Marketing your product to different demographics in order to increase your marketshare is a trick as old as business itself. You can see it with nearly any product that’s got a his and her version as quite often they’re pretty much identical, save for the price. Others are more subtle in their approach, sometimes selling products in weird sizes or even going as far as saying that one product is actually a completely different one (when it isn’t). The latter is what has landed Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of the analgesic Nurofen, in a lot of hot water with the ACCC.
The 4 above products, which are labelled in such a way to make you believe they’re designed to target specific types of pain, are in fact all identical to their generic pain reliever. Indeed even in this picture above (sourced directly from Nurofen’s site I might add) clearly shows that the active ingredients in all of these products is exactly the same. However the price on these products was significantly higher than their generic pain reliever which is what caught the ire of the ACCC. Nurofen has since lost their court battle with them and has been ordered to remove these products from shelves within 3 months, pay for the ACCC’s court fees and publish corrections in the media.
Whilst we’d all like to think that we’d be above such manipulation it appears that the vast majority of consumers would seek out treatment for specific types of pain rather than going for a generic pain reliever. This obviously presents an opportunity to artificially segment the market in order to generate more profit, something which nearly all major analgesic manufacturers currently do. This ruling then sets the precedent for ensuring that companies don’t engage in this kind of deception. However I hope the ACCC has their sights set on others as Reckitt Benckiser wasn’t the only one engaging in this practice.
Indeed Australia’s beloved brand Panadol also has various products that are also segmented along similar lines. Their Back and Neck pain tablets are identical to their standard tablets and the Osteo and Long Lasting Back and Neck pain ones are also identical in their formulation. Whilst I’m sure this ruling will likely prompt action from all analgesic manufacturers in Australia the ACCC can’t be discriminatory in whom it targets and they’ll need to pursue others who engage in such deceptive marketing strategies.
This ruling highlights the importance of being an informed consumer. Whilst there’s been great leaps made in recent times to make the information more accessible to your average buyer (unit pricing, for example) there’s still a major rift between them and the companies marketing to them. Rulings like this help to make sure that the companies are engaging honestly with us however we still need to be vigilant to ensure they don’t get away with any further tricks.