Ongoing awareness, advertising and promotion are vital to the continued success of over-the-counter medication launches.
of general merchandise and health and beauty care for Ray's Food Place, Brookings, Ore.
"What works best is being able to coordinate cooperative advertising with the manufacturer and national advertising. We launch the item with a competitive retail and an in-ad coupon at a reduced price. We did this with the Orudis KT, which has done well for us. Aleve has also done very well for us. But Actron has not done particularly well."
Van Zant said the biggest problem he faces with any OTC switches is the lack of follow-up advertising on a cooperative basis.
"On an item like Aleve, to be successful the supermarket has to run an ad once a quarter -- every three months -- minimum in the newspaper. We like to coordinate the newspaper ad with FSI drops from the Sunday supplement."
Most of the OTC switches are good profit opportunities for supermarkets, but heavy promotion, advertising and consumer education are key to keeping customers and winning over more, noted Steve Lauder, health care category manager with the Minneapolis-based wholesaler, Supervalu.
"It's the only way to maintain the market share. If you let up, someone else will take over," he said.
Supermarket pharmacists can play an important role in educating customers about new OTC medications. Stores that don't have pharmacies can promote OTC items by offering bonus packs and by positioning point-of-purchase educational material such as off-shelf brochures.
Advertising messages should also convey more than just price information, Lauder said, and are most effective when they educate consumers about the product's benefits.
Innovative launches also help.
When Children's Motrin was launched over-the-counter in September 1995, it came out in suspension liquid form, but McNeil Consumer Products continued to innovate the product by getting different dosages approved to include drops, caplets, chewable forms and junior strengths.
When the product came out, a freestanding newspaper insert offered a $1 saving on the purchase of Children's Motrin in conjunction with a $10 rebate on the purchase of a ThermoScan thermometer.
According to a buying source at Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., who asked to remain anonymous, initially, and sometimes, a half-year later, there's "a ton of manufacturer TV and ad support behind these analgesics switches. As a retailer we support these new products with ads, power wings and floor displays using manufacturers' co-op ad and promotion funds."
"Manufacturers support their initial introductions with national magazine ads and FSIs," agreed Pete Gassenberger, director of HBC and pharmacy at Consumers Markets, Springfield, Mo. "They come into stores with additional funds for ads, off-invoice display allowances and bonus-pack promotions.