OTC @ GKV | OTC Products in a Challenger Brand World.
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OTC Products in a Challenger Brand World.

The over-the-counter (OTC) medicine market is on fire.

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, OTC medication sales are more than double what they were just six years ago.* More and more people are taking control and treating their illnesses by themselves. In fact, on average, U.S. households spend about $338 per year on OTC products.**

And while the OTC medicine market is growing each year, sales of prescription drugs have been virtually flat for the past few years. The rise of OTC sales can be attributed to several factors including affordability, accessibility and consumer empowerment.

  • 86% of U.S. adults believe responsible OTC medicine helps lower healthcare costs for themselves and their families.***
  • 81% of adults use OTC medicines as a first response to minor ailments.***
  • 70–90% of all illness episodes are addressed with self-treatment.***
  • 8 in 10 consumers use OTC medicines to relieve their symptoms without having to see a healthcare professional.***
  • 89% of consumers believe OTC medicines are an important part of their overall family healthcare.***

Some of the key vendors in the global OTC drug market include: GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Bayer. These are the category leaders. The big dogs. The alpha males.

But what if you’re not a leader?

Outside of the giants, there are scores of smaller companies and equity firms that control 2–10 brands in their respective stables. These are the “Challenger Brands.” So if you’re one of these “little guys,” how do you step out of the shadow of the OTC category leaders and get noticed?


It’s human nature to want to do the same thing as the category leaders. After all, it worked for them, right? But you’ll never have their budget, and if you simply do the same thing to a lesser extent, you’ll never get noticed. But take heart, Challenger Brands. You may not be able to outspend them, but you can outthink them. And a good place to start is by facilitating four key brand behaviors.
  1. Symbols Of Reevaluation

The biggest enemy of success in the marketplace is not consumer rejection; it’s consumer indifference. Challenger Brands need to disrupt the autopilot relationship they have with consumers through visible changes called symbols of reevaluation. It could be a new name, a new logo or a new pricing strategy. The intent is to announce to the consumer that it’s no longer business as usual.

  1. Emotional Connections

Category leaders generally create the expectations of the category by using rational benefits… we’re the biggest, we’re the cheapest, we’re the most convenient, etc. So that territory is already taken. Challenger Brands need to be thought leaders. They need to create an emotionally based, rather than a rationally based, relationship with the consumer.

  1. Sacrifice

You can’t afford to be all things to all people. You must focus on a powerful primary message. There are so many stories that any brand can tell about itself, but the strongest brands are usually very single-minded and are willing to sacrifice some secondary messages.

  1. Brand Inside

A huge competitive advantage is gained when a company’s culture is visibly aligned with its brand promise. Think Apple or Southwest Airlines. In both cases, the culture matches up perfectly with the communications. Challenger Brands must live their brand inside by introducing brand-specific goals, policy and training to all employees.

Take heart, Challenger Brands.

Okay, so you’re not the biggest player in the growing OTC medicine market. You’re a Challenger Brand. To succeed, you’ll have to change gears within your category. You’ll have to constantly evolve. You’ll have to do more with less. Following these simple steps could help get you noticed, elevate your business and be a catalyst for OTC brands that aren’t number one… at least, not yet.

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