Brand Strategy Health & Pharma Social Media

Is Ozempic’s marketing leaning into its viral weight loss reputation?


By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

April 29, 2024 | 6 min read

As part of The Drum’s Health & Pharma Focus, we get the skinny on Ozempic’s marketing after the diabetes drug became known as a weight loss tool, for better or worse.


Experts weigh the strategy & fallout of Ozempic's weight loss ads in the US / Credit: Adobe Stock

In the realm of pharmaceuticals, few stories have captured attention quite like Ozempic’s transformation from a type 2 diabetes treatment to a viral tool for weight loss.

Despite lacking FDA approval for weight loss, Ozempic has found itself in the spotlight for its purported slimming effects, leading to ongoing shortages of the drug across the United States.

Social media platforms such as TikTok have played a significant role in propagating its off-label use for weight loss, prompting the platform to crack down on influencers posting ‘before-and-after’ videos by May of this year.

Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical powerhouse behind Ozempic, told The Drum that it “does not promote, suggest or encourage off-label use or misuse of any of [its] medicines.”

However, observers note a subtle shift in the company’s marketing strategy, particularly in the American market – a shift that appears to capitalize on the drug’s newfound appeal.

Below, experts weigh what the brand is doing right and what it might be doing wrong.

Direct-to-consumer approach

Previously, Ozempic’s advertising primarily targeted medical professionals and diabetic patients. One can never forget the brand’s iconic ad campaigns, which reimagined the chorus of Pilot’s classic 1975 track Magic to “O-O-O Ozempic.”

Yet, in a bold move, the brand has recently adopted a direct-to-consumer approach that leverages digital and social media platforms to expand its reach beyond its original demographic.

Collaborations with weight loss brands like Noom and Ro further underscore Ozempic’s foray into the wellness market.

The below Instagram ads appear to frame Ozempic as a weight loss solution.

It’s important to note that such moves could never be made outside of the US market, with governing bodies such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (or the MHRA) in the UK prohibiting the public promotion of prescription-only medicines.

According to Bernard Meyer, senior director of communications and creative at email and SMS marketing firm Omnisend, this shift occurred after Ozempic’s side effects went much more viral than what the drug was intended for.

Meyer explains that, since then, Ozempic has gone where the money is, the weight loss offering, since that’s where the market has moved them.

“It’s a common-sense strategy; many businesses notice that their initial, intended audience can be vastly different than their main audience when the product hits the market,” he says. “The Ozempic team naturally followed what their data showed them, that more people are interested in Ozempic as a weight loss drug, and their strategy to adapt their messaging and positioning for that makes sense.”

This could signal a deliberate extension of its target consumer base, according to Marshal Davis, owner and president of a branding consultancy called Ascendly Marketing. “By incorporating lifestyle-oriented marketing, engaging on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok and partnering with fitness influencers, Ozempic is actively targeting individuals beyond the diabetic population,” he says. “It is tapping into the market of health-conscious consumers and those seeking weight-loss solutions for personal reasons.”

Some marketers laud Ozempic’s marketing transformation. Davis, for one, says Ozempic’s multifaceted strategy demonstrates the brand’s “adaptability and understanding of current market trends.”

SEO and digital marketing consult Md Faruk Khan agrees that by partnering with weight loss brands like Noom and Ro, Ozempic is ostensibly trying to expand its demographic into the wellness space. “That is even more visible with its TikTok campaigns, which reach over a billion hashtags,” he says.

Navigating the possible fallout

As the public begins to see Ozempic as a new slimming solution, questions about patient safety and brand integrity have inevitably surfaced.

Davis stresses how critical it is for Ozempic to remain transparent in its intended use and potential long-term ramifications during this time. “Ozempic’s position only makes sense if it is certain that there are no negative long-term effects from taking the drug for weight loss purposes,” he says. “Specifically, it may need to pay attention to people who use more than is prescribed in order to lose weight faster ... That’s important not only for consumer safety, but it’s also extremely important for its brand reputation.”

Davis points to the “tainted Tylenol” drug tampering scandal of 1982, which killed people and forever changed the way consumers take pills. “Tylenol survived that largely in part due to being a well-known, reputable drug company. If ‘Ozempic overdose’ becomes a thing, I’m not sure Ozempic has the brand reputation yet to withstand it, so it should have strong evidence that tragic events will not happen due to any oversight on its part.”

In order to ensure its continued success, Khan says Ozempic needs to take a “balanced approach” to its marketing. “Clear communication about its diabetic treatment is crucial. It should prioritize patient safety and avoid fueling shortages.”

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