Painkillers, vitamins and candy

In business, products and services typically fall into three categories: painkillers, vitamins and candy.

Painkillers solve a problem, vitamins improve something and candy is a treat.

Considering your products and services in these terms will help you promote and sell them.

In changing environments, the wants and needs of your potential customers' change, and your product or service might slide into a different category.

This is particularly true during significant changes and events like the one we are currently experiencing in the world.

Watch my video to learn more about it.


Hi there, Cam here from Training tilt.  Today, I'm going to talk about a theory that categorizes your products and services into a hierarchy of painkillers, vitamins and candy. 


A painkiller solves a problem. This could be a business problem or related to health and well being.

Aspirin is a perfect example of a painkiller. Asprin immediately relieves headache pain.  If there is aspirin to buy to relieve that pain, then the customer will purchase it without question. Depending on the intensity of the pain, they will buy it at a higher price.  A painkiller is the easiest category to sell. The customer is motivated to purchase it for immediate relief.


Vitamins improve a situation but they are not as critical as painkillers.

Customers are less motivated to buy vitamins than painkillers and the efficacy of vitamin is less than a painkiller.  You will need to work harder to sell vitamins than painkillers,


Customers will only buy candy if they want to treat themselves or there's a special occasion. Candy won't solve problem or improve a situation.  It is a luxury and a lower priority.

Adjusting to change

I wanted to talk about this concept today because priorities are changing. Where your products or service fit in this hierarchy is affected by the environment and what is happening in your customers' world.

In a world without a global pandemic, candy is candy. I'm talking about literal candy now.  Its a treat.

But in the last month, with people being stuck at home in lockdown, candy may slip into the vitamin category because people feel they have nothing to keep them going or happy. They will buy candy as a vitamin.

In our house, we have been buying chocolate. We hardly ever have chocolate at home. We've also been eating bread which we hardly ever eat (actually Nicky does). Bread and chocolate have moved out of "candy' and into "vitamin" for us at the moment - possibly even elevated to "painkiller" because there is pain in being bored stuck at home. We're not socializing so it's a treat to ourselves - we'll use that to solve the pain we're having.

You can see that environment affects the priority and salability of your products and services.

Applying the changes to your business

If we apply this to our current products and services, categorize them into painkillers, vitamins and candy. Most products and services offered by endurance coaches are vitamins. They're not as good as painkillers, but better than candy.

Could your products or services be painkillers in this current environment? Or could you create a product or service that fits more comfortably in the painkiller category? If that is the case, you should promote the fact that your products are now solving a problem when you are marketing those products or services.

Adjusting your messaging

Mental health is a significant concern for many currently.  Where once, a running plan was strictly a vitamin because people could add a run to their usual routine and improve their physical wellbeing, now it could be a painkiller for mental health rather than strictly for physical improvement.  Applying this theory to selling a run plan, promote the plan as a necessary painkiller rather than an optional vitamin -  if they buy your run plan, your customer doesn't need to think about going for a run or come up with a route. There is no negotiating to get out the door.

To take the theory a bit further, a training plan specifies what to do every day when people are out of routine and searching for a more structured routine. Your training plan product could slide from a vitamin to a painkiller. Coaches need to change their messaging to promote that product or service. 'Get faster for your marathon that's coming up', is a "vitamin" message. "Buy this structured run plan for your mental health'  changes the message to promote a  painkiller.

Products and services typically fit into three categories: painkillers, vitamins and candy. But the order is changing in these uncertain times. What can you do to move your services up the hierarchy and promote them? 

Thanks for watching and I will talk to you again tomorrow.

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