Using Authentic Influence to Differentiate Your OTC Brand

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Marketers working on over-the-counter (OTC) brands have the opportunity to actually help people who are in need. OTC products require FDA approval to be marketed directly to consumers, and these products contain ingredients that have demonstrated safety and efficacy in clinical studies. However, when multiple brands within a specific category segment use the same clinical studies to gain FDA approval, it’s hard to distinguish product differences as a consumer. 

The majority of sales in many OTC categories are driven by a subset of consumers that have chronic conditions or other reasons for frequent use. Although brands constantly compete for these consumers, they have little ability to differentiate from one another. New product claims need to be supported by costly clinical studies, and any exclusivity in the market may only last a few years. So how do the most valuable consumers choose an OTC medication when their options appear very similar? 

Often times, brands turn to parody claims in advertising to grab the attention of consumers: “Nothing works better,” “Unsurpassed relief.” These statements sound powerful but don’t answer an important consumer question: “What is the best product for my needs?” The next generation of heavy OTC consumers, in particular, are weary of these types of messages: A whopping 84% of Millennials don’t trust traditional brand-focused advertising.

Product labels can also be a source of confusion for consumers. For example, a mother shopping for a product to help alleviate teething discomfort for her baby may be confused when an OTC medication says it treats a toothache. Is a toothache the same as teething for babies that don’t have any teeth yet?   

Driving influence will drive consumption

It’s no surprise that products listed on the Pharmacy Times’ Pharmacists' Top Recommended OTC Products are often the top sellers in their respective categories. Recommendations from doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals (HCPs) are often the greatest driver of purchase consideration for heavy buyers in OTC categories.  

Despite the fact that many OTC marketers understand the influence of a doctor or pharmacist, they continue overlooking what is often the second largest factor in purchase decision: influence of friends and family that have experience treating a health issue. The most influential peer-to-peer recommendations come from consumers that are either passing along information they’ve learned from an HCP, or sharing their own personal journey finding something that works. But in either scenario, they are recommending a brand they believe in and act as an authority on how to treat an ailment.

According to Forbes, 81% of consumers admitted recommendations from family and friends directly impacted their buying decisions. Additionally, research from patient advocacy firm, Inspire, shows that 82% of people use social media for medical research or support.

OTC marketers who choose to invest in forging meaningful relationships with brand advocates are able to convert other consumers in need of a solution and who are ready to buy. Once a trusted advisor recommends your brand, can your competitor really change their mind with a clever ad?  

Consumer advocates give brands the ultimate source of personalization and segmentation.  Their recommendations are unique based on who they’re speaking with and their stories come from real-world experience. For OTC brand marketers, if it’s differentiation you seek, provide those that love your brand with the tools they need to spread the word. 



Jim SearsTwitterLinkedIn

Jim is the Vice President of Strategy at Social Media Link. He oversees the business development team and is focused on aligning clients’ needs with internal business goals. He connects the dots from data and insights to strategies and tactics, often in very creative, innovative ways. Jim is also focused on making sure clients get the most out their investment with Social Media Link and has a relentless drive to see things true, even on new solutions where the path may not be so straightforward.