Direct to Consumer: Hit 'Em Where It Helps

In-Store Promotions Capture Brand Interest
May 01, 2006

Gary Norman
Many Pharma Brand Managers once believed that direct-to-consumer advertising would pay huge returns by motivating consumers to seek treatment after learning about specific medications. It turned out that TV ads were great for building brand awareness but ill-fitted for another crucial part of the DTC mission—offering consumers detailed information about product benefits, risks, and side effects. Now pharma brand managers are looking for ways to enhance the payback from their DTC marketing investments by filling that information gap. What they've discovered is that they needn't look further than the corner pharmacy for a promotional venue that can offer helpful and credible information about prescription drugs, at the time and place that consumers are most open.

In-store promotional programs have the unique capability of reaching a large targeted audience, yet they currently make up less than one percent of total DTC marketing expenditures. But that trend is changing as savvy pharma marketers have begun to realize that the medium's ability to deliver more balanced and informative content helps maximize return on DTC investments. In fact, independent research shows that in-store promotions yield an average prescription lift of nearly 10 percent across a wide range of therapeutic categories, generating a return of $6.40 for every dollar invested. In comparison, the average return on total DTC advertising expenditures is $2.20 for every dollar spent, according to IMS Health.

How It Works

Dispensers catch customers´attention in the pharmacy aisle, and offer a way to get out detailed product information.
Education in the aisles isn't new in retail marketing. Companies selling products in grocery stores have used shelf space and packaging appeal for many years to influence buying decisions. On-the-spot coupon dispensers and nutritional information are fixtures in food-store aisles, and the same principles can be applied to reach healthcare consumers.

Drugstore customers routinely buy over-the-counter products, from antacids to cold remedies to pain relievers, without consulting their healthcare professionals. Many of us self-treat symptoms with OTC products without ever knowing the exact cause of the problem. Who hasn't seen a co-worker take antacids day after day, without bothering to consult a physician to find out why his stomach is upset all the time? That individual might reconsider a visit to the doctor if he were to run across some detailed information about chronic upset stomach in the pharmacy aisle where his antacids are sold. In another example, an older woman taking calcium supplements might be interested in prescription medications for osteoarthritis. If she were to read information on that very topic while perusing the supplement aisle at her local drugstore, she may decide to visit her doctor to talk about the benefits of prescription medicines.

Bang For Buck For every dollar invested in in-store promotions, companies generate a return of $6.40.
Pharmacies have a distinct advantage over other promotional outlets: the licensed pharmacists who are on hand to field any questions from customers. Product information available in the aisles may prompt a chat with the pharmacist, followed by a visit to the doctor to discuss a medication's potential benefits. And, as the numbers show, the outcome of that discussion is likely to be a prescription sale.

Cholesterol-lowering medications make up one therapeutic category that has seen a significant rise in scripts driven by in-store promotions. The high noise level about these therapies has probably confused many consumers about which product might be right for them, and retailers and manufacturers are finding they can differentiate benefits of certain medications better through in-store promotions than they can with TV ads.

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