Can OTC Marketers Take a Page from Rx Playbook?

In a world where pharma marketers spend tremendous amounts of money and effort engaging with healthcare providers, can OTC and CPG marketers have an impact on this critical audience?

I attended the ePharma conference in New York City recently and was able to learn a great deal about some of the latest methods DTC marketers use to reach Health Care Professionals. While there, it occurred to me that when it comes to OTC product advertising, we often overlook doctors who can play a critical role in consumers purchase decisions. Given the myriad of product options within any given OTC/CPG category and the endless volumes of free information available to the consumer, it’s important that marketers understand the importance of educating the doctor who can assist patients in their purchasing decisions.

According to the Accent Health “The Value of Physicians in the OTC Marketplace” report from July 2014, Doctors, Nurse Practioners and Physician Assistants play a key role in providing information to the consumer about OTC medications. They are the purchaser’s most trusted source. Additionally, manufacturer samples, coupons, and literature influence the physician to recommend OTC products. However, “physicians report limited availability of OTC samples, with only 49% indicating they have OTC samples on hand,” as outlined in the Accent Health report.

One company that makes samples available to physicians is Procter & Gamble. P&G has a healthcare professional initiative for their Prilosec, Metamucil, and Align brands. Their HCP-focused website (www.pghealthsamples.com) allows doctors to request samples of “#1 recommended brands” to distribute to their patients for heartburn and digestive health.

McNeil also has a robust program (https://www.zyrtecprofessional.com/patient-resources) for their Zyrtec allergy relief product. The website allows healthcare professionals the ability to order samples, print patient resource guides, access clinical data, and assess product comparable.

Given that both P&G and McNeil are large, well-established CPG companies, it’s no surprise that they’ve built a direct line and resource for physicians’ samples and collateral materials. However, for those smaller, less funded, and emerging brands finding a way to work a direct line to health care providers within the overall media plan is, in my opinion, becoming a media plan mandatory. What better way to gain consumer trust for an unknown brand than through a trusted doctor, nurse, or pharmacist? Trust sells product.

A small cough and cold children’s healthcare brand was trying to impact both consumers and physicians on a limited budget. Their solution was to engage the help of www.patientpoint.com to institute an in-office category exclusive program to both consumers and doctors. The brand executed educational brochures with condition specific information, $1 off coupons, and in exam room display boards that were viewed by both docs and patients. The program resulted in 9 out of 10 doctors recommending the brand, a 4x increase in top of mind awareness, and 70% of parents intending to talk to the pediatrician about the brand.

Altering your approach to the OTC product media plan to include a line item for healthcare professionals can be relatively simple. For those smaller brands, it may not be necessary to establish a different site for HCPs. Rather, a section or vertical within the consumer site may be sufficient and the most efficient method. 

Programs to reach pharmacists are readily available and cost efficient as well. Some options to consider are journals like Pharmacy Times and Pharmacy Practice and branded pharmacy bags through companies like Mesmerize Marketing that reach both the pharmacist and consumers. POM Wonderful and Senakot have executed branded pharmacy bags within the retail setting. Pharm/Alert has robust direct mail programs that can hyper target pharmacists within mass merchandise pharmacies.

Whatever your approach might be to include HCPs in your mix, the minimal reduction in consumer promotion needed will surely reap long term rewards as physicians and pharmacists become familiar with your brand and start recommending it to their patients.

By Cindy Seebeck

With over 30 years of experience in Integrated Media, Cindy Seebeck is a formidable practitioner with her fingers in every medium from spot TV to Digital OOH. She plans and executes holistic media campaigns for Underscore Marketing across a wide variety of clients.

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