New York, NY — As marketers, we’re always asking one basic question: What do people want right now? What will break through all the other noise and make their lives a little easier or a moment more delightful?

Those answers are always changing. Technologies, experiences, products, and media shift people’s expectations. They create trends. The brands that act on those trends early have the opportunity to build experiences the moment before people realize they need them. They can make new connections, shift behaviors and gain both bottom line and reputation returns.

Pfizer tapped into shifting expectations to recreate

You might have called the trend America Prime. Or the Amazonification of America. The ubiquity of online shopping options from big brand names had created a new level of trust in internet retail. Many consumers who had previously feared typing their credit card information into a dot-com where suddenly a lot more concerned about finding the best deal the internet had to offer. Why stop at the store you know when an even better price (maybe with a free shipping offer!) could be just a few clicks away? We were quickly becoming used to having nearly anything we wanted delivered to our doorstep in 48 hours flat.

Pfizer started to see this trend change its customers. Of course, pharmaceuticals can’t be bought online the same way shoes can, but increasingly-sophisticated illegal online pharmacies made it look like they could be. In fact, one third of the annual 20 million online searches for the brand took potential customers to sites selling counterfeit versions of the drug.

Here’s where the numbers start to get really crazy:

  • 25% of men who think they’re taking Viagra are really take a counterfeit drug. That’s a lot of lost customers.
  • 75% of the men who buy counterfeit Viagra have actually talked to their doctor about the drug.
  • And, three quarters of those have a real prescription.

This significant niche of men wasn’t going online out of embarrassment about ED or even to avoid the doctor. They were going on to get a better deal or to avoid going to the in-person pharmacy.

So, Pfizer went with them. 

In early 2013, it launched an online store at


Targeted search and banner ads were designed to intercept men with ED and help introduce them to these trusted resources. Even the language of the navigation sets the right tone (Buy Real Viagra):


Using CVS’s fulfillment engine, patients are able to fill or renew a prescription by having it ePrescribed to CVS, mailing in a paper Rx, or – even easier – having CVS call their doctors directly.

The site also checks their insurance and helps ensure the best price possible for each customer.



The new numbers have reportedly been very compelling. Some that Pfizer is sharing publicly include the first week impact: over 1000 orders; 14% from former Viagra users – likely those people who were already trying to reinvent how they buy prescription drugs.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.