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News | 06.23.23

Beyond the Counter: Best Practices for OTC Brands at Point-of-Care

For over-the-counter (OTC) brands, outreach on traditional TV and digital channels can be incredibly competitive. Within these markets, OTC brands compete for their consumers’ attention against all brands with a budget — requiring every media dollar to be spent as efficiently as possible. This situation puts an incredible strain on marketers: Hoping their marketing strategy is accurate, their research is exact and their messages resonate to drive consumers to convert. 


What’s more, health-focused brands face an unspoken challenge that’s inherent in these channels: The consumers you reach are not necessarily focused on health needs. But marketing at the point-of-care (POC) can eliminate this obstacle completely, with your message going directly to the relevant audience.


OTC brands can capitalize on health-focused audiences at the POC. By reaching consumers in a less crowded space and ensuring the messaging will reach the right audience, a brand can make a stronger and more lasting impression. POC advertising, as shown by extensive research and real-time results, provides the proper context to reach consumers where they are more receptive. If content is king and context is queen, the POC offers both.


Let’s examine the best practices for OTC brands to effectively utilize POC for the highest return on investment (ROI). 


When marketing at the POC, a brand must understand that patients spend their time watching waiting room TVs, reading magazines with advertising cover wraps and reading check-in tablets or iPads.1 Brands can take advantage of this waiting time. During the crucial moment before a patient contacts their health care professional (HCP) and other health staff, there exists an opportunity for brands to establish relationships with the brands they encounter. These brand messages can then influence important conversations with their HCPs and help them gain essential knowledge about their own health and next steps.


OTC brands must approach these targeted consumers through a patient-centered approach, with messaging catered toward consumer outcomes rather than “selling products.” A brand can show understanding through the inclusion of “real people” and “real stories” in their content, as well as providing crucial education for a patient. By employing these practices, OTC brands can optimize their campaigns, connect with their targeted audiences and ultimately drive more consumers toward their products. 


  1. Embracing a Patient-Centered Approach


The POC is an environment of trust where patients already have a preconceived feeling of comfort and dependability toward their healthcare providers. This inherent trust is then transferred to the advertisements and recommendations they are exposed to. When marketing at POC, an OTC brand must reinforce its audience’s belief in them by prioritizing a patient-centered approach.


The central aspect of a patient-centered approach is to market for consumers’ and patients’ needs first, rather than leading with a brand message. Brands should act as a partner in a patient’s health journey, understanding and meeting the needs of patients and consumers. This approach should recognize the value of “personalization, customer experience and targeted omni-channel marketing for the right product,” tailoring their marketing to deliver the product “at the right time, to the right user and using the right media.”2 


By marketing at POC, an OTC brand is already participating in this patient-centered strategy. It is taking steps to understand its audience and target relevant patients who would likely be interested and engage with their brands. At the POC, brands become more than just a brand. They become partners, educators and sources of comfort.


Within the healthcare sphere in general, brands are held at a higher standard than companies in other industry sectors, not only by consumers but also providers, who play a key role in this market. It’s no longer enough to provide a good product. Data reveals that HCPs place importance on corporate reputation when deciding on preference in drug recommendations.3 By following their consumers to where influential health decisions are made, and doing so credibly, they can become a presence in the “room where it happens.” 


That room, by the way, can take a variety of shapes in the current landscape. The POC is not just a doctor’s office anymore. It can be a pharmacy, church, community health center or other place that delivers health care. Brands should keep this in mind when accompanying their consumers through their health journey in order to “deliver more than just medicine.”4


By becoming a partner that cares about the entire consumer journey, a brand can build value, trust and loyalty to their OTC medications. POC provides a perfect platform for OTC brands to take advantage of and reap the benefits. OTC brands that utilize the POC will be the ones to succeed in generating “more effective interactions, deeper loyalty and lasting brand preference.”


2. Educational Content


The point-of-care is not only a place for health diagnosis and treatment. It also plays a key role in patient education and consultation.5 In this unique environment, patients and HCPs come into contact, and patients may be more receptive to information about their conditions and medication. Health and wellness is top of mind, and they are searching for information.


OTC brands should understand this and prioritize teaching within their marketing. Through educational content, a brand can establish itself as a trusted partner for reliable guidance and information.6 This includes providing the right information, at the right time. By bringing up topics to their targeted audience, the patients can then speak with their HCPs and participate in productive and informed conversations that center on their main concerns.7


A 2022 Conductor study notes that, “when comparing different brands, participants were 83.6% more likely to make a purchase that provided educational content over companies that did not.”8 Providing education is a great driver of purchase power. Through the right targeted marketing, these patients will be provided the tools to ask the right questions that will lead them to your OTC brand. 


Patient education gives consumers a sense of empowerment as they make their way through their health care journey. By holding a patients’ hand through the complex narratives and data-driven perspectives, a company fosters trust in its products, establishing itself as a preferred brand for a consumer’s future over-the-counter medication needs. 


In addition, the POC provides the perfect place for next steps after engaging with an OTC brand’s marketing. While having the right creative assets and strategies in place is extremely effective in educating consumers and influencing their decisions, it is just as important to provide the next steps — which should be a marketing campaign’s call to action.


In POC marketing, the goal is always to get the patient in conversation with their HCP. Copy that encourages consumers to “consult a doctor” or “ask these questions” is essential to a good POC marketing campaign.9 When developing creative assets, it’s crucial to keep in mind the specific stages of the patient’s health care journey, and what is relevant for the specific readers’ timeline. This guidance can help the OTC brand solidify its place as a patient’s partner through their health care journey. 


3. Providing Comfort Through Community: Representation and Storytelling


To align with the concept of patient-centered marketing, a brand must identify and understand its target audience. For audiences of OTC brands, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone when venturing through the confusion of one’s health and wellness. The health risk of loneliness increases even more so for immigrant and LGBT populations.10 OTC brands can reduce these risks by incorporating representative content.


An OTC brand should emphasize displaying “real people” in its targeted marketing campaigns. These initiatives can be as simple as considering the demographic of the conditions and OTC brand effects. Some populations are more susceptible to an ailment, leading the brand to market toward that audience. By considering a products’ cultural and societal implications, an OTC brand can also tap into consumers’ needs. Seeing someone who shares your appearance or experience who may be suffering from similar situations can provide comfort and even serve as a source of inspiration.11


According to an Adweek study of 1,500 marketers, 80% agreed that using images that show “nontraditional” families, workplaces and individuals reflects modern society and helps generate a positive brand reputation.12 By being more inclusive with their creative assets and content, pharmaceutical companies can ensure that readers, rather than the ailment, are at the center of the campaign.


Through print and video at the POC, different voices can be displayed on digital visuals, magazine covers and cover wraps. By displaying underrepresented populations, an OTC brand illustrates a more realistic depiction of an ailment, allowing for more diverse stories to be heard. Representation, particularly in an industry with a history of health inequality and lack of resources for minority and underserved populations, plays an essential role in visibility for marginalized groups.


Embedding language, images and messaging can help connect a pharmaceutical brand to its intended audience. By providing representation for diverse conditions and diverse people, the brand creates a safe space for patients to connect and feel seen. Forbes explains that consumers want to see diversity in their marketing and are more likely to trust brands that represent diversity in their advertising materials.13 Consumers want to engage with real content and use brands that understand their diverse audience. 


In conclusion, OTC brands can succeed by utilizing three best practices at the POC. Embrace personalized and patient-centered approaches, become a trusted education source and cater to diverse consumers’ needs. By doing so, OTC brands can establish and maintain strong relationships with their consumers. With these strategies, OTC brands can be a continuous partner in a patient’s journey, cultivating trust and loyalty at the POC and beyond.


  1. Point-of-Care Marketing: An Industry in Transition, ZS Associates, 2019.
  2. The Evolving World of Pharma Marketing,, May 2020
  3. WE Brands in Motion Health Study: Corporate Reputation Is Leading Factor in Prescribing Decisions,, Feb 2023
  4. WE Brands in Motion Health Study: Corporate Reputation Is Leading Factor in Prescribing Decisions
  5. Point-of-Care Marketing: An Industry in Transition
  6. What is Educational Content Marketing?,
  7. Point-of-Care Marketing: An Industry in Transition
  8. Educational Content Makes Consumers 131% More Likely to Buy,, Apr 2022
  9. A Call to Action: Crafting the Right CTA for Healthcare Audiences,, Dec 2020
  10. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions,, Apr 2021
  11. Patient Stories Can Bridge the Gap Between Pharma and Patients,, March 2020
  12. Why is Diversity Marketing Important to Pharma Brands?,, July 2020
  13. Data Shows Consumers Want Diversity In Marketing – Why Many Brands Struggle To Get it Right And How to Fix,, Feb 2020