Keep taking the medication

Chemists’ shelves are bulging with pain relief products, all varying in strength and price. But what makes one brand more popular than another?

Tense, nervous headache? Consumers may find that just deciding which painkiller to buy will induce one, as the analgesics market has an increasingly fragmented array of brands and sub-brands. Nurofen’s new launch, Meltlets – tablets that can be taken without water – is the latest innovation.

The analgesics market is enormous, with 84.7 per cent (TGI 1998) of UK adults taking some form of over-the-counter headache remedy or analgesics every year.

But, in a market with such a high level of penetration, it is crucial that brands differentiate themselves. However, this is no easy challenge because the products are “price maintained” – they must, by law, be offered at the list price. In addition, no form of promotion, such as couponing, can be used as an incentive for purchase.

A recent survey carried out by consumer information company Claritas UK looks at seven of the major brands in the market to identify the key differences and similarities between them.

Nurofen, the biggest brand in terms of sales value (source IRI Infoscan, 52 weeks to November 7 1999 total GB, excluding impulse sector) has a distinct young and upmarket profile: 48.9 per cent of users are aged 44 or under, and just under 21 per cent earn more than £30,000, with a high likelihood of working in professional or senior management roles, or in middle management.

Although Nurofen hadn’t advertised its core brand in the 12 months to August 2000*, previous marketing activity had promoted it as a pain reliever for a wide range of medical problems. This positioned it as a good brand to have in the bathroom cabinet, particularly for the younger market, where their pain relief needs are likely to embrace anything from a hangover to toothache.

Nurofen’s silver packaging lends itself to a more upmarket positioning too, even though it is one of the cheaper brands in the survey, at £1.79 for 12 tablets.

Anadin Extra Tablets attract a similar but slightly more downmarket customer: 16.1 per cent earn in excess of £30,000, and are likely to be in a more mainstream job, such as tradesman, manual worker, middle management, office worker or shopworker. Its sister brand, Anadin Extra Soluble, has a much less distinct but more downmarket profile, with almost one-third earning £10,000 or less.

Of all the brands, Anadin Extra has received the greatest marketing spend, with £807,493* spent on press and £12,373* on radio. Anadin has used advertising to ensure the brand is embraced by a younger market, even though it is an older brand.

Disprin Extra, with its longstanding heritage, is preferred by a much older group of people. Thirty-three per cent of its buyers are aged over 65, and consequently income levels are low – 29.2 per cent earn less than £10,000. Older people are more likely to buy this brand simply because it’s been around for so long; they also find its soluble form easier to take.

Solpadeine, which can only be bought in pharmacies because of its strength, has been running an awareness campaign which stresses its effectiveness in relieving back pain (£182,178 press, £25,123 outdoor and £365,607 on TV*). As such, it’s not surprising that purchasers are older – just over 59 per cent are aged between 35 and 64 – as this age group is more likely to suffer from back trouble; compared with the over 65s, they are also less concerned about taking such a strong drug.

Low-key sister brands Paramol and Syndol are also pharmacy-only drugs, and are relatively expensive because of their strength – £2.45 for 12 and £2.09 for ten respectively.

The stronger Syndol brand appeals to 35- to 44-year-olds who are on relatively high incomes, with 19.7 per cent earning £30,000-plus. By contrast, Paramol is bought by the same age group, but just over 40 per cent have a household income of less than £15,000. As neither brand has had a recent ad campaign, it is likely that their profile has been driven to some extent by pharmacist recommendation.

The Claritas survey also asked respondents whether they bought their painkillers regularly at a pharmacy. Younger people, particularly under the age of 44, are 33 per cent more likely than average not to buy their pain reliever at the chemist.

Conversely, people aged 55-64 are 17 per cent more likely than average to visit a chemist to make their analgesic purchases. This means that older people are much more likely to receive advice from a pharmacist to ensure they are buying the right pain reliever for their problem. Younger people are therefore less likely to receive professional advice, so brand awareness driven through marketing and advertising becomes key.

Factfile is edited by Julia Day. Helene Crener, Claritas UK account manager for health and beauty, contributed.

* Source: ACNielsen MMS September 1999 to August 2000

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