Dew Gibbons + Partners




We’re all trying to balance on the shifting sands of a technological revolution, and no industry is immune to its seismic effects. But judging by last week’s Association of the European Self-Medication Industry’s (AESGP) 52nd Annual Conference, the OTC self-care industry is still largely in denial of this fact, according to our MD Steve.

On the one hand, the OTC self-care industry grew +4% globally last year – not bad at all. On the other hand, if the industry isn’t careful and doesn’t build the infrastructure to meet customers’ needs, it may lose them.

Erica Mann, Head of Bayer’s Consumer Health Division, was the only speaker that addressed this issue head-on, saying companies have to “change the way we think about our consumer, products, and market … only then can we make a difference.” She went on to explain that high profile technology companies have already created apps that allow consumers to aggregate all their healthcare data from many sources into one place.

We also know that so many of today’s consumers turn to Google as their first stop in seeking advice on self-medication – and that’s not going to diminish any time soon. The implication for brands is potentially profound. Consumers aren’t searching for a brand name, they’re searching for an ‘indication’. They just want a solution to their healthcare problem, not necessarily a brand. Google’s regularly changing algorithms determine how that enquiry is answered, and finding a generic (and far cheaper) equivalent to a brand named solution takes just moments. We may very well be headed towards a world where branded offers are marginalised.

It’s true that there are myriad examples of category-killing technology-led solutions to people’s needs: Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, Google… But will Uber really kill off the iconic NYC yellow taxi or the London black cab? AirBnB only has a marginal effect on hotel bookings, printed books are making a comeback, and bricks and mortar still holds an important place in the retail experience (even Amazon now has ‘real’ stores). So maybe my provocative title overstates the challenge that OTC self-care brands face. Perhaps we’re headed towards a world which is polarised between the generics and a smaller selection of umbrella brands.

In the end this will ultimately be about trust. We know that one major advantage branded healthcare products have going for them is they engender trust. So maybe the question is: do you trust your healthcare brand more than you trust Google?

Later this month we’ll be publishing our Open Eye 27 – on the topic of brand stretch in a connected, omni-channel world. If you’d like to get it, just email

More reading:
Open Eye 24: The Wellness Issue
Wellness: Crashing Healthcare’s Party
The Search for Unifying Brand Ideas