Packaging pharmaceuticals

Packaging pharmaceuticals

Packaging pharmaceuticals: Bridging the science of medicine and the science of human nature

When contemplating the pharmaceutical industry, it is easy to understand how the average Joe could be overwhelmed by scientific speak, legislative parameters, dosage information, allergy warnings, prohibitive costs, new affordable generic options available, the rise of complementary medicines and the choices and decisions go on.

So how does one bridge this evident gap between the science of medicine and the very human science of how the consumers interact with, and ultimately purchase, your product over another.

Todays’ consumer is media savvy, internet proficient and information saturated. Our job as marketers is to cut through the clutter with relevant, timeous information, creatively executed in an innovative fashion, making cohesive use of the all the interface platforms now available – we at Contrast believe the bridge to be a value-based dialogue where information sharing becomes one driven by consumer feedback and insights, now readily available at the click of a button.

The 2012/13 Pharmaceutical and Cosmetics Packaging Industry Survey predicts investment to be allocated as follows:

“Email and newsletters, social media and networking sites, and corporate and brand websites are expected to register the highest investment, as identified by 44%, 37%, and 34% of respective respondents. Conversely, television and video, outdoor, radio, and newspaper advertisement are expected to attract the least investment.”

The opportunity here it would seem is to harness the power of ‘dialogue’ made possible by the internet, if established brands are to maintain the edge previously taken for granted. Consumer loyalty in 2012 stems from a desire to be first, in the know and to stand behind the brands that inform and innovate, ahead of the pack.

At Contrast we believe the key to moving forward in the technological age, is to empower the consumer.

Your consumer demands value and if you don’t give it to them someone else will. Empowering the consumer to make smart informed choices, arming them with knowledge on your best practices, and opening internal channels of communications to ensure best results for the end-user . It is our duty as marketers to employ all value driven mediums and creative solutions at our disposal to ensure your brands will not only remain top of mind, but will become a trusted advisor and friend. In the information overload that abounds in a cluttered world, isn’t this what we all want?

So how does this relate to packaging?

Here are just a few examples of global packaging trends, as identified by Ray Keiser of Schawk and Anthem Worldwide in Europe, which echo many of the afore-mentioned sentiments – most notable is the relevance here to the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry and how packaging trends, alongside the online value investment, can effectively bridge this gap.

Keep it simple. Whilst this isn’t new, it is certainly gaining momentum in 2012. Industry specialists are making a decisive move towards packaging designs that are simple, unambiguous and concise. This key trend highlights the need for clarity regarding product information. We believe this to be absolutely pivotal to traditional pharmaceutical brands remaining top of mind.

Open innovation. This trend of mutual collaboration between supplier and designer is becoming pivotal to packaging design success. It guarantees that the supplier has a clear understanding of what’s required from both parties, while exposing designers to new technologies – resulting in an improved end-product for client. Custom packaging can be a complicated process when communication isn’t open and the vision of the packaging isn’t shared by all parties. But when the supplier, designer, and client work together, custom packaging can become magical.

The world goes small. As the world population continues to grow, we have seen urbanism on the rise, with more and more people having to make do with limited living space. The importance of convenience stores, enabling consumers to buy more as they go, rather than stocking up, is leading to new small-pack, low-cost formats, with FMCG giants such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble leading the charge in many instances, e.g. in South East Asia, the use of sachets of shampoo and conditioner, laundry detergent and toothpaste is widespread.

Sustainable packaging. When ethics and ecological concerns are translated into green packaging, consumers associate a sense of well-being and security with the product and brand at hand. Biodegradability and nanotechnology are becoming hot trends in packaging designs in all industries.

This is a great way to integrate science and nature, perhaps also removing some of the stigma attached to pharmaceuticals.

A new business model for good. Now, both consumers and corporations are looking for a hybrid entity, a true do-good business. This means that brands need to ensure that they are satisfying consumers’ desire for brands to have purpose and to hold meaningful values. We are likely to see packaging used increasingly to reflect how and why they are thinking beyond profits for the good of their business and the world.

Whilst the afore-mentioned global packaging trends are certainly relevant to our local market, it is impossible to negate the following stats and figures – our market is being shaped more rapidly and uniquely than any other and so, locally, we get to innovate on a rather grand and cutting-edge scale.

In 2012 in Africa we have:

  • 1 Billion people, speaking over 1000 languages, making us the most multilingual continent on the planet
  • Cellphone penetration is at 90% and smartphones are outselling computers 4 to 1
  • 50% of internet connectivity in Africa is exclusively via mobile
  • Over 50% of the African population is under 21


This presents a wonderful opportunity for the local pharmaceutical industry to not only penetrate a massively untapped and growing market, but to ‘do good’ whilst doing so, emulating some beautiful examples of true do-good where it is needed most.

Perhaps Africa could lead, using mobile technology to radically alter lives by empowering young Africans with knowledge on how to maintain their health? I will leave you to even begin to imagine the endless and wonderful possibilities this now affords…

In South Africa in 2012 it can be said that there is now a cellphone to every person.. this statistic alone must challenge and redefine just how we communicate with our market. Not only do they now have access to internet on their phones but they are bombarded by their peers opinions, referrals and trends on the ground. Social media is the playground of our youth and so we must learn how to speak to them in their language and through their medium of choice – the smartphone.

Ideally this needs to be addressed with smart new marketing practices that lead a potential consumer from his social network referral, directly to the shelf to ask for your brand by name – ideally.

But truthfully in Africa we are still a long way from this kind of technology directly driving sales.

Augmented reality: For us at Contrast the future of pharmaceutical packaging in South Africa has endless possibilities. Especially when considering the rise of the digital age and the potential of augmented reality to link the physical packaging with a digital device. The possibilities are not only endless, but also endlessly empowering, educational and with just the right CSR objectives for a growing and diverse culture on the fast track to change, with the key to the future already in their young and hungry hands.


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