Nielsen found that one-quarter (23%) of global consumers consider whether a product is one they usually use, compared with just 12% of U.S. consumers. In addition, 16% of the global respondents said they consider whether or not they recognize the product, compared with only 7% of U.S. respondents.
On the other hand, only 17% of global consumers consider price important when choosing OTC products, compared with 30% of U.S. consumers. But Japanese consumers are even more price-conscious, with 33% saying that it plays a role in their OTC decisions.
Matt Dumas, managing director of NielsenHealth, laid the blame for these trends on economic woes. "With increasing medical costs and a fragile economy, the U.S. consumer is more price- and value-centric than ever," he said in a statement. "These findings highlight the rising importance of generic drugs in the U.S. market, which is underscored by low OTC product loyalty scores versus global markets."
Dumas said the results provide marketing direction for OTC companies: "Manufacturers need to ensure they develop and invest in their brands instead of simply focusing on the efficacy of their products in order to vie in such a competitive price-driven environment."
And communicating product safety is one of the keys to success.
Nielsen noted that while product loyalty and product recognition may be lower with U.S. consumers, their top criteria in making an OTC purchase is still "I know it works" (50%), followed by "I know it is safe" (42%) and "I have confidence in the product" (35%).
And these top three criteria, in different order and percentiles, matched the global results, where product safety finished first, at 43%, followed by "I know it works" (41%) and confidence (33%).
"Safety clearly is top of mind," said David Parma, global head of Nielsen Consumer Research, "particularly now with the recent intervention by the FDA in prescription and OTC medication."