'Focus of Health is on Wellness, Not Diseases'

Paul Magill, chief marketing officer, says Abbott Laboratories is changing its corporate identity to keep up with a vibrant time in health care

After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.

Paul Magill
Age:
52
Career: McKinsey, IBM Global Services
Education: Bachelor’s, Master’s in geography, law at Cambridge University; MBA at Harvard

Q. Why did Abbott decide to change its corporate identity now?
A couple of things have come together to make this the right time. A couple of years ago, we spun off AbbVie, so Abbott is now more global than ever before. We have more than 70 percent of our business outside the US and 40 percent in emerging markets. That new business profile requires a different emphasis on our corporate identity. We have been well-known among focussed audiences. If you work in health care or are an investor, you know Abbott very well. But the general consumer has historically not known Abbott very well.

We did research across markets and realised that consumer attitudes towards health were changing. Earlier, health was about treating diseases. Now, it is about wellness and living healthily. This has made it a vibrant time in the world of health care and that is why we are doing this now.

Q. How much would you be spending on the roll-out of this new identity?
We would spend in the tens of millions and this would be spent over a three- to five-year time frame.

Q. In developing markets, individual medicine brands are as important as the company brand. Would that be the focus area as well?
We have strong product brands and nothing is going to change about that. The corporate identity is an additive to the product brands. You think about Apple and iPad. The iPad is a strong product because it comes from Apple. In our case, we had very strong product brands and we described them as coming from Abbott and we showed the logo, but the understanding among consumers about what that meant was not as clear or strong as we wanted it to be.

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Image: Getty Images

Q. Will the individual brands also see increased spends?
The right marketing mix for a product brand is a function of the business environment and the marketing mix for that brand. Nothing that we are doing on the corporate identity will impact the autonomy of what individual brands need to do in their markets.

Q. Where does India stand compared to other BRIC markets?

India is in the first wave of markets where the new brand identity is being launched. This year, we launch in India, China and Brazil. But India will be very important and it is the first market where we did a lot of research and where we created a regional marketing organisation. In 2013, we did $920 million in revenue in India; that puts it in the top five markets for us worldwide. We did analysis on two factors—where are the sources of future growth and what is the relative importance of product identity to corporate identity? In the first, it ranks very highly and in the second also, we saw that corporate identity makes a big difference.

(This story appears in the 28 November, 2014 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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