mass consumer. United States, EU, Japan, China, India, Southeast Asia are the prime markets for Nicotine Replacement Therapy based on sales, revenue, market share and growth.

According to WHO 2009 study, 900,000 smokers die every year due to smoking related illness in India. However, the Government of India’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17, found that only 38.5% of smokers attempted to quit smoking in the 12 months preceding the survey, while less than 5% of smokers attempted to quit smoking using some form of therapy.

Clearly NRT category in India is highly underpenetrated, but Johnson & Johnson (Nicorette), Cipla Health (Nicotex), ITC (Kwiknic), Zydus Wellness (Tobaquit), and Ceejay Group (Nulife) have all launched their NRT products since 2002 when the Government legalised nicotine gum.

NRT products raise your chances of quitting by 50-70%. Meanwhile, most smokers who try to quit by themselves fail.

However, it takes an incredible amount of time for smokers to come to the realisation that they need to quit and come to the conclusion that they need help.

Nicotex was launched in 2008, and the core objective of the brand was to drive penetration and awareness of the NRT category in India. “This also encompasses substantial education efforts for consumers and all stakeholders with respect to how this category functions,” says Shivam Puri, CEO, Cipla Health.

That strategy has paid off dividends for Nicotex which is the market leader in the category with 81% share.

The brand recently launched a campaign, called ‘We Believe You Can’. Through the TV commercial the brand projects itself as a friend and partner that supports smokers through their difficult journey of quitting cigarettes.

“This communication message has more emotional appeal than functional” observes Puri. “Our hope is that by understanding what consumers face every day in their uphill climb of quitting, we can better connect with them.”

While television and digital play a strong role in Nicotex’s marketing mix, it does not have a presence in cinema halls, which are often where public service ads by the government to stop smoking are played. Neither is Nicotex gum available at paan shops, which is a frequent haunt of smokers.

Regarding advertising in theatres, Puri says, “So far, we haven’t utilised that medium, but we are not closed to advertising in cinema halls in future.”

Cipla has been consistently launching a TVC campaign every year since 2016. Consumer feedback has always informed campaign strategy, according to Puri. Thus, in their communications they have covered an array of smoking related habit patterns like peer pressure, willpower, and the poor taste of nicotine gum. For the brand, TV continues to be the most optimal way to drive reach and saliency.

This is supplemented by a digital presence that drives engagement with the brand.

“Even if our communication is able to drive consideration of Nicotex amongst its target audience, they typically do a lot of research online and take feedback from their smoker friends before they start using it,” adds Puri.

Speaking about distribution, Puri reveals that Nicotex gum is not available at paan shops. When questioned, Puri explained, “Nicotex is available in 2 dosages – 2 mg and 4 mg. While 2 mg is an OTC product, 4 mg dosage is a Schedule H product, meaning that it can be sold only upon a doctor’s prescription.”

The reasoning behind being available only at chemists, he explains, is because “consumers trust chemists when it comes to wellness products and this in turn lends credibility to the brand in terms of effectiveness.”

The NRT category is certainly a tough cookie to crack because it is hard to determine a campaign’s performance immediately after.

“Consumer decision making in this category is much more complex than typical products. If a consumer connects with the brand messaging, he or she is likely to first research about it online, or ask for their smoker friends’ opinion. Thus, it takes some time before the campaign translates into increase in purchase of the brand.”

New Year’s Eve is a time when a lot of smokers decide to kick the habit. Whether this decision will drive those looking to quit smoking towards brand Nicotex is yet to be seen, but Puri is confident that since the category is so underpenetrated, the opportunity is huge.


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