But it’s the same product!!!

Just as the great Jedi Anakin Skywalker had the opportunity to use his powers for good but chose to join the dark side so has the pharmaceutical giant Reckitt Benckiser. The makers of Nurofen, has chosen to deceive their customers through the art of segmentation and targeting of vulnerable people seeking assistance from pain.

The case against Reckitt Benckiser is only a another story that provides more ammunition against pharmaceutical companies but also illustrates how much influence marketing can have on the consumer.

The ACCC have raised an action against Reckitt Benckiser in the Australian Federal Court stating that they have misled consumers by stating that their specific pain products are specifically designed to combat specific types of pain. Where this is not the case.

Reckitt Benckiser has segmented their market around the common ailments of:


  • Back Pain,
  • Period Pain,
  • Migraines, and
  • Tension headaches.

Reckitt Benckiser held the belief that their product was sufficient in satisfying all these common ailments listed above. And having not developed any additional products which specifically addressed these ailments decided to repackage their standard product into separately distinct products.

From a marketing point this campaign appears to be an effective example of Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. And it would also appear that it was highly successful as the strategy had been in place for a number of years.

However, the ethics and morales of Reckitt Benckiser comes into question when pricing the  various product lines. Reckitt Benckiser doubled the retail prices of the specific pain relieving products in comparison to the standard Nurofen Pain Reliever. Remembering that the each package was the same product.

I for one believe that this practice is deceitful and hope they are found guilty of misleading the consumer and required to pay the maximum fines. Preying on the vulnerable leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Reckitt Benckiser …. Deceitful company or clever marketer?


Frazer, S 2015 ‘Nurofen: ACCC launches action over ‘misleading’ products’ Australian Broadcasting Corporation Website, 5th March 2015 retrieved 1st April 2015 from



10 thoughts on “But it’s the same product!!!

  1. Interesting news clip and wow yes that is misleading. It would appear they are looking to make a big buck and so relative to what we have been reading and learning about of late. Considering the males vs females products and that the female products are alot more in some cases 75% more in price but it’s really the same product with clever packaging and wrapped with some “free” product.

    It also appears that organisations are still not learning from past mistakes. Look at this link back in 2011 below over the Activia Yoghurt, looks, “luring consumers into paying more for its purported nutritional benefits — when it was actually pretty much the same as every other kind of yogurt.”


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Clever marketing but used in a deceitful way. They have used STP very well in this scenario however, as a Medical product, there needs to be a heightened sense of ethics involved in the marketing process. This is highly unethical and tarnishes further the image of big Pharmaceutical companies that places profit over people.

    I agree that I hope they are found guilty and punished accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a fine line between clever marketing and deceitful advertising. As marketers, we are expected to market a product to bring back profits but going one step too far or shall we say, being slightly too creative may lead to ugly law suits, damaged brand image and customers feeling betrayed.

    There are a large amount of brands that engage in misleading advertising, some that are known to consumers, and it can be presumed that there are many that go unnoticed. Which is alarming (See http://firstwefeast.com/eat/the-most-scandalous-cases-of-false-food-advertising/). As marketers, are we not to build trust?

    A good marketer should consider the business objectives alongside moral obligations, especially in instances where there are legal loopholes. A marketer should consider the long-term affects of deceitful marketing and consider the definition of marketing as argued by Kotler and Keller (2000, p.5), ‘We see marketing management as the art and science of target markets and getting, keeping and growing customers through creating, delivering and communicating superior customer value’. The key word here is ‘customer value’, if deceitful advertising is in practice, there can be no customer value.


    First we Feast, 2013, ‘The Most Scandalous Cases of Food Advertising’, First we Feast, retrieved 2 Aprill, 2015, .

    Kotler, P & Keller, K, 2000, Marketing Management: 14th Edition, Pearson Education Publications, retrieved 2 April, 2015, .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think this is both deceitful and clever marketing. When it comes to marketing of health products especially ones that are sold over the counter, I think we should all be suspicious as to whether they do what thy really say they do. And I think a lot of it is placebo effect and some luck that they work. When I have a cough and I go to the doctor they often advise me not to buy cough syrups cause they dont really work. However with good marketing and positioning consumers will by anything.

    I remember a while back when coke re branded themselves and came up with new marketing, there sales increased quite considerably because they had managed to make consumers think they had a flavour and taste yet it was the same recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is denefitely a clever marketing strategy but has backfired! It triggered consumers’ aversion by tricking and misleading consumers to spend more money on separately distinct products which are actually the same products. In a short run, the company might benefit more, but in the long term, consumers will find out the ugly truth!This action would lose brand loyality of the consumer and significanly decrease consumer satisfacion. And eventually, this company wuld lose large amount of market shares. therefore, it is not exactly a smart move.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with mccrawfo2015, this is very lazy marketing. It is one thing to appeal to a different segment of the market through varied communication channels and appealing to different needs/wants…but to simply raise the prices on the same product, because you highlighted a word on the packaging is taking the easy out!

    It makes you think about when you go to the chemist to get a script and they ask if you want a generic brand. Most people would choose the trusted/marketed brand…but if it is exactly the same thing, why are we paying more?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting post and comments above. I agree it probably was lazy marketing in the end – marketers need to think through their campaigns to potentially test for any unwanted backlash that can harm the company brand in the long run. Deceiving your customers into paying more for a product by inferring it to be a better product when it in fact is the same, is probably never going to be a good marketing strategy to maintain customer loyalty to the brand. No one likes to feel they have been “ripped off”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It could be lazy advertising or it could be quite ingenious advertising (albeit unethical). The segmentation and targeting is actually very good. Most people will experience neck pain, tension headaches or back pain at some stage in their life. Would you buy a plain generic medication or would you buy something that is targeted directly at your pain.

    I think the concept is actually very good. Just a shame it was deceitful and the company knew it was deceitful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks, a great example of STP and unethical marketing behaviour.
    Even the information on the company website in relation to these products gives a mixed message (http://www.nurofen.com.au/our-products/general-pain/nurofen-caplets-for-general-pain/).

    The first statement about the products – carefully crafted no doubt by marketers and lawyers – ‘appears’ to indicate that the individual products target the specific pain identified when it is used with products that separately identify a different ailment on the package: “Nurofen has developed a range of products to target and relieve pain. Whether you’re looking to relieve back pain relief or relief from period pain, tension headaches and migraine pain, Nurofen can assist.”

    However the second statement (possibly added after ACCC lodged its case?) seems to provide a fuller disclosure “Any of the four products shown on this page have the same ingredient and can be taken to provide effective temporary relief of pain…”

    Nonetheless, the company would be banking on having time-poor customers in the shopping isle, who are in pain & seeking relief, seeing a product that directly targets their condition and grabbing it… no need to look up a website… no need to even look at the fine-print… the big lettered conditions on the front of the product (period pain… back pain…) says enough to secure the purchase from the under-informed customer.

    Aside from the segmentation/targeting strategies, I think the key factor that is both at the crux of the ethics issue & is also at the heart of the likely success of the marketing strategy is the way they have used price signalling to sell this ‘differentiated’ product to the market. The company could have simply priced it the same as their general nurofen product and still labelled them with individual ailments. However, by doubling the price of the product, the company has given a very strong implied message to the consumer that this is a ‘more specialised’ and ‘superior’ pain relief product than its standard nurofen product (and than any other competitors in the market). Thus the price signalling acts as the most compelling ‘evidence’ to the consumer that the product is indeed targeted to their specific ailment.

    I wonder what the scope of the Federal Court is to be able to assess not simply the dubious label messaging but also how the implied messages through the price position of the products are designed to perpetuate the erroneous perceptions of the customer?

    Liked by 1 person

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