Every Sunday I go through the circulars in the paper looking for new products. I usually spend a lot of time with the ads from the national drug store chains (Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid). Recently, I observed that each chain seems to have a radically different philosophy on store brand naming. And while this observation isn’t earth shattering, it exposes the marketing strategies (or lack thereof) of each chain.

For example, check out the allergy section. The big brand names like Benadryl®, Claritin® and Zyrtec® all have store brand/private label competition. Walgreens naming protocol for its store brand is pretty straightforward and seems to be designed to help a consumer find the Walgreens knockoff of the branded product. You can buy Wal-dryl, Wal-itin, and Wal-zyr, and the packaging is color coded to make it easier.  This is a very consistent strategy that is designed to make life easier for the consumer and also designed to build the “Wal-“ prefix as a brand.

          Non-Drowsy 24 Hour Allergy,Tablets          


At CVS, you have to be a well-informed consumer or a doctor to get it right because CVS attempts to align symptoms with branding. For example, the CVS version of Benadryl is called Allergy, while the CVS version of Claritin is called Non-Drowsy Allergy Relief (non-drowsy being a key benefit of the active ingredient in Claritin), and the Zyrtec knockoff product is called Indoor/Outdoor Allergy Relief (Zyrtec is the only brand with indoor/outdoor allergy claims).


At Rite Aid, you almost have to be a pharmacist to get the right brand. The first branded product to go generic was Benadryl and Rite Aid called the knockoff Rite Aid Allergy Medication. When the next generation allergy drugs went generic, Rite Aid had to improvise and so now you need to know the active ingredient to get the right brand (Rite Aid Loratidine and Rite Aid Cetirizine for Claritin and Zyrtec respectively). 

How about gastrointestinal products? Looking at four big brands, Zantac®, Metamucil®, Pepto-Bismol®, and MiraLAX®, and their knockoff brands at the drug chains show inconsistency at all three chains:

Branded: Zantac; Metamucil; Pepto-Bismol; MiraLAX

Walgreens: Wal-Zan; Wal-Mucil; Soothe; SmoothLAX

CVS: Acid Reducer; Natural Fiber Laxative; Stomach Relief; PureLAX

Rite Aid: Acid Reducer; Natural Fiber; Pink Bismuth; Laxative

So what is going on here? Walgreens, which appeared to be building the “Wal-“ prefix as its store brand champion, seems to have abandoned that philosophy in some parts of the store. CVS, which had been focusing on product benefits, gets dragged down into generic category descriptors in gastrointestinals. And Rite Aid is all over the place.

Doesn’t anyone worry about having a consistent branding strategy for the store brand? It sure would make life easier for us confused consumers! Hey Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid…do you need some naming help?

Mark Prus, NameFlashSM