Drug War: A Marketing Case Study in the Making

Want to know how important a brand or product point of difference is when trying to win customers from the competition? The answer is being provided daily at the corner of Chenal Parkway and Wellington Hills Road in Little Rock.

This is where you will find Walgreens and the Pharmacy at Wellington conducting business with a little over 200 yards separating the two. Walgreens, the largest drug retailing chain in the United States, sits confidently on an elevated corner lot while the Pharmacy at Wellington has made its home across the street in a new retail development. It’s currently the only tenant.

The on-site marketing efforts from the Pharmacy at Wellington include banner signage facing both Chenal Parkway and Wellington Hills Road. One large sign promotes drive thru service. Next door, Walgreens has an extremely active drive thru. Another sign promotes that the business is open until 9 pm. Walgreens closes at 10 pm. Along with the exterior banners, over the last month, the Pharmacy at Wellington has added a spinning sign guy. A young man who wears a cowboy hat and headphones and aggressively flips around a Pharmacy at Wellington sign that is in the shape of an arrow. Every set of spins and flips has its own mini finale where the young man freezes to highlight that the sign is pointing directly at the store front. Walgreens does not have a spinning sign guy. And I don’t think they plan to add one anytime soon.

Having a point of difference is important for a brand to gain attention. But this uniqueness also has to be meaningful to your prospects for it to lead to product trial and/or purchase. Every day, hundreds of potential customers get to see a sweaty, dancing cowboy twirling an arrow-shaped sign. It certainly captures attention. But is it realistic to think the natural reaction to this experience is “Wow! That’s what I’ve been looking for from a pharmacy.” I don’t think so. I believe most people react with “Wow! That’s really weird.” And then some may give it added thought and think “How desperate is this new pharmacy to get customers?”

Sometimes it takes a new business a little time to get comfortable and find its promotional rhythm. But you would think a company that made such a brave location decision, hanging its shingle literally next to the nation’s largest and most recognized competitor, would be well prepared to confidently and clearly communicate what makes it a better option for customers. So far, that has not happened. And though the Pharmacy at Wellington has fired the first shots in this drug war, they have all been big misses. Walgreens remains consistently busy while the parking lot at the Pharmacy at Wellington is regularly empty. There’s still plenty of time for this local pharmacy to find success in this battle, but the marketing strategy and tactics have to get more focused on answering this question for prospects: “Why do you matter to me?”

More updates to come as this battle plays out.

Drug Wars_ A Marketing Case Study

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