Pharma Marketing: Natrol Promotes Staying Sharp, Not Young


Natrol Cognium - Erin Gray TV commercial

Natrol Cognium’s launch campaign strikes a lighthearted note in an emergent category usually presented with ads full of clinical product formulation and academic findings. Created by AOR Phelps, the message is, “Stay sharp. Stay you.”

The 30-second spot features Eighties TV star Erin Gray (who starred in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Silver Spoons) moving through the house and putting away what her husband has misplaced, including an iPad that was left in the fridge, and becomes a screen for essential product information.

The campaign is running this summer on national US cable TV programs and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Digital marketing includes geo-targeted banners and gamified rich media and a diverse range of lifestyle, health and trade magazines.

“While Natrol Cognium is new, it is part of the Natrol brand of products designed to help people own their health,” says Tori Young, Phelps VP of Strategy. “Natrol has a distinct bold and witty tone and we wanted Cognium to be aligned with that tone for brand consistency. The active ingredient in the product itself is tested in nine human clinical trials, and this is a key component of our messaging to ensure that our target feels that the product is credible and proven.”

“However, we noted in our research that there is a fine line with our target when memory loss perhaps feels too real and is a disturbing reminder. By keeping the campaign light-hearted, but truly relatable to our target, we connect with our audience without moving into an overly clinical or disconcerting space.”

“We took the opportunity to stand out in this category, and prompt women over 55 to approach their brain health the same way they do their bodies,” stated Tony Stern, Phelps chief creative officer. “By depicting everyday moments people can relate to while letting them know they can still do everything they love to do, we felt it gave us permission to offer up a lot of product information in a believable but not patronizing way.”

Cognium trials show “statistically significant” improvements in memory and cognition. Its product claims:

Natrol Cognium keeps your mind sharp and your memory strong. Cognium features a silk protein hydrolysate that energizes and protects the brain. Imaging studies show it increases blood flow and glucose to the areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. It also acts like an antioxidant for the brain, protecting it from free radicals and oxidation that cause aging. Cognium is backed by 9 human clinical studies that show statistically significant improvements in memory and cognition in as little as four weeks. Results have been published in respected, peer-reviewed journals. Cognium:

• is safe, natural and stimulant-free
• Improves memory and concentration
• Safe, natural and stimulant-free
• Results in as little as 4 weeks

Support your brain with Cognium, the smart choice in brain health. (Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.)

“Cognium works in various ways,” explains Michelle Baron, Natrol’s senior manager for brand innovation. “The simplest explanation is that it energizes and protects your brain. It energizes by improving blood flow and glucose (energy) to the brain so it has the nutrients it needs to work its best. It protects the brain by acting like an antioxidant, protecting the brain from damage from free radicals and oxidation, both of which can age the brain.”

“Cognium has been shown to be safe and effective in a wide variety of age groups. While our advertising is targeted towards the senior population, adults of all ages will benefit. It is something that should be taken daily and it has a cumulative effect over time.”

The campaign’s online and print ads invite readers to “Remember the groceries on your list—without the list” and “Call your grandkids by their right names—the first time.”

Cognium’s protein is found in the threads of silkworm cocoons, which has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. “We researched a wide variety of different ingredients that were promoted as having brain health benefits,” Baron noted. “The silk protein in Cognium was the only one we found that had the level of scientific support we thought was critical for this segment.”

The category is contentious as it holds out hope for an aging population eager to stay sharp. Competitors like Prevagen came under fire from the FTC and the New York State Attorney General earlier this year for deceptive memory claims.

“With Cognium, as with any product we bring to market, we need to make sure that our benefits and claims are truthful and not misleading,” said Baron. “That’s not only to comply with FTC guidelines, but also consistent with ethical and responsible business management.”

“For Cognium, we specifically selected an ingredient that had nine human clinical studies that showed statistically significant improvements in memory and other cognitive functions. The clinicals were high quality studies, with the bulk being randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind studies—high quality studies—that used scientifically accepted measures and tests for cognitive performance and that were published in respected peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, we formulated Cognium to ensure we used a clinical dose and our usage instructions mirror those used in the clinical studies. Our claims and are product are consistent with what was used and what was shown in the studies.”

Phelps’s research indicated that consumers want to stay sharp rather than be young again.

“Our audience research showed that our target doesn’t feel old—therefore there is no need to be young again,” said Young. “79% of Boomers state that they won’t consider themselves old until their 85th birthday, so there is this concept of enjoying your ‘second adulthood’ to the fullest before you cross that age threshold. However, there is a concern among our target about retaining their mental sharpness as they age so that they can continue to do the things they love and enjoy. For our audience, it’s not about being young again, but rather staying sharp so they can continue to live a full life and be the person they’ve always known themselves to be. This insight led us directly to our empowering tagline of ‘Stay sharp. Stay you.’”