Putting some fizz in OTC products
How do retailers get an edge in the all-important OTC medications market? Finding the answer, according to a number of industry officials, may be one of the most important factors for any merchant looking to build its image and profits in the OTC market.
The overall OTC segment is growing at a modest low to single-digit rate, but observers say that certain segments of the category are not only driving sales, but also store traffic. The key, they note is finding the hot products at the right times and making sure that consumers know they are available in sufficient assortments.
“OTC in general is only growing a couple points,” said Yann Pigeaire, director of marketing at Similasan USA. “Niche brands are driving most of the growth from what I can see. Consumers are still looking for that ‘other way’ than traditional big OTCs to help with their ailments.”
The Internet, of course, is playing a big role in this category. Consumers are better educated than ever, and they can find alternatives to age-old brands that they feel can make a larger difference.
“OTC continues to be a real great category,” said Joe Juliano, vice president of marketing for Prestige Brands. “Ultimately, more consumers are becoming better educated through the Internet, and because of that they’re able to treat problems [around which] maybe in the past they were insecure.”
Opportunities abound. Some categories like the nascent sleep category involve traditional block-and-tackle merchandising techniques that collate the category into an easily shopped solution set. Other categories like diabetes management are employing the latest technology advancements to revolutionize the offering. There are categories that have yet to materialize in the OTC setting, such as hearing aids, where one supplier in the space is parlaying its brand heritage into the ear care set well in advance of any nonprescription hearing-aid centers.
Several trends also are playing out across the OTC aisles. For example, the opioid crisis that President Trump just declared a national health emergency is getting the industry to focus on alternatives to what is currently available. “Topical analgesics can potentially help alleviate some of the pain symptoms that the consumers have without taking and becoming addicted to the opioids,” said Les Hamilton, president of Hyland’s. “If you look at all the new products that are launching — Salonpas with Lidocaine, the TENS products. The topical analgesics segment is going to grow because people are more concerned about putting things in their body than on their body. That’s going to continue to be interesting.”
To Hamilton’s point, sales of external analgesic rubs rose 19.7% to $705.8 million across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 10, according to IRI, with Hisamitsu’s Salonpas growing by 37% to $94.9 million. Meanwhile, sales of electrotherapy devices have risen to $85.1 million on growth of 29.9% with Bayer’s Aleve Direct Therapy paving the way with $21 million in sales on 306.8% growth.
Another example is the cleaner ingredient profile that is not just coursing across food categories — consumers are looking for easier-to-digest and responsibly sourced products across the CPG continuum.
“We recently launched a new product called Simply Summer’s Eve,” said Juliano, who said that the product is made with simple ingredients that are free from harsh chemicals, dyes, alcohol and parabens. “That really came from the insight that millennial female consumers did not want products with harsh chemicals. Consumers continue to look for more value, whether it’s products that are better for you, whether it’s more transparency, whether it’s more convenient. Whatever it is, we [as OTC manufacturers] just need to react.”
Being candid with consumers is another must. “People are becoming much more ingredient aware,” said Art Rowe-Cerveny, marketing manager Americas at Pharmacare. “People’s shopping patterns are changing. They’re actually looking for specific ingredients in their search before they get to the store. So instead of looking for trusted brands, people are making sure what they want is there, especially in the OTC space, and then finding it.”
That’s not only impacting product formulation, but also how those products are being marketed to the masses, Rowe-Cerveny said. “An interesting statistic is Amazon … may soon surpass Google as the first search engine of choice,” he added.
The elusive millennial shopper will start to play a larger role in these trends, as well. They are extremely demanding, and they are looking at labels and ingredients. “Technology has turned communication and marketing on its head, because this group of shoppers do their research long before they get to the store — if they go to the store at all,” added Robin Russo, president of RLA Collective. “They seek out opinions from all different places — their own [family], social media, online reviews, HCPs, you name it.”
10 Truths of OTC No. 7: Regulations no excuse for poor branding
Truth 7: Regulations no excuse for poor branding
Regulation, varying from country to country, affects many substantive aspects of what constitutes OTC branding and what is allowed in packaging design, claims, evidencing, marketing communications and sampling. And it changes all the time, with very little chance of any form of regional harmonization any time soon, let alone global.
Packaging is the distillation of the brand’s identity and purpose, so it’s essential to understand the regulatory constraints very early on in the brand design process. In naming and claims, there are some red lines that simply cannot be crossed in different markets. Nurofen, as a molecular, distinctive active-led product, is one of very few global masterbrands that remain similar in all the markets in which they operate.
Then there’s the challenge of language, cultural mores, semiotics, color preferences and differing levels of technological penetration. The complexity is almost staggering.
Getting the lawyers and regulatory experts into new product devlopment and marketing discussions at the outset, and integrating their thinking into the brand development creative brief makes great business sense. Once those red lines are established, there is in fact a huge amount of creative flexibility in branding and visual architecture that can transcend regulatory strictures.
There will always be tweaks, country by country, but that’s no excuse not to aim for meaningful, consumer insight-led claims and "Reasons to Believe" – as well as the powerful visual assets that reflect and deliver on this.
Currently, OTC has a very distinct, and pretty limited, visual landscape. Starbursts, droplets, targets and swooshes combine to convey various permutations of efficacy, performance, strength and rapidity. In the more preventative-led wellness landscape we’re talking about, it’s clear that more of the same just won’t be enough to stand out.
But solutions can be found. For example, workarounds are possible in nomenclature, even though names might need to vary due to category or country regulations. Apple’s iPod, iPad and iPhone can easily be matched to Sanofi’s Buscopan, Buscapina and Buscofem, working within what markets dictate.
Color is always incredibly powerful. Coca-Cola red and Cadbury’s purple are easily matched by Pepto Bismol’s iconic pink product and brand equity. Add to that a notable logotype and consistent, compelling brand architecture across every SKU and you have something that’s eye-catching.
On a shelf full of cardboard boxes, exciting pack structure is a great way to stand out. Just make sure it’s trademarked: witness Tums’ distinctive bottle shape which is now imitated by a slew of private label competitors. Even gallenic form can be notable. Think Viagra’s iconic blue diamond, also carried onto its pack design.
Despite the seemingly immutable quality of the OTC brandscape, change is always possible. In dental care, newcomer Hello Products subverts the category with a breezy positive tone and curvy, pink, green and blue structures. And it’s now stocked at retailers like Walmart, Target and Rite-Aid.
Over in the laundry care category, the last 10 years have seen a radical visual shift from germ-busting and performance semiotic cues to fragrance and floral personal care cues, based on the consumer insight that cleanliness is just a starting point. OTC may well need to make a similarly bold journey and then carry it through into its POS, online, HCP engagement materials and all other branded assets. And most importantly, none of this is constrained by regulation. Creativity can always find a way if you let it.
Over the last 20 years, DewGibbons + Partners has helped design some of the world’s most iconic and successful OTC brands, resulting in a deep appreciation of the visual and physical cues — and regulatory limitations — in the self-care and OTC marketplace. The need to challenge those cues and limits is becoming far more frequent.
This is the seventh truth in a 10-part series from Sara Jones and Nick Vaus of DewGibbons + Partners, which has worked for the last 20 years to help design iconic and successful OTC brands. The series, “10 Uncomfortable Truths that OTC has to deal with to survive and thrive in the 21st century,” will publish weekly and feature in the DSN Health and Wellness newsletter every week.
The first truth was recognizing there’s a problem in the first place.
The second truth unveiled that OTC medicines are more often in the brand-building business as opposed to the pharmaceutical business.
The third truth spoke to the duality of technology, the pace of technological advances may leave some OTC brands behind even as those same advances are seized as opportunities by new brands.
The fourth truth addressed the evolution of OTC offerings from acute sick-care to preventative health and wellness solutions, mirroring a health system that's becoming more outcomes focused.
The fifth truth tracked the consumer purchase path toward OTC medicines, which more and more is incorporating a digital element.
Truth No. 6 highlighted the need for product development to be driven by consumer insights.
Next week's truth reveals how the power of packaging can unpack a richer brand engagement with the consumer.
Partner and client services director, DewGibbons + Partners
Sara runs DewGibbons + Partners alongside NickVaus, and heads up the client services team, leading branding and communications programmes for household names in OTC and health care. She’s always had a bit of a secret passion for OTC branding. Her Grandma was a pharmacist in London’s West End, leaving her with an abiding curiosity about active ingredients and how medicines work. She’s (in)famous for reading patient information leaflets cover to cover. Email her,
follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Partner and creative director, DewGibbons + Partners
As well as running the agency with Sara Jones, Nick leads the studio in providing solutions that are innovative, creative, economic, and effective. Powered by Beautiful Thinking – a unique combination of right and left brain thinking that seamlessly binds together strategy, design and brand communications – he ensures that his clients’ businesses, brands and consumers are at the heart of each and every brief. Email him, follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Just in time for the cold weather, Blistex launches 2 new lip balms
OAK BROOK, Ill. — Blistex recently announced two new additions to its line of lip care lip relief products, including Blistex Lip Serum and Blistex Triple Essentials. Blistex Lip Serum contains a concentrated, advanced formula that conditions lips with a nutrient and vitamin E complex, the company noted, while Blistex Triple Essentials is formulated using three essential oils selected for their lip-beneficial properties.
"I have used Blistex products on my clients for many years but their new Lip Serum is something very special," stated Mickey Williams, celebrity makeup artist. "Since skin constantly replaces itself through sloughing, the outer layer will be gone soon. It's important to benefit the inner layer of lips which will soon be visible on the surface."
Lip Serum provides nutrient rich oils like olive and avocado as well as anti-oxidants and omega-3s to replenish and sustain the lips deep down. Available in a dose-controlled pump, Blistex Lip Serum has an expected retail price of $3.99.
Blistex Triple Essentials contains mandarin, palmarosa and chamomile and has an expected retail price falling between $2.19 and $3.49.