Health brands– better by design

by Elizabeth Freeman on 07/20/2015 | 5 Minute Read

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The healthcare category is in transition. Pharmaceutical brands are not only facing increased competition from their own industry, but they also have to fend off the advances of hugely powerful consumer lifestyle brands who are encroaching on their territory. Healthcare is increasingly becoming a lifestyle category in its own right and - to maintain that all-important status and success - pharmaceutical brands now have to become aspirational consumer brands. As a result, the role of creativity and design has never been more pivotal.

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We are seeing a host of cultural and socio attitudes driving this change: new markets and laws are opening up opportunities in what was previously a more restricted sector, people are taking ownership of their own health, and looking for ways to optimize it, and new innovations are challenging the norms of health as we know it. It doesn’t just come down to new brand and product design – although technology and wearables such as Fitbit have seemingly revolutionized the category overnight. Most significantly, new competitors are opening up health and traditional pharma with exciting and disrupting visual codes – in everything from food to supplements and cosmeceuticals. But there is also a new challenge breed, rising up within the pharma industry itself, innovating with design integrated into their business to powerfully redefine its look and a new future direction.

Previously, orthodoxy seems to have dictated that pain relief, for example, has to follow a corporate and bland format. Nurofen focused on a master brand for all types of pain but the visual codes and cues still focus on the pain with hard reds and ‘target’ icons and the design in no way visually addresses the cure. Advil redesigned a couple of years ago to reflect its new fast-acting technology, introducing devices to signify speed and a white carton to signal a premium offer. But, overall, the pain relief sector remains clinical, clichéd and sanitized.It was Help Remedies that pretty much single-handedly turned this sector on its head, truly challenging the status quo by moving us from pain to gain. The primary color-coding, forthright and personal straplines and embossed packaging – a visual reinforcement of what the product is for – maintains function and convenience but, above all, is aesthetically pleasing and emotionally connected. It’s about finding the balance and using design to impart selected information in a defined but personable way.


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Newcomer Pillpack has now signaled another phenomenal breakthrough. It is the first pharmacy designed to help people take the right medication at the right time - simplifying medication management by delivering a better, simpler experience through convenient packaging, modern technology, and personalized service. *

Help and Pillpack have both embraced the power of design as the driving force for a new way of interacting with the consumer. But, we have still probably never seen such a polarized picture of health with the traditional and old school pharma brands looking and acting old - bland, functional and confusing. A functional brand expression is no longer good enough. These brands need to express what makes them special as people increasingly look for intimate connections and more desirable solutions to their health issues. Interestingly a new study researching what brands are best perceived by Fathers, ranks Band-Aid in the top 3 as a go-to brand now that more Dads are the stay at home and child- care providers. (Source: YouGov Brand Index survey) All the evidence stacks up that the brands that take the time to connect will be the ones to succeed. And this is as true for the icons and established giants as much as the new health challengers.

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We recently worked with Viagra Russia on a redesign and this was very much a central issue to the proposition. The supposed and stereotypical target market for Viagra is the older male consumer. But, in actual fact, it is the brand leader and THE brand icon of confidence for an aspirational, performance and image-conscious young male in this market. The problem being it had become an invisible icon. We needed to provide a strategy to reinvent the Russian Viagra brand and packaging to combat the end of its patent, reassert its iconic value and create relevance for its true audience. And, essentially, to release its iconic potential and make Viagra’s identity and packaging look like the effect rather than the problem.

We needed to communicate performance and power in a modern and emotive way. Inspired by the trusted blue color and shape of the Viagra brand we reinterpreted it with a fresh lifestyle-led execution. By making key letters of the identity the focal point of communication, we put the spotlight firmly on the solution and stamped a mark of confidence and self-assurance. **

Overall, it’s time to design an improving picture for healthcare brands. We have to approach brand health as we do our own health. We can sit on the couch, grow fat, take things for granted and then encounter problems. Or, brands can exercise, feed and nurture a unique identity to ensure that they are both active and effective in this brave new world of dynamic health.

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Written by Jonathan FordFounding Creative Partner & CCOLondon

Never one to simply accept the status quo, Jonathan continually provokes and questions the world, inspiring Pearlfisher to create design that makes the future better. An award-winning designer and advocate of the power of creativity to inspire change, Jonathan has been responsible for creating some of the world’s most loved Challenger and Iconic brands, and for leading a successful series of #challengersandicons interviews with the people behind the brands of the future who understand the need to harness creativity and bold ideas to create success. Jonathan champions the art of brand design through all aspects of his career, including in his role as Trustee of the Haller Foundation. A continuous advocate of the power of a good idea, Jonathan speaks regularly on the brand, design and innovation conference circuit, on such prestigious platforms as PSFK and the World Future Trends Summit.

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