MUCINEX® Uses Augmented Reality to Win in a Crowded Marketplace

How new technology helps drive the decision-making process.By Johnelle Whipple, Director, Healthcare Marketing, US, RB

Imagine recommending an old spy movie you love to a friend. You go on and on about the action and old romance, and your friend seems genuinely excited about it—they love spy movies, too. The next time you see them, though, your friend tells you that they hated the movie you suggested. It’s a huge bummer that your tastes differ so much. The thing is, they watched the wrong movie and neither of you know it.

Now tell me if this sounds familiar: staring down a dozen aisles at the store looking for that one medicine your doctor recommended. The crowded cold, cough, and flu aisle contains hundreds of products. It’s difficult for anyone to navigate, let alone a sick and clouded patient.

Nine out of 10 people typically purchase the over-the-counter medication recommended by their healthcare provider (HCP)1, but more often than not they get confused by the vast amount of choices at the store.

Without specific or written instructions, the recommendation may be easily forgotten or misconstrued. Some products may be labeled by the symptom they treat and some call out the active ingredient, which may seem like a foreign language to consumers. To add to that, HCPs may not even be aware of the confusion and chaos their patients are facing because they report that they hardly visit these retailers themselves.

RB, the company that manufactures MUCINEX®, is dedicated to helping HCPs help their patients. Historically, marketers employ one-dimensional but realistic solutions like ads, coupons, and coupons that HCPs can pass on to their patients. But RB realized that patients were still getting confused in the aisle and that they could step in to make communication clearer between HCPs and patients, and help patients feel satisfied with their product choice.

To ensure that patients are getting the product their HCP intended, success depended on HCPs experiencing the cough and cold aisle themselves. So RB devised a marketing method to place them in this cluttered environment without even having to leave their office.

Their strategy? Awareness through engagement.

Engagement can be a powerful tool when trying to influence customers’ decisions or actions. When an audience truly engages with a story, they connect better to it. Using technology such as augmented reality, virtual reality, chat bots, and interactive websites, brands can facilitate better storytelling. For RB, augmented reality provided interactivity at an accessible stage.

Augmented reality is a technology that integrates computer-generated images and the real-world in a composite, and often realistic, view.

Social media apps often utilize this technology, such as filters on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook stories.

For any brand’s first dive into such an interactive and engaging experience, using best practices and insights is vitally important for success. For a lesson on the principles of engagement, RB turned to an unexpected partner: the gaming industry.

RB knew it was taking a non-traditional step into an emerging domain of marketing. Many healthcare marketers fear that “gamification” can trivialize the suffering of their target patients, but in reality, it offers an opportunity for HCPs to understand illness in a different way.


So what lessons from the gaming industry did RB apply?

  • Lesson 1: No matter the technology behind it, make your program experience-centric. This means to put the user’s wants first, rather than your messages. Here, RB made sure that the app would fit well into a natural conversation between reps and healthcare providers. Did it feel intrusive, or a valuable use of their time?
  • Lesson 2: To motivate users to “play,” you must offer a challenge. This is another way to hone in on your user’s wants. In RB’s case, the challenge came readily: how do you improve the HCP and patient communication?
  • Lesson 3: Accomplishment is more satisfying if you offer a reward. Rewards don’t have to be monetary, real or pretend. Rewarding a user can span from offering new levels of challenge to an upbeat winning song, or an appealing “Splat!”

The methods used by game developers have a profound effect on engagement, memorability, and sales—and therefore seemed important lessons as RB constructed an experience that would resonate with HCPs.


Launched at the beginning of the cold and cough season, sales representatives use this app to show the HCP what a chaotic and confusing situation patients face every time they encounter the retail shelf. On the representative’s tablet, the room digitally gains a few crowded shelves.

Now comes the interactivity. The rep begins by asking the HCP for a verbal recommendation of a cold medication for a patient with specific cold symptoms.

As the HCP suggests which product this patient needs, the representative inputs their key words and the app illustrates how a patient would view the shelf.

The more specific the HCP gets with their instructions to the patient, the shelves appear simpler. Products that do not conform to the description disappear, and the correct ones remain and become easier to identify. There’s even a fun twist where Mr. Mucus, the MUCINEX® brand’s animated spokesperson, rates the HCP on the clarity of their direction to the patient.


This tool has a threefold purpose:

  • to add creativity to the sales representatives’ interactions with HCPs
  • to help HCPs understand how and why their patients are getting confused at the retailer
  • to help HCPs give memorable and specific recommendations for the product that would best benefit the patient

Though RB is the first to utilize augmented reality in the cold and cough category, other healthcare marketers are slowly waking up to how this popular engagement strategy can create meaningful engagement for their brands. Immersive, game-like apps are popping up all over to illustrate benefits of specific medicines, to highlight patient types, to improve the medical convention experience, or even to provide training for HCPs.

The major benefit of this technology in particular is being able to create an enhanced version of the real world. Augmented reality reaches across multiple senses in a way that video can’t: specifically, touch. It feels more realistic and helps people process information, make decisions, and engage and interact with a story.

So far, RB has found their new augmented-reality experience to be a hit with sales representatives and HCPs. Since the launch in October, sales representatives are using this application with HCPs and their office staff, as well as a new audience: clinicians in urgent care centers (UCCs).

Sean Atchison, an RB representative, meets with healthcare providers in a territory that includes Brooklyn and Staten Island. He says he was unsure of the app at first, thinking healthcare providers would see a game instead of recognizing the benefit of this memorable experience. However, after toying with it, he finally brought it up during a conversation. “Do you ever have patients report back to you that they couldn’t find the product you recommended?”

Not surprisingly, many healthcare professionals say they have. Atchison brings up the augmented reality app, and the doctor immediately recognizes the need for such a training tool. “It’s something they have never seen before,” he says. “They see the value, as it comes through with the symptom type. This app broke it down for them—you can link a specific product with the certain symptom.”

“I tell them, ‘I hear these same coughing sounds coming from your patients in the office, right now.’” Atchison feels confident that the healthcare providers he calls on will now have a better appreciation for what their patients face when leaving the office.

But ultimate victory can be summed up in just one HCP’s realization: “I can see how it can be very confusing for my patients. I’ll try to be more specific in my recommendations.”

This success story has an important lesson: empathy can inform technology, and technology can encourage empathy. For HCPs, having an understanding of the confusion in the cold/cough aisle made them more likely to give specific and detailed recommendations that would benefit their patients. For RB, gathering data about where recommendations were going wrong helped them understand the communication gap between HCPs and patients.1. AccentHealth. The value of physicians in the OTC marketplace. 2014

Johnelle Whipple Director, Healthcare Marketing, US RB

Johnelle Whipple is the US Healthcare Professional Marketing Director at RB, leading marketing strategy and activation across over-the-counter (OTC), supplement, and sexual well-being categories. She has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare, including consumer/professional marketing. She spent time at Merck and Johnson & Johnson where she worked on Rx products, nutritionals/nutraceuticals, supplements, vitamins, OTCs, and skincare brands.

Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (RB) is a British multinational consumer goods company headquartered in Slough, England. It is a producer of health, hygiene and home products. It was formed in 1999 by the merger of the UK-based Reckitt & Colman plc and the Netherlands-based Benckiser N.V.

RB’s brands include the antiseptic brand Dettol, the sore throat medicine Strepsils, the hair removal brand Veet, the immune support supplement Airborne, the indigestion remedy Gaviscon, the air freshener Air Wick, Calgon, Clearasil, Cillit Bang, Durex, Lysol, Mycil, and Vanish. In 2017, RB merged with Mead JohnsonTM Nutrition, a global leader in pediatric nutrition that develops, manufactures, markets and distributes more than 70 products in over 50 markets worldwide. The company’s mission is to nourish the world’s children for the best start in life. Mead Johnson’s Enfa family is a world leading brand franchise in pediatric nutrition.



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