Marketers need to reflect evolving social attitudes and expectations, including a greater openness to discussing personal and emotional topics in order to form more meaningful relationships with consumers; it’s in that context that Viagra has undergone a strategic transformation.

The Upjohn UK division of Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical manufacturer, has sought to expand the legacy audience of the erectile-dysfunction remedy (which largely had become older men) and bring a new tone to messaging, while also re-adjusting the focus from sexual gratification to emotional relief.

At Advertising Week 2020, Rob Elliott, Upjohn UK/Pfizer marketing director, explained how the brand’s research had illuminated not just how much of a taboo subject erectile problems are, but how much they affect men and their mental health and relationships.

“We were really hit by that,” said Elliott of the finding that opened the way for Viagra to explore a new interpretation of masculinity – and one that would enable it to leave behind its previous nudge-nudge, wink-wink image.

Viagra is a widely recognised brand, but the product has been “trivialised as a medicine, made fun of, and generally been hugely misunderstood”, he noted.

Viagra’s messaging, to that point, had connected erectile dysfunction to control and performance. The new positioning would take a more emotional, and more compassionate, tone. It would state the problem as a common health issue that had nothing to do with masculine self-esteem but rather the everyday stresses, such as insufficient sleep, that can also lead to erection problems. (For more details, read WARC’s report: How Viagra repositioned to reflect evolving definitions of masculinity in the UK.)

A two-minute animated spot – entitled ‘Don’t Let Your Life Get in the Way of Your Love Story’ – tells the story of a couple struggling to maintain their sex life even as the complications of everyday living threaten to compromise intimacy.

As well as reaching a younger audience, an unexpected side effect has been that platforms that were previously reluctant to carry Viagra advertising “have been keen to push the message of normalisation and open up the conversation around erection problems,” Elliott reported. “Their support makes a huge difference.”

Sourced from WARC