The case against creative pharma packaging

Chris Bekermeier


During our marketing excellence focus month, Chris Bekermeier shares his six reasons as to why creative pharma packaging will not help the pharmaceutical industry to achieve market excellence.

Branding and packaging are important in consumer products, from toys to potato chips to beer. However, an elaborate marketing and packaging scheme can actually harm your company by forcing you to expend additional money and manpower. In this post, we will explore six reasons why traditional “tombstone” advertising initiatives and no-nonsense packaging are better than creative pharma packaging — both for your company’s bottom line and your customers.

1) It’s not kid-friendly.

Children, especially younger ones, naturally gravitate to bright colors and fun images. This is why toy manufacturers and makers of sugary cereals and sweets go to great lengths to make their packaging attractive to children. That same reasoning can’t be applied to all industries, however. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, fun and creative packaging can put children at risk of getting into something they shouldn’t. No matter how cleverly designed or secure the child-resistant packaging may be there’s always a chance that an enterprising kid can get the lid open. Worse, a thoughtless adult may leave it where children can get at the medication easily. No one wants to see a child harmed, and children aren’t going to be buying prescription medication anyway — that’s why traditional, no-nonsense packaging makes more sense.


“No matter how cleverly designed or secure the child-resistant packaging may be there’s always a chance that an enterprising kid can get the lid open.”


2) It’s a waste of time.

To put it bluntly, a pretty wrapper doesn’t make a great deal of sense from a time and design perspective. Most people don’t care if the ED drug or the antibiotic they’re taking is “cool” or in step with modern trends, they just care if it works. Customers don’t buy prescription medication based on word of mouth or advertising, but because their doctor recommended it. So long as the medication treats the problem or behaves as it’s supposed to, patients are not going to give the outer packaging a longer look than it takes to figure out which side to open it from.

3) It’s a waste of money.

While an interesting or elaborate graphic design increases shelf appeal, that’s really only likely to matter to a doctor whose attention you’re trying to snare. The case against creative pharma packaging really begins and ends with the bottom line. If you’ve spent hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to research, develop, and produce a medication, recouping the investment should be the first consideration. In most cases, elaborate packaging is a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

4) It’s like reinventing the wheel.

The traditional packaging for medications is designed the way it is for a reason — to keep kids and household pets out. Any change in the packaging of medication also changes the child-resistant characteristics of the packaging. Many cases of bad packaging in the pharmaceutical industry began with someone trying to reinvent the wheel and create a more consumer-friendly and visually appealing package. While their motivations may have been good, the results of these attempts usually wind up costing drug manufacturers obscene amounts of money in the form of class-action lawsuits.

5) It’s only useful in certain contexts.

You may be asking if creative pharmaceutical packaging has any place at all. The answer is yes. If you’re working with over-the-counter medications such as antacids or non-prescription allergy medication, a creative and eye-catching package makes a lot of sense to make your product stand out. Sample packs for distribution to doctors and clinics are another area where elaborate packaging can make a difference in convincing a doctor to prescribe this diuretic over that one. That said, however, when it comes to the prescription medications on the pharmacy shelf, the customer’s main concern is always the same: “Will this work?”


“The many issues with packaging in the pharmaceutical industry all come back to, in one way or another, a company losing money.”


6) It won’t help your bottom line.

The first and most important question you should ask when deciding whether creative pharma packaging is worthwhile is whether or not it will benefit your bottom line. Sure, there are prizes for innovative package design, which is great for designers and gives some limited exposure to drug manufacturers, but most of these prizes don’t do much to bolster your ROI. Like any other investment, if creative packaging design won’t turn a profit for itself, it’s probably not worth it.

The many issues with packaging in the pharmaceutical industry all come back to, in one way or another, a company losing money. Whether as a result of lawsuits, a poorly conceived or executed design, or packaging that puts children or other individuals at risk, the case against creative pharma packaging is far stronger than the case for it1. This doesn’t mean that creative packaging has no place and confers no benefits at all, but considering where the products are placed can serve as a guidepost to whether or not investing in a new design is worth the gamble. As with any other form of marketing, you should direct your advertising dollars where they have the most chance to create revenue — and usually, in the case of pharma packaging, that is not the packaging.





About the author:

Chris Bekermeier is Vice President, Sales &amp, Marketing of PacMoore in Hammond, IN. PacMoore is a contract manufacturer focused on processing dry ingredients for the food &amp, pharmaceutical industries. Capabilities include blending, spray drying, re-packaging, sifting, &amp, consumer packaging.

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