US: Which cold medicine is winning flu season?
January 10th, 2024, Clifton Mark

US: Which cold medicine is winning flu season?

Sniffle season may be bad for us, but it’s good for the symptom-relief business. How good? On average, five popular cold medicines tracked by YouGov BrandIndex have 78% more customers at the beginning of January than at the beginning of October.

In the last three months, cold cures have commenced competing campaigns for congested clientele. All brands under analysis show a significant rise in their Ad Awareness score, which represents the proportion of Americans who have seen an ad for a brand in the past two weeks.

Mucinex, led by mascot Mr. Mucus, has perhaps campaigned hardest. The cough and cold medicine already was already the top advertiser of these five brands at the beginning of October with an Ad Awareness score of 15.3%. Since then, the brand has pulled even further away from the competition, raising its Ad Awareness to a peak of 24.6%, gaining 9.3 points. The surge may have been helped by their “Flip the Scrip” campaign about overuse of antibiotics.

NyQuil also began from a strong Ad Awareness score and rose 6.7 points from its low point of 14.6% to 21.3%.

While Robitussin and Theraflu saw smaller absolute growth in Ad Awareness, their scores increased significantly relative to their starting points. For example, Theraflu moved from 6.3% to a high of 11.1% Ad Awareness. This gain of 4.8 percentage points represents an increase of 76%. Robitussin’s Ad Awareness also had a large relative increase of 59%, moving from 5.5% Ad Awareness to 8.8%.

Which cold medicines are customers actually buying? 

While all these cold medicines increased their ad presence over the past quarter, more ads do not always translate into more sales. Which brands are customers turning to this year?  Unsurprisingly, all these brands saw a large boost since autumn. In the competition of customers, NyQuil saw the biggest absolute gains. At the beginning of October, 4.5% of Americans said they’d bought NyQuil in the past 30 days, rising to 8.5% in January.

While NyQuil may be the medicine that is most purchased, others made even greater relative gains. Sister-remedy DayQuil doubled its current customers, moving from a low of 3.8% to 7.6%. Though still a relatively small player in absolute terms, Robitussin made the greatest relative gains of any cold medicine, growing its customer base by 125% from 2.0% to 4.4%.

With several months of winter left, it’s the intensified competition to relieve our cold symptoms will likely continue. YouGov BrandIndex can show how well the advertising campaigns are penetrating and how well the brands can convert that exposure into sales.

Methodology: YouGov BrandIndex collects data on thousands of brands every day. Data from surveys of adults aged 18 years and above residing in the United States from October 3, 2023 and January 2, 2024. Ad Awareness scores are based on a four-week moving average. The change in scores for each brand is calculated by taking the difference between the highest and lowest scoring days within the period. Learn more about BrandIndex.