10 Truths of OTC No. 7: Regulations no excuse for poor branding
Truth 7: Regulations no excuse for poor branding
Regulation, varying from country to country, affects many substantive aspects of what constitutes OTC branding and what is allowed in packaging design, claims, evidencing, marketing communications and sampling. And it changes all the time, with very little chance of any form of regional harmonization any time soon, let alone global.
Packaging is the distillation of the brand’s identity and purpose, so it’s essential to understand the regulatory constraints very early on in the brand design process. In naming and claims, there are some red lines that simply cannot be crossed in different markets. Nurofen, as a molecular, distinctive active-led product, is one of very few global masterbrands that remain similar in all the markets in which they operate.
Then there’s the challenge of language, cultural mores, semiotics, color preferences and differing levels of technological penetration. The complexity is almost staggering.
Getting the lawyers and regulatory experts into new product devlopment and marketing discussions at the outset, and integrating their thinking into the brand development creative brief makes great business sense. Once those red lines are established, there is in fact a huge amount of creative flexibility in branding and visual architecture that can transcend regulatory strictures.
There will always be tweaks, country by country, but that’s no excuse not to aim for meaningful, consumer insight-led claims and "Reasons to Believe" – as well as the powerful visual assets that reflect and deliver on this.
Currently, OTC has a very distinct, and pretty limited, visual landscape. Starbursts, droplets, targets and swooshes combine to convey various permutations of efficacy, performance, strength and rapidity. In the more preventative-led wellness landscape we’re talking about, it’s clear that more of the same just won’t be enough to stand out.
But solutions can be found. For example, workarounds are possible in nomenclature, even though names might need to vary due to category or country regulations. Apple’s iPod, iPad and iPhone can easily be matched to Sanofi’s Buscopan, Buscapina and Buscofem, working within what markets dictate.
Color is always incredibly powerful. Coca-Cola red and Cadbury’s purple are easily matched by Pepto Bismol’s iconic pink product and brand equity. Add to that a notable logotype and consistent, compelling brand architecture across every SKU and you have something that’s eye-catching.
On a shelf full of cardboard boxes, exciting pack structure is a great way to stand out. Just make sure it’s trademarked: witness Tums’ distinctive bottle shape which is now imitated by a slew of private label competitors. Even gallenic form can be notable. Think Viagra’s iconic blue diamond, also carried onto its pack design.
Despite the seemingly immutable quality of the OTC brandscape, change is always possible. In dental care, newcomer Hello Products subverts the category with a breezy positive tone and curvy, pink, green and blue structures. And it’s now stocked at retailers like Walmart, Target and Rite-Aid.
Over in the laundry care category, the last 10 years have seen a radical visual shift from germ-busting and performance semiotic cues to fragrance and floral personal care cues, based on the consumer insight that cleanliness is just a starting point. OTC may well need to make a similarly bold journey and then carry it through into its POS, online, HCP engagement materials and all other branded assets. And most importantly, none of this is constrained by regulation. Creativity can always find a way if you let it.
Over the last 20 years, DewGibbons + Partners has helped design some of the world’s most iconic and successful OTC brands, resulting in a deep appreciation of the visual and physical cues — and regulatory limitations — in the self-care and OTC marketplace. The need to challenge those cues and limits is becoming far more frequent.
This is the seventh truth in a 10-part series from Sara Jones and Nick Vaus of DewGibbons + Partners, which has worked for the last 20 years to help design iconic and successful OTC brands. The series, “10 Uncomfortable Truths that OTC has to deal with to survive and thrive in the 21st century,” will publish weekly and feature in the DSN Health and Wellness newsletter every week.
The first truth was recognizing there’s a problem in the first place.
The second truth unveiled that OTC medicines are more often in the brand-building business as opposed to the pharmaceutical business.
The third truth spoke to the duality of technology, the pace of technological advances may leave some OTC brands behind even as those same advances are seized as opportunities by new brands.
The fourth truth addressed the evolution of OTC offerings from acute sick-care to preventative health and wellness solutions, mirroring a health system that's becoming more outcomes focused.
The fifth truth tracked the consumer purchase path toward OTC medicines, which more and more is incorporating a digital element.
Truth No. 6 highlighted the need for product development to be driven by consumer insights.
Next week's truth reveals how the power of packaging can unpack a richer brand engagement with the consumer.
Partner and client services director, DewGibbons + Partners
Sara runs DewGibbons + Partners alongside NickVaus, and heads up the client services team, leading branding and communications programmes for household names in OTC and health care. She’s always had a bit of a secret passion for OTC branding. Her Grandma was a pharmacist in London’s West End, leaving her with an abiding curiosity about active ingredients and how medicines work. She’s (in)famous for reading patient information leaflets cover to cover. Email her,
follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Partner and creative director, DewGibbons + Partners
As well as running the agency with Sara Jones, Nick leads the studio in providing solutions that are innovative, creative, economic, and effective. Powered by Beautiful Thinking – a unique combination of right and left brain thinking that seamlessly binds together strategy, design and brand communications – he ensures that his clients’ businesses, brands and consumers are at the heart of each and every brief. Email him, follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Just in time for the cold weather, Blistex launches 2 new lip balms
OAK BROOK, Ill. — Blistex recently announced two new additions to its line of lip care lip relief products, including Blistex Lip Serum and Blistex Triple Essentials. Blistex Lip Serum contains a concentrated, advanced formula that conditions lips with a nutrient and vitamin E complex, the company noted, while Blistex Triple Essentials is formulated using three essential oils selected for their lip-beneficial properties.
"I have used Blistex products on my clients for many years but their new Lip Serum is something very special," stated Mickey Williams, celebrity makeup artist. "Since skin constantly replaces itself through sloughing, the outer layer will be gone soon. It's important to benefit the inner layer of lips which will soon be visible on the surface."
Lip Serum provides nutrient rich oils like olive and avocado as well as anti-oxidants and omega-3s to replenish and sustain the lips deep down. Available in a dose-controlled pump, Blistex Lip Serum has an expected retail price of $3.99.
Blistex Triple Essentials contains mandarin, palmarosa and chamomile and has an expected retail price falling between $2.19 and $3.49.
VMS industry joins FDA in crackdown on SARMs
WASHINGTON — The dietary supplement industry’s leading trade associations and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday joined in support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent actions to protect consumers from body-building products containing Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) illegally marketed as dietary supplements.
"We are extremely concerned about unscrupulous companies marketing body-building products with potentially dangerous ingredients," advised Donald Ashley, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA. "Body-building products that contain selective androgen receptor modulators, or SARMs, have not been approved by the FDA and are associated with serious safety concerns, including potential to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and life threatening reactions like liver damage,” he said. “We will continue to take action against companies marketing these products to protect the public health."
The FDA recently issued warning letters to Infantry Labs, IronMagLabs and Panther Sports Nutrition for distributing products that contain SARMs.
"SARMs are dangerous and illegal, and they pose an immediate risk to consumers, jeopardize the careers of athletes, and have no place in any sports nutrition regimen," the trade associations noted in a joint release.
Together, the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Natural Products Association, the United Natural Products Alliance and USADA shared concerns about these products and are supporting FDA’s efforts to crack down on companies unlawfully manufacturing products containing SARMs.
Prohibited under the S1 Anabolic Agent category of the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List, SARMs have raised serious concerns for FDA, USADA and the legitimate dietary supplement industry, as they have the potential to be misused for athletic performance enhancement due to their anabolic properties and their ability to stimulate androgen receptors in muscle and bone. SARMs are not approved for human use or consumption in the United States, but, despite being prohibited, SARMs have been found in a number of adulterated products falsely labeled as dietary supplements. Some products list the ingredient as
“Ostarine” — one ingredient in the class of SARMs — but the ingredients may also go by an alternative name, or be entirely undisclosed on the label.
In addition to alerting consumers, the five supplement industry trade associations have taken action to remind member companies of the responsibility to ensure that SARMs are not used in their products. FDA regulates the dietary supplement industry and this advisory puts companies on notice that those failing to comply with the law are subject to strict enforcement actions.
Additionally, the advisory serves as a reminder to consumers — particularly amateur and elite athletes — to educate themselves on the dangers SARMs-tainted products pose. There are legitimate sports nutrition dietary supplements that are safe, beneficial and not prohibited by WADA, and it is important for all consumers, including athletes, to engage in due diligence when deciding which products to use and which companies to purchase products from.