The pharmaceutical industry is well known for the rigor it applies to the legal, manufacturing, research and development, and regulatory processes that dominate its day-to-day business. Now it's time for pharma marketers to apply the same intellectual process and rigor to all forms of marketing—from direct-to-consumer advertising to packaging. Currently, the pharma industry is significantly lagging behind the consumer industry in regard to employing best packaging practices and technologies. Innovative packaging is prevalent among the consumer industry—from Coca Cola's Fridge Master, a convenient carton that allows for more compact storage, to Ensure, the nutraceutical beverage that saw increased market share when it switched from glass to easy-to-open plastic bottles. Packaging matters to the consumer—be it in a consumable good or a pharmaceutical product.
Sense of Purpose
At the most basic level, packaging describes the product it contains, including its benefits and risks, and preserves it safely until it is purchased and used. Packaging is about applying new combinations of materials and technologies to promote consumer and patient education, safety, and compliance, while reinforcing product quality and brand image. One need only look at a country where packaging is not mature to realize its importance. In China, for example, it is estimated that over 40 percent of all
consumables spoil or are damaged beyond use before they even reach the buying public.
Good labeling and packaging should serve many functions. Both should accurately represent the contents (both package and inserts), serve as a template for future design projects, be easily re-purposed for use in other languages, have necessary counterfeit protection, and be creative in their design.
Another compelling reason to improve packaging is to avoid FDA recalls. FDA stated recently that in a six-month period, 64 percent of FDA recalls occurred either as a result of mislabeling or faulty packaging. These numbers convey that one way to reliably avoid two-thirds of issues associated with recalls, as well as the concomitant bad press and high costs, is to consistently produce good labeling and packaging.
Packaging also has the ability to solidify patient loyalty to the brand. For patients, the package is the product. It's the tangible manifestation of an often emotionally charged relationship to a brand. The ideal healthcare package, in addition to reflecting the quality of the product it contains, fortifies brand equity and differentiates the product in the marketplace. What's more, the ideal healthcare package is memorable to physicians and pharmacists—both of whom influence patients' product choices.
As drugs increasingly become available over the counter, shelf appeal and brand identity become a greater concern as products fight for consumers' attention. The need for eye-catching graphics and design also plays a role in prescription medication, given the high number of drugs being advertised to the consumer. And as a product's patent expires and the medication is released as a generic, the loyalty built through years of strong branding can extend the product's life.