GSK digital marketing exec nets 'brand genius' honors for Flonase OTC launch

GlaxoSmithKline’s digital strategy is steering from digital transformation to digital acceleration. And Meredith Herman is just the digerati to deliver. Last week, the head of digital marketing at GSK Consumer Healthcare in the U.S. was chosen as one of Adweek’s 10 Brand Geniuses for 2016.

Herman, who has taken some ribbing since the "genius" moniker was awarded, was awarded for her direction of the Flonase marketing launch into OTC. GSK knew the Flonase move to over-the-counter would be tough, going head-to-head with long-established competitors already in the market, Herman said in an interview with FiercePharma,

So GSK built out a coordinated media approach that spanned TV, print and digital with different strategies and goals for each. TV was used to get consumers initially engaged with the brand and show them why it was different, while digital’s objective was to go deeper and explain more about how the product worked and also create two-way conversations with customers.

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To make that happen in digital, Herman and her team came up with a content-first approach to push forward the goal of driving organic search.

GSK’s consumer research around Flonase found that allergy sufferers felt they weren't getting relief with their current allergy meds and didn't like missing out on fun activities when allergies were triggered. That led to the tagline and theme encouraging sufferers to “Be greater than your allergies.”

In the spring of 2015, GSK launched its first content online initiative with 6 Instagram photographers with allergies who snapped photos along 24-hour journeys through the great outdoors of hay fields and dandelion patches and hanging out with their pets. The “24 Hours of Being Greater” invited people to share their own photos--and they did: Between 5,000 and 6,000 pictures were posted.

GSK followed up in the fall with a pet-centric effort helmed by celebrity dog “Doug the Pug," asking people to share their furry friend photos and stories on Instagram with the hashtag #FallofFame.

For the next allergy season, spring 2016, Flonase enlisted YouTube-famous family the Eh Bees to go on an allergy road trip to 10 of the worst cities for allergy sufferers.

And it worked. Flonase generated sales of $100 million in the first 16 weeks after its launch, Adweek noted, with Flonase capturing 10% of the market just one year after launch.

While the next phase of Flonase's digital content journey has yet to be unveiled, Herman said the strategy of engaging consumers with content they enjoy will continue. More recently, the brand launched the Children’s Flonase product with the digital theme “A Greater Time to Be a Kid.”

"From a digital standpoint, we know people are inundated with banners ads and marketing messages, and unlike TV or print, they have the option to skip, scroll past or just X us out. So we understand that we have to provide the consumer with value first," Herman said.

Overseeing that ongoing GSK strategy on the consumer brand side is Herman’s boss, Emma Walmsley, the former CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare who was recently tapped to succeed GSK CEO Andrew Witty in March. Replacing Walmsley is Brian McNamara, who came to GSK when the company formed a consumer joint venture with Novartis. 

- see the Adweek story

Related Articles:
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GSK pumps out big bucks for Flonase OTC launch
GSK's Flonase zooms to top of allergy category after DTC push
J&J, GSK in legal dust-up over Flonase allergy claims

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