Pfizer introduces Viagra loyalty program

By Published on .

Consumers can earn free Subway sandwiches, Starbucks coffee and miles on nearly every airline thanks to loyalty programs, a staple of relationship marketing. Now Pfizer is hoping to make the same connection with users of Viagra, its erectile-dysfunction drug.

The pharmaceutical company last week introduced the Value Card. For every six prescriptions of Viagra purchased, the seventh is free. It is believed to be the first program of its kind in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly for prescription medication.

"We're looking at ways to build long-term relationships with our patients," said Janice Lipsky, U.S. marketing director for Viagra. "When we looked at our relationship marketing, something that was tested was a frequent flier-like or membership-type program. It was well-received, to say the least."

One ad agency president with several creative pharmaceutical accounts was floored. "When I first heard about it, I was like `Wow, this is really innovative,'" he said. "I suspect you're going to see a lot of copycatting on this."

But Nancy Barlow, president of the relationship marketing agency The Xchange Group, a division of WPP's CommonHealth, said this idea might only be applicable in the pharmaceutical industry to lifestyle or symptomatic medications.

"Viagra is a lifestyle drug and there's more latitude there," Ms. Barlow said. "But there has to be some sensitivity for a person's condition....You're just not going to see a promotion that says `Get six cancer shots and the seventh one is free."'

ongoing program

Consumer-savings programs for individual pharmaceutical brands are rare. GlaxoSmithKline's prescription medication Flonase offers an Allergy Rewards Program where those who enroll receive $5 vouchers good toward a Flonase prescription (up to 12 in a 12-month period), but few others exist.

The Value Card for Viagra is aimed at the 40% of men who pay for their entire prescription or part of their prescription not covered by insurance. The program, to be implemented by Digitas, New York, is ongoing in that men can receive a free prescription after every six paid prescriptions, not just the first six. Omnicom Group's Cline, Davis and Mann handles creative.

Viagra's competitors-Levitra, from Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, and Cialis, a joint venture from Eli Lilly and ICOS-do not plan similar programs, though both currently offer free trials. Viagra, which had the category all to itself for five years before the two competitors entered the market last year, has held on to an 85% share of the $208 million spent on ED drugs in the first two months of this year, according to NDC Health.

Ms. Lipsky said the Value Card was not a response to the rivals. "Frankly, I wish we had the idea for the Value Card three years ago but, no, it's not a reactive program," she said. "It's been in the works for the last year or so as one way to create a better relationship with our customers."

contributing: lisa sanders

In this article:
Most Popular