Marketing Idea No. 115 – Can you be really frank about your product, even if it has side-effects?

What do you do to launch a brand in the super-competitive, brand-saturated North American market? The pharmaceutical industry itself is mega-competitive globally. But within the sector lies the ultra-competitive diet product category. In the United States there are more that 3,000 brands vying for supremacy in this line. GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s second largest pharmaceutical company, went into the fray with a revolutionary product – but what product doesn’t claim to be revolutionary?

Naming the product ‘Alli’, GSK adopted an unusual strategy, focusing the campaign on the side-effects of the product. They did this, not because pharmaceutical companies are legally bound to do so, but to communicate the fact that, to avoid these side-effects, consumers need to use the product in a particular way. So, the campaign was about educating consumers rather than traditional promotion. Not only did GSK release a best-selling diet book about Alli, but the product itself contained more than 300 pages of interesting reading material about weight loss and how to achieve it successfully and healthily.

In contrast to many diet products, Alli’s communication was frank, transparent and personal. A $100 million campaign made some use of TV, but favored targeted, relevant online one-to-one education. Even the Alli online presence that focused on the core topic of weight loss downgraded the presence of the Alli brand, by modestly including a short byline at the bottom of the page. And, taking individual consumer communication to a new level, GSK has now taken over an entire New York City building to house Alli’s education mission. Alli’s showroom offers welcome, support and education to its users. In short, the brand is all about education.

Written by Martin Lindstrom and taken from

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