Why OTC Brands Should Own the Experience at the Doctor’s Office
Over-the-counter (OTC) marketers know how crucial it is to stay ahead of the game — which means constantly looking for new and innovative strategies in reaching target audiences. While many OTC brands gravitate toward more tried-and-true channels, such as TV or programmatic digital advertising, they may overlook the untapped opportunities within point of care (POC).
Marketing at the point of care presents a unique opportunity for OTC brands to boost sales through a location that carries important context for consumers — one of established trust with patients and health care professionals, which leverages the impact of recommendations and goals for long-term wellness. This less crowded channel can reach consumers where they are most inclined to be influenced.
Nicole Divinagracia, executive director of the Point of Care Marketing Association, explains that “point of care partners provide meaningful reach for brands. … Healthcare providers with POC marketing have more patients and write more prescriptions.”1 POC has already proved its worth to prescription drugs, where in-office marketing has become a standby. It may be time for OTC brands to effectively make an impact within the doctor’s office experience.
POC refers to any area where a patient and HCP come into contact. Traditionally, this includes the doctor’s office and hospitals, but it has recently expanded to pharmacies, dentist offices, veterinarian offices and more consumer packaged goods-centric areas. Studies show that “patients exposed to ads at point-of-care are more willing to have conversations with their physicians.”2 These productive physician-patient conversations can then lead to OTC medication and health plan recommendations.
With consumers showing a high interest in taking action for their health, OTC brands need to take advantage of connecting with their primary audience where health and wellness are always top of mind.3 Brands should want to be the ones that both patients and HCPs think about first during these important health interactions.
Trust at the Point of Care Is an Opportunity for OTC Brands
Due to the immediate and personal impact of health care marketing, there are often visceral and emotional responses toward the products. When it comes to personal well-being and the well-being of loved ones, it is only natural to want a product that you can trust. By advertising at the POC, brands are able to receive a “halo effect,” where patients associate the confidence they have in their HCP with the OTC brand they see advertised. Just by being in the spaces where a patient feels safe and cared for, the product already gets points in trust.
Physician Exposure and How HCPs Shape Patient Decisions
Consumers aren’t the only people influenced by marketing at the doctor’s office. Health care providers and staff are equally affected, especially when the information is timely, credible and trusted. The data shows that because HCPs are surrounded by this information throughout their workweek, they are encountering these advertisements and learning from them just as much as the patients.4,5
This strategy makes HCPs more likely to recommend the products they’ve seen around the doctor’s office during a physician-patient conversation. A patient’s HCP is the ultimate ranking recommendation in credibility and trust.6 Studies have even shown that 73% of consumers are likely to purchase a brand their doctor recommended within one week7 after a recommendation. Once the HCPs are on the brand’s side, the patients quickly follow suit..
Even more specifically, the targeting of POC brands can be focused on specialties that are likely to treat an ailment. When a patient needs allergy medication, they can trust the brand their ear, nose and throat doctor recommends. Instead of having consumers search online or head to a store with all the competing brands, OTC brands can meet consumers exactly when they are needed.
OTC Brands Can Be Positioned for Long-Term Wellness for Patients and HCPs
Through POC marketing, OTC brands have a perfect opportunity to position themselves as long-term wellness partners for patients and HCPs. Patients and consumers routinely return to their doctor’s offices to ensure their personal wellness and health. With OTC marketing, they can produce more stimulating conversations with their HCP. Fierce Pharma explains that increasing health literacy about a product serves the particular brand through brand awareness and conversation.8
Patients want to feel comfortable with their care and naturally return to brands that they understand and are familiar with. Trust drives comfort. OTC brands can market in these areas to help raise awareness about living with certain health conditions and to promote healthy lifestyles. When an OTC brand positions itself as a partner along a patient’s journey, it can become the go-to product for both short- and long-term use. The goal of ensuring customer loyalty becomes that much easier when establishing oneself as a leader in the POC space.
There Is Less Noise at the Point of Care for OTC Brands to Be Seen
The usual channels of the OTC market are becoming visibly overcrowded.3 Most consumers are bombarded with an extensive array of choices, all in the same space. Outlets such as PharmaVoice emphasize that an OTC brand needs to rise above the noise.9 Expanding to different and innovative channels, such as POC, is a strategy to directly reach a brand’s audience in an untapped market space.
By being a leading brand in a less competitive area, which just so happens to be where all the HCPs are located, the chances to be labeled a No. 1 doctor-recommended product increases. If an HCP is consistently exposed to your brand at their workplace, they’re preference for it is only natural. OTC brands should aim to have their brand be the first one recommended when a patient goes to the doctor’s office looking for advice.
Being Top of Mind
OTC medicines have a unique sales cycle since most patients purchase OTC medications when they are immediately needed — a sudden headache, allergy season, upset stomach and so on. In fact, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association explains that OTC medicines are the first course of action, being a 24/7, conveniently available health care option for symptomatic relief.10 So, being top of mind is key. And what better place to have advertised than to an audience whose entire focus was on their health? Once an OTC brand has fully run its marketing process, the brand can become a top contender in the patient’s mind the next time something occurs. At that point the brand has gotten the consumer through its trust, credibility and familiarity.
In conclusion, the POC space provides a valuable opportunity for OTC brands to reach their target audience in the most trusted and effective way. Some brands are already beginning to utilize these channels. Through POC marketing, OTC brands can increase trust from their consumers, build stronger relationships with HCPs, promote adherence, decrease competition and, ultimately, be top of mind for patients, HCPs and consumers alike.
In our next article, we will convey the specific tactics that are necessary for OTC marketers to succeed at POC.
- Predicting 2023: Industry Leaders Reflect on a Year of Challenges and Look Forward, Alliance for Audited Media, January 2023.
- The Complete Reach of Point of Care, MedFuse, October 2022.
- The Essentials of Over the Counter (OTC), AnnexCloud.
- TMH Internal Guide Research, includes TMH Eatingwell Better Health, Time Health, People Health, Parents Health, Heath Reports, People En Espanol SALUD, and People Pets guide programs, 2021-2023.
- TMH Internal Time Health Pro Research, 2022.
- Point-of-Care Marketing: An Industry in Transition, ZS Associates, 2019.
- OTC Consumer Health Brands Should Not ‘Fear’ Promoting in Physician Channel — Experts, HBW Insight, September 2022.
- Improving Patient Position by Increasing Dialog, Education at Point-of-Care, Fierce Pharma, October 2021.
- Cutting Through the Noise, PharmaVoice, February 2021.
- OTC Sales Statistics, Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
- 2021 Mars OTC/DTC Pharmaceutical Study.
- Kantar Media Healthcare Research, 2023 POC NOW.
- Kantar media Healthcare Research, March 2023.