Think Big - Sales and Marketing - Swiss Medica Inc.

Mirror the major players' marketing strategies to stay competitive

By JULIE CHANG   I   Sales and Maketing Management - October 2005

When Tom Quinn was hired by bioscience firm Swiss Medica Inc. last year to lead a marketing push for its natural, topical pain-relief product, O24 Pain Neutralizer, his goal was to get people to see it as an alternative to pain pills.

"Consumers know real efficacy is in the oral section [of drugstores], while topical is for minor relief," says Quinn, executive vice president in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for Toronto-based Swiss Medica. "So we said, 'Let's place it where people look for serious pain relief: the oral analgesic section.'"

Although Swiss Medica is dwarfed by its pharmaceutical competitors, the company knew it had to adapt their marketing techniques to grab mindshare, using clinical-trial data and feedback from sampling campaigns (to such groups as pharmacists, senior-citizen communities, and health-advocacy groups) to prove product strength.

"Virtually no other topical pain reliever has a sampling program," Quinn says. "It was an instant way to get our product out there, and it says a lot about your self-confidence." These efforts would help convince drugstore buyers to stock O24 in, or near, the pain-pill section.

The clinical data was a convincing part of the pitch, but Swiss Medica also used other strategies to win them over, such as packaging a version for fibromyalgia (a condition not commonly addressed by pain medication), and pitching to buyers near the time that they reset their aisles--which could aid their decision to change O24's placement.

The first large U.S. retailer to sell O24 is Rite Aid Corporation, which started in May; CVS followed in June. Quinn estimates that more than half of stores carrying O24 now place it in, or adjacent to, the oral pain-relief section. "We're going to monitor the results to see how much of a difference [placement] really makes," Quinn says. "But so far, we've received the support of the retailer, and proved our product really delivers." --Julia Chang