OTC Pharmaceutical Marketing Trends

Trends and strategies to optimize your OTC pharma digital marketing efforts


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    As healthcare costs rise, consumers are increasingly turning to over-the-counter (OTC) options to treat ailments and injuries. Until now, OTC pharmaceutical marketing brands had to navigate a maze of regulatory complexity that told them how to package and market OTC products. But thanks to changes in regulation and a growing number of pharmaceutical drugs switching from a prescription model, the OTC pharma market is booming.

    With an eye on the key trends in the OTC pharma market, we’ve put together some pharmaceutical marketing strategies to help your brand and pharmaceutical marketing agency partners promote their products more effectively!

    OTC Pharma Trends Landscape

    Current Landscape of the OTC Pharma Market

    • 44% of US adults use OTC medicine when they need to
    • 35% of people aged 25–34 use OTC medicines in the EU
    • 8% of Asian and 75.7% of African consumers self-medicate with OTC medicines

    Global OTC Pharma Market Revenue Over the Last 10 years

    • 2012: $93.86B  ⇒  2022: $131.69

    Global OTC Pharma Market Segment Value

    • Cough, cold, and allergy – $39.9 B

    • Vitamins and supplements – $9 B

    • Dietary supplements – $197.2 B

    • Pain relief – $8 B

    In-store vs Online

    • 70% of people in the US buy prescription and OTC medicines from brick-and-mortar pharmacies…
    • …But online sales will generate 31.3% of total revenue in the OTC pharma market by 2023
    OTC Pharma recommendations

    OTC Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategies to Consider

    Get Creative with Mobile

    34% of shoppers use their smartphones in-store to compare products and prices, search for offers and discounts, and read product reviews. But although health brands are increasing their mobile presence, progress is slow. Most offer mobile optimized sites and mobile coupons, but few offer diagnostic tools, symptom-based filtering, and other creative digital features to help inform product selection.

    Poise® Brand Launches New Bladder Leakage Line Empowering Women to Stay  Active Without Interruption | Kimberly-Clark Corporation

    Poise distinguishes itself among its counterparts by offering an array of useful online content, such as FAQs, video testimonials, articles, podcasts, and live chat options.

    OTC Pharma Zyrtec

    Zyrtec offers an AllergyCast mobile app that auto-detects a user’s location and provides a localized pollen forecast and allergy management tips.

    Connect with Health Apps & Wearable Tech

    Millennials are the leading adopters of wearable tech, with Generation Z close behind. But a broader 36% of US smartphone owners and 25% of UK smartphone owners use health and fitness apps regularly. OTC brands can consider advertising, sponsorship, and ‘smart partnering’ to tap into this health tech savvy user base.


    GlaxoSmithKline and Propeller Health have a ‘smart inhaler’ for drug adherence that also detects  usage, location, and surrounding air quality, to track potential asthma attack triggers

    Invest in Both Seasonal & Continuity Campaigns

    OTC pharma products are often tied to key seasons. Allergies, colds, flu, and sports industries all resonate with different consumers at different times of the year. Continuity programs and seasonal activations can be an effective way to foster brand loyalty and  offer OTC brands  a way to leverage their seasonal benefits.


    Iovate needed a way to foster trial and affiliation with its Hydroxycut weight loss product. Snipp created a continuity rewards program that allowed consumers to earn coupons off their first three purchases, a process they could repeat for ongoing savings.

    GSK Centrum

    GSK partnered with obé Fitness to promote awareness for Centrum vitamins as an essential part of a New Year Wellness program. GSK leveraged Snipp’s turnkey promotions platform to convert consumers from an extensive omni-channel media program with an offer two free months of online fitness classes with the purchase of any Centrum vitamins.

    Create & Disseminate Useful Content Online

    Health education portals like WebMD can be hugely influential on a typical purchase path. They provide useful information about a wide range of conditions, treatment options, and even active ingredients in medicines. OTC brands can tap into this thirst for information by creating their own content.

    Some brands have already started, building knowledge hubs full of original surveys, infographics, videos, and feature-length articles on important health issues. They can then distribute and repurpose this content across non-branded health platforms to build credibility and brand authority.


    Sudocrem, one of the UK’s top baby brands, runs one of the most popular and influential parenting blogs in the world. Every month, its diverse content engages 1.1 million people on Facebook, 1.4 million on Twitter, and over 250,000 on YouTube.


    Novartis publishes high-quality reports from freelance writers and internal contributors on topics ranging from curing leukemia to how giraffes stay alive with high blood pressure. Over the years, this platform has become vital for driving its reputation and telling the company’s story.

    Tap into Social Media

    Most major drug companies run social media accounts, but few use them to their full potential. And with 11% of Americans use social media to research their symptoms, and 90% of people aged 18–24 trust the medical information they find on their social feeds, it’s time for brands to revise this brand apathy.

    OTC pharma brands can start by sharing useful information, such as educational videos, infographics, Facebook Live events, or helpful Tweets, to directly interact with users and answer queries. Instagram, with its Instagram stories, is also a compelling platform to share first-person accounts and authentic, emotion-based content.



    Allergan dove into social media to promote its dry-eye relief product, Restasis, with a Facebook digital campaign. The campaign featured  patient testimonial videos and interactive quizzes that encouraged users to test their dry eye levels. Incorporating immediate social analytics, Allergan offered discount coupons to interested users. The campaign generated 35 million impressions and resulted in a 10.5% lift in ad recall

    Flonase Logo

    Flonase leveraged Snipp's solutions to help bring a program to market where customers customize an Allergy Monster based on their unique allergies and symptoms. We supported Flonase with two solutions to help power this promotion - a receipt API with Flonase.com and Shoppable to collect customer data, as well as receipt validation to help determine the grand Sweepstakes prize winner and other prizes. Consumers get a valid sweeps entry every time they submit an order on Flonase.com via Shoppable. In addition, after consumers create their Monster, they could share it on Social in augmented reality!

    Package Intelligently

    Packaging is a key differentiator among OTC pharma brands. It’s not just a container, it’s an effective communications tool that helps to tell a brand’s story and provide important product information. With the rollout of Google AR Stickers, augmented reality can now take a more prominent role in innovative packaging-based promotions, for example by explaining the interactions ‘behind the scenes’ in medications, or breaking down complex consumption procedures.

    Transparency is another key facet of product packaging. 74% of consumers trust brands that include honest and transparent product information on their packaging. 


    Mundipharma leveraged NFC technology on its BETADINE® Cold Defense nasal spray product packaging for an interactive marketing campaign. Consumers could tap interactive product packs with their smartphones for the chance to win prizes, including an all-expenses paid trip for two to a Manchester City soccer game.

    Incorporate Influencers in Marketing

    Influencer Marketing is especially useful for an industry like OTC, where people aren’t as receptive to advertising – But people do trust familiar faces talking about a brand – be they friends, family members, or someone they admire.

    93% of consumers trust user-generated content (UGC) more than traditional advertising. So, authentic information coming from trustworthy influencers in online health communities and social forums can go a long way in creating affinity with an OTC pharma brand.


    Flonase Logo
    Flonase relied on a set of influencers — chosen due to their impressive social media followings — to form its “Eh Bee” family campaign. Flonase sent them on “The Greater American Road Trip,” asking them to chronicle their adventures in popular destinations with high pollen counts on their website and social media. Flonase even added a sweepstakes element as part of the promotion to boost engagement. The campaign, which lasted two weeks, generated more than 1 million views, 1.3 billion impressions, and $100 million in sales during the first 16 weeks after launch.

    Co-Branded Loyalty Programs

    In contrast to consumer packaged goods (CPG), consumers buy OTC products on an ad-hoc basis, rather than impulse.

    For OTC manufacturers and retailers, successfully planning production and promotions — from supply chain management to media buying strategies — requires more accurate and granular data insights. OTC pharmaceutical loyalty programs offer this kind of data, which is why they are often key to long-term growth and success. OTC Pharma brands and retailers can experiment with co-branding loyalty initiatives with CPG brands, or with each other.


    A cooperative of independent pharmacies has banded together under one loyalty initiative – the TopPharm Card Plus Loyalty Program. Snipp created a central loyalty program that allows each pharmacy the freedom of individual promotions. Linked with each pharmacy’s point of sale (POS) systems, customers can earn points which they can then redeem for financial vouchers. With each redemption, the program gains more customer analytics to inform future decisions and strategies.


    Henkel, GlaxoSmithKline, and Scotties  developed a partnership program for cough and cold season to drive basket and market share across all three brands. Snipp created a promotion that required consumers to make product purchases of each brand to qualify for movie rental prizes, redeemable via a simple receipt upload.
    OTC Pharma Trends conclusion

    Putting it All Together

    The OTC pharma market shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, the recent cost-of-living crisis, coupled with rising pressure on healthcare facilities, has magnified the global population’s reliance on OTC pharma products.

    With the right strategy, OTC pharma brands can support consumers during these difficult times. Whether that’s by engaging with consumers on social media, partnering with influencers, running digital promotions that meet pharmaceutical promotion guidelines or being more transparent with your packaging ultimately depends on what works for your customers.

    Snipp’s technology and marketing solutions have helped hundreds of brands in regulated industries run successful, compliant promotions and loyalty programs. Snipp’s modular CUSTOMER ACQUISITION RETENTION & ENGAGEMENT platform enables brands in these regulated industries implement industry compliant, omni-channel, device agnostic, programs that are ROI-driven and data-rich. Our engines capture unique zero party data in real time to build robust, proprietary data sets that enable intelligent decision making to drive personalization and brand loyalty.
    Contact us to know more 


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