Cold-and-flu beverage to go? GSK launches Theraflu pods for coffee makers, backed by ad campaign

GlaxoSmithKline debuts new Theraflu cold-and-flu treatment distribution using single-use coffee makers to brew the hot medicine. (GSK)

Instant brew cold-and-flu medicine? That’s GlaxoSmithKline's new distribution idea for Theraflu with single-use plastic pods that fit into Keurig and similar coffee makers. Theraflu PowerPods are hitting shelves now, supported by a new advertising and marketing campaign that highlights the convenient—and hipster-ish—take on the popular coffee pods.

GSK Theraflu senior brand manager Latisha Tillie said the team was brainstorming ways to improve and change cold-and-flu treatment for people in the throes of illness when someone threw out the idea. Why not put the powdered medicine in a pod? After all, about 40% of households own the convenient single-serve coffee machine, she noted.

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The campaign includes 15-second and 30-second TV ads that show “the cold and flu-fighting machine you put in your machine,” along with an online video series called “Convenient Kitchen” that explains how to use the product. Digital and social media buys, public relations, in-store promos and influencer engagement come along with the commercials and videos.

GSK is hoping to raise awareness with some offbeat elements as well. Shelf talkers, for instance, will reside in the grocery store coffee aisle and feature SnapChat codes users enter to bring up a 3D box with information. TheraFlu is also continuing its partnership with the Weather Channel for its branded cold-and-flu season tracker, as part of the overall effort in the just-beginning flu season. Last year’s Weather Channel effort, part of the launch campaign for Theraflu ExpressMax caplets, delivered almost 50 million unique visits and sparked “a significant rise in sales among app users during the peak flu season,” according to GSK’s annual report.

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With SnapChat elements, influencers and the ongoing crowdsourced digital tracker, this year’s campaign has a definite digital bent. Tillie said the target demo is people ages 25-50, which is the millennial generation and Gen Xers. Millennials, parents of young children and others in that age group will be important adopters for the product, Tillie said.

“In this category, there hasn’t been any big branded innovation in awhile, and as we were talking to retailers and trying to sell the product in, they were getting really excited. Which is hard to do in the cold-and-flu space,” Tillie said. The same thing happened in focus groups, where enthusiastic consumers asked if they could have the PowerPods right away, she said.

Theraflu is one of GSK Consumer Healthcare’s power brands, and although the unit does not break out individual brand revenue, it did note that sales “outperformed the market, with high single digit growth,” in its 2017 annual filing.