An alternative vision

As homeopathic supplier Nelsons relaunches its original medicines, Lauren Mills examines the potential for branding innovations in the unexploited world of complementary medicine.

For many, the very mention of homeopathic medicine and herbal remedies still conjures up images of weirdos wearing open-toe sandals and smocks.

But major player A Nelson & Co is out to dispel such old fashioned views. It has commissioned Lippa Pearce and product design group Maddison to create new packaging for its 60 homeopathic medicines. Maddison has developed revolutionary structural packaging, dubbed the “clikpak”, which enables users to access one pill at a time by clicking on one end of the dispenser. Lippa Pearce created the graphics.

Nelsons’ decision to invest in its business is a wise one as there is huge growth potential in the sector. Mintel estimates that the total market for complementary medicines was worth around 72m in 1996. The three main segments are herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies and aromatherapy essential oils.

One of the main branding issues is striking the right balance between products’ natural heritage and their efficacy. The work by Lippa Pearce and Maddison tries to achieve this.

Lippa Pearce partner Harry Pearce explains: “The graphics are all about simplicity. We wanted to tear away from the decorative clutter of so much homeopathic packaging, and be purist about it. This reflects the pureness of the homeopathic ingredient.”

Pearce says the complementary medicine sector offers huge potential for design, as it is so backward in terms of packaging and brand identity. “The opportunities are great. It needs a lot of insight about the product, and bravery.

But, when the market starts to see Nelsons’ new designs, other product packaging will start to look outdated and there will be a lot of movement in the sector. Nelsons is leading by injecting a lot more energy into the market. It has self-confidence and clarity of vision.”

Nelsons has spent 100 000 repackaging its range of formulated remedies, following feedback from consumer research groups. Remedies include Teetha, for the relief of the symptoms of teething; Coldenza, for relief from influenza and flu-like colds, and Noctura for insomnia.

According to Nelsons sales and marketing director Anna Maxwell: “Creative communication through simple product names and up-to-the-minute designs serves to make the remedy accessible, as well as to educate at the point-of-sale, which is essential.”

She adds: “Building on this, we have introduced icon imagery to highlight the key benefits of each formulation. This has been achieved in the form of a simple leaf, which creatively reiterates the natural, homeopathic elements. All the packaging is clear with improved instructions on how the remedies should be taken. This aims to make the product convenient and easy to use – which is vital for the first-time user.”

Nelsons’ range of eight creams and four ointments has also been given a facelift, with input from Miller Sutherland. Bright, clean, modern design, with clearly marked, colour-coded packs has been introduced to aid self selection. Nelsons hopes this will add cohesion to the range, and make it much more eye-catching on the shelf.

Miller Sutherland creative director Cathy Miller says the brief presented a huge challenge: that of reconciling the need to emphasise the products’ natural qualities, while still reassuring the consumer of their efficacy.

“There is a very fine balance between being natural and efficacious. Another problem is that, due to licensing laws, you cannot always write on the pack what it is for. So the design tries to build the leaf image in a simple way.

“It has a clean, contemporary look, coupled with a softness you wouldn’t necessarily see on medical products,” says Miller.

As well as Nelsons, several other companies have a good grip on the natural remedy market. These include Potter’s (Herbal Supplies), which produces herbal medicines; Heath & Heather – a long-established brand owned by Ferrosan Healthcare; and Gerard House, which is now owned by Peter Black Healthcare and supplies herbal products including the Kooga and Calcia brands.

And high street retailers, such as Boots The Chemists, now take complementary medicine seriously. Boots offers over 40 remedies, as well as 23 aromatherapy essential oils. The packaging is mostly designed in-house, although Boots also uses design groups, including Lippa Pearce.

Boots alternative health product manager Liz Herring says: “The packaging is predominantly white and it focuses on what the remedy is doing. The range is also colour coded.”

Boots has also produced an in-store leaflet to help customers make sense of its potentially confusing complementary medicine offer. Herring believes it is likely it will relaunch the range next year.

“If there are changes in the market, we respond. We are always looking at range development and how to add value and answer customers’ requirements,” she says. “The sector has significant potential. I think we’ll see double-digit growth into the millennium.”

Dragon senior consultant Linda Mooney echoes this sentiment. “Many more people are getting into self medication, so there is huge potential to get into this area. But people still don’t fully understand it. Packaging and design needs to be more user-friendly.”

While Mintel acknowledges that some brands have made “several very effective strategic moves” by repackaging products, the research specialist recommends that the next step is to concentrate very seriously on the building of brand names.

Definition:

Homeopathy is a medical approach which helps stimulate the body’s own natural healing processes, based on three key principles:

like cures like

extreme dilution of the active ingredient holistic approach,

healing the whole person

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