Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are a staple of modern life, providing relief from a wide range of ailments and helping us power through even the toughest of days. From allergies to colds and pain relief to sleep aids, there are tons of companies and medicines out there for just about everything. Amidst such tight competition for shelf space, traditional marketing efforts may just be falling short.
The global over-the-counter (OTC) drugs market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $187.75 billion by 2030. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including an aging population, rising awareness about self-medication, and increasing disposable income.
In addition, the growing demand for OTC drugs for chronic diseases is also expected to contribute to market growth. A large portion of the population heavily depends on over-the-counter drugs for instant relief, preferring it over the effort of procuring prescriptions. An average American alone spends about $338 yearly on OTC medicines. But while this looks great for pharmaceutical organizations, it poses a greater challenge to marketers.
In every specific relief category, brands compete heavily for a larger market share by highlighting different selling points. One headache medicine boasts instant relief, while another showcases longer-lasting effects.
But simple differentiation isn’t cutting it.
None of the leading brands in the OTC landscape are able to maintain a clear majority in market share, implying that the state of the competition is more intense than one imagines.
So what can help companies know when and where to market their products for maximum effect?
It’s a no-brainer that the environment around us shapes our health. And therefore, it also affects when we are likely to need instant relief medications the most. Most ailments like virals, flu, allergies, congestions, and fevers follow a pattern or seasonality depending on many factors like the temperature, pollen count, and air quality.
A Yale-led study actually revealed how our body’s natural immune response to rhinovirus–the leading cause of the common cold–is weakened in lower temperatures. The study also strongly suggested that the varying temperatures influenced the immune response rather than the virus itself.
We, as consumers, are well aware of this and tend to stock up on the required medication, but are OTC distributors prepared as well?
Turns out, the microscopic allergens and particulates which wreak havoc on human health can be a valuable tool for helping consumers in their time of greatest need. If companies were to track this data and analyze trends over time, they could gain some very valuable insights into when and where allergy sufferers are likely to be seeking relief and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly.
So how does that work?
One of the key benefits of using environmental data in OTC marketing is the ability to time campaigns more effectively. By tracking–let’s say, pollen counts and analyzing historical trends, companies can predict when allergy season is likely to be at its peak in different regions and craft their campaigns contextually.
For example, if a company knows that a certain type of pollen– let’s say weed pollen typically peaks in April in a certain region, they can run advertising campaigns for allergy medications and related products in the weeks leading up to that peak, when people are most likely to be seeking relief. This helps to ensure that the company's products are top-of-mind for allergy sufferers when they need them most, increasing the chances of a successful marketing campaign.
In the calendar year, the ‘change-of-seasons’ period is essentially the hotbed of infections and fevers–a company could easily track the temperature changes and make sure that the right medication is situated at the correct place through their distribution channels.
What this helps establish is brand recall. Brand recall can be crucial for a pharma company, especially in the wake of cutthroat competition. It builds loyalty and leads to repeat purchases. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, 49% of consumers in the United States stick to the same brand when purchasing OTC medications (source: McKinsey, 2017). This highlights the impact of brand recall on fostering customer loyalty and repeat business
The power of brand recall is further illustrated by the fact that OTC companies invest significant resources in advertising and promotion to enhance brand recognition. According to the Advertising Association, the OTC healthcare category accounted for approximately £100 million in advertising spend in the United Kingdom in 2020
But there’s something more that is needed apart from good timing.
In addition to timing, environmental data also helps companies target their marketing efforts more effectively. When certain indicators are high or low in a specific area, a smart marketer can immediately trigger advertising efforts and tailor their messaging.
Allergies especially are a huge pain, so when pollen counts are particularly high in a certain city or state, a company might run targeted social media ads that highlight the importance of managing allergies and offer solutions for doing so. They might also partner with local health clinics or pharmacies to offer free samples of their allergy medications or other related products, further increasing awareness and driving sales.
The term ‘personalized’ is thrown around a lot, but personalized ads doing better is not just a clichè. Our data helped Adylic–an ad tech company, leverage its power to the max. Here’s what Stefanie Wong, Adylic’s DCO specialist at Adylic, had to say:
You can read about the entire campaign and its results here
Finally, environmental data can also be used to help companies better manage their inventory and supply chain. After adequate analyses based on accurate data, a planner can easily know when demand is likely to be highest and can then adjust their production and distribution schedules to ensure that they have enough products on hand to meet customer demand.
For instance, If pollen counts are predicted to be particularly high in a certain region, a company might adjust its production schedule to increase the amount of allergy medication they're producing for that region. They might also adjust their distribution routes to ensure that product is getting to the right places at the right times, reducing the risk of stock shortages or backlogs.
Did you know that weather data especially has a great role when it comes to demand forecasting? Here’s why you shouldn’t be ignoring it.
So, why does pollen data matter? Simply put, it offers companies a powerful tool for understanding their customers' needs and behaviors.
Companies can gain insights into when and where a specific medication is going to be most prevalent and use that information to adjust their marketing strategies and meet customer needs
But it's not just about marketing - pollen data can also be used to inform product development, customer service, and other key business functions. For example, a company might use pollen data to identify new markets for their allergy medications or related products or to develop new products that are better suited to the needs of allergy sufferers.
All of this can only be unlocked with the right kind of data.
Ambee’s suite of scientifically-validated and industry-heralded environmental intelligence is here to make sure you can innovate your medication and products to serve consumers like never before. To learn more, simply get in touch with our expert here or leave us a comment belowUntil next time!