Excedrin Uses Virtual Reality to Simulate Migraines

How many times have we said to ourselves, “I wish I knew what it was like to experience the excruciating pain of having a migraine.”


Umm…yeah…if you’re like me, you’ve actually never said that to yourself, but chances are you know someone who unfortunately does suffer from migraines, and you know how excruciating it can be for them. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 1 in 4 households include someone who suffers from migraines, and more than 90% of people who have a migraine aren’t able to work or function properly while experiencing a migraine attack (and by the way, those attacks can last anywhere from four to 72 hours). One problem for those who suffer from migraines can be the lack of understanding and empathy from family, friends and colleagues. Many people with migraines are told they are exaggerating their symptoms and are told it’s just a bad headache. But now, thanks to Excedrin and virtual reality technology, you can experience symptoms of a migraine through the eyes of a migraine sufferer.

The Excedrin Migraine Experience

Excedrin has created the world’s first migraine simulator. There is an informative video that shows exactly what the technology and simulator does:

The technology allows you to see how people experience a migraine through an immersive experience that creates common symptoms of a migraine including: blurred vision, spotty vision and sensitivity to light and sound. Symptoms are controlled on an iPad where the controller is able to intensify and worsen the conditions with just a swipe of the finger. The person wearing the simulator has no idea when the symptoms will start or stop, and no idea when it will worsen or get better, unfortunately, similar to that of the unexpected time frame in which a migraine sufferer endures.

Because of the strong technology available, non-sufferers could experience what a regular day feels like for others who do suffer, which lead to some breakthroughs and emotional moments and connections. People were surprised and concerned once they experienced the symptoms and the reactions ranged from “I can’t believe you function like that” to “I’ll never doubt you again.”

Why Should We Care?

There are two seminal learning points I, as a migraine naive consumer, took away from the Excedrin Migraine Experience: How virtual reality could help to educate people on other areas in health and how companies can use virtual reality to market its products and services.

This virtual reality technology is now helping Excedrin spread awareness about migraines and educating people on what it feels like to go through life with this chronic condition. While the technology doesn’t simulate everything as exactly the way it would be, it seems to come close enough to help people realize the magnitude that migraines can have in peoples quality of life. If virtual reality can help to educate and inform people on migraines, what other conditions, diseases or treatments could it help bring awareness to?  Could people better understand what it’s like to go through chemotherapy? Or what it’s like to have sensory deficits such as sight, sound and touch?  Could this finally be away to deepen our empathy, and compassion?  The technology is there already, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more experiences like this occur in the next few years.

From a marketing and sales standpoint, Excedrin found a new way to promote and sell its product. The company used a two-way communicative, interactive method to engage its audience and build brand awareness. By sponsoring this technology and creating the videos and web content to go along with the Excedrin Migraine Experience, Excedrin reached a wide group of people and got people talking about the experience and the company.  Excedrin promoted the experience on its Facebook page, which resulted in more than 1.2 million views, 5.6 thousand likes and reactions, and more than 14,000 people shared the post. All because it did something in a new and unique way.


Within the webpage of the Excedrin Migraine Experience, there are offers for free samples and coupons for a percentage off the company’s products.

miI’m curious to know whether or not sales increased because of the Excedrin Migraine Experience and if so, by how much, but it’s very clear to see that at least Excedrin did an excellent job of spreading awareness and getting people to think and talk about migraines more.




  1. This is such a cool idea. I do not have migraines; however, I do know many people who do get them. I have never really understood it, and always thought of it as just really bad headaches. As you mentioned, this technology definitely has the power to improve empathy and compassion. I think spreading this technology to other conditions and illnesses could have a huge impact. I have heard of many people who feel so alone or isolated because no one understands what they are going through. This could be a way to change that. In addition to raising brand awareness by getting people to talk about the experience and company, this was a smart way for Excedrin to improve their brand image, too. This experiment seems to imply that the company is not just concerned about making money, but that they also care about the users of their products. It gives the company a compassionate brand personality. Great post!

  2. Great post! Love the idea. I’ve never heard of it before and i think it’s really interesting. I totally believe that it shows both emotional support from the company to its customers – because they indirectly bring them the compassion from their friends & family – and informational support- because they actually provide the customer with a treatment. It also help set a positive image of the brands among the people closest to the patients because they feel like the brand is really trying to help them. I think it’s a great tool to spread awareness but also for doctors to actually learn about the different diseases and feel closer to their patients. When at medical school, you learn a lot in books. VR already helps you practice surgeries, but now it could also help you understand your patients and really convince them that you completely get what they are telling you. Most patients cannot really describe what they feel/ how strong the pain precisely is etc. Therefore this could definitely help both doctors and patients. I found this blog post online written by a migraine-sufferer who really didn’t like this campaign, and would like pharmaceutical brands to concentrate more on research and treatments to help patients: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/excedrin-i-dont-want-your-migraine-ar-simulator-i-just-want-better-drugs It’s pretty interesting and I get her point. Yet, i still believe that raising awareness is a first step that needs to be made.

  3. I think this is an awesome idea! My boyfriend is diabetic and often talks about the symptoms that are associated with having extremely high blood sugar or low blood sugar, but it can be hard for me to completely understand. Hopefully this technology will help people to understand the severity of migraines and that the technology will continue to evolve and be useful with other diseases.

  4. Thanks for the awesome post! I think this whole thought is crazy, but I do think it could be very beneficial. I am someone who doesn’t get migraines and my teammate last year would skip early morning workouts saying she had a migraine. I could never understand and actually would get upset with her, but being able to understand the symptoms I think I would’ve been better able to understand what she was going through. I really like the idea of virtual reality and I can’t wait until it really takes off.

  5. Great post! It’s been interesting to see tools like this developed to increase empathy and support around certain conditions. I’m not sure how Excedrin will benefit in terms of sales. People having a VR migraine experience likely won’t need medication, but generating goodwill and awareness for a brand are never a bad thing. For a similar experience, Genworth, an insurance company, has been using an age experience suit to help people understand some of the physical effects of aging to think about their future long term care needs (https://www.genworth.com/lets-talk/r70i-aging-experience.html)

  6. Very relevant post, engaging and pithy. I think the implications for medical simulations in the future are widespread. What better way to spur conversation about a difficult product to sell? Had to have been worth every dollar invested. The earned media Excedrin must have garnered definitely amount to a lot. Cheers!

  7. I am curious as well to see how much their sales have increased, but could not find anything. This is a really great post. Many pharmaceutical companies have been using VR for their disease awareness at various conferences. I think it is a great way to spread awareness about an illness and tap in to consumers on an emotional side, which is a great way to sell a product. Also, with this type of experience and awareness I wonder if other companies will try to create their own migraine medication. Excedrin seems to be the only well known medication to help migraines and they are very common. My close friend is prone to migraines and I would probably try this VR to see the pain she endures!

  8. What an interesting idea. I wonder whether it can completely replicate the experience of a migraine, but it does sound like an interesting application of VR in a non-intuitive way. Nice post!

  9. Great post – I’ve been looking forward to reading it since the twitter convo about it. I like how you directed the experience available to consumers and how you provided details on Excedrin’s marketing and sales angle. I too am interested in understanding how sales have actually been impacted, but I can understand that it may take more time to see major results. Very well written!

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