Many modern business mantras share a common belief – in order to thrive, one must “think outside the box.” One wonders, then, why in an industry known for innovation, so few life science companies embrace this saying the way they ought to do. Unlike their laboratory work, life science companies usually fall short in the “groundbreaking” column for healthcare packaging and design. When it comes to these boxes, in a way, all these researchers and scientists do is “think outside the box” because they never really think about it as much as they should.
But things don’t have to be this way. As exciting as you believe your latest scientific innovation to be, shouldn’t some of that excitement show itself on the box? Not all life science companies fully understand the benefits that well executed branding and marketing can bring to their business. Leveraging one’s packaging design represents just one of many areas where you set yourself apart from the competition. There are even awards for it! Additionally, because so few companies employ this strategy, small-to-medium medical instrument and service providers can get in the game too.
From start to finish, packaging plays a crucial role in one’s overall experience with any brand, and the same is true for medical device vendors. If we focus on the container itself, it’s clear that a consumer’s brand experience takes place on two levels – both inside the box AND outside the box. At times, manufacturers concern themselves with only one of these aspects and miss out on business opportunities because of it. For the sake of your brand, each of the factors below warrants thoughtful consideration:
1) Shape + Proportions: Are you familiar with the Golden Ratio in mathematics? Well, it applies to design as well. A box’s structure and dimensions represent the first aspect of a package that grabs a potential buyer’s attention, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. For that reason, it deserves your attention as well. Set your brand apart from the pack with a package shape that catches the customer’s eye without sacrificing any aspects of the box’s exterior visual art design.
2) Outer Materials: Following from the thought process that interesting shapes create intrigue, the package itself should be special if you want a potential buyer to take notice of and remember your brand. Bland brown cardboard boxes will not do the trick if your goal is to have buyers identify your brand as one that stands for high quality. White, glossy style packaging illustrates a good, rational visual cue for the healthcare industry, given the associations that specific color and finish have with cleanliness, sterility, and purity.
3) Colors + Graphics: We aren’t strangers to discussions about the impact of color here at the Life Science Branding and Marketing Network. Take advantage of these features to announce your product’s strengths. For example, with the right exterior package design, one signals to the purchaser that not only can their product match luxury brands in quality, but it can beat them in price by offering a more affordable solution.
4) Unboxing: Call this a defining moment for most brands. The unboxing process is an important experience, but receives far less attention than it deserves. Moments like this should compare to opening a present for the buyer. Has you product done anything so far to generate this kind of excitement?
5) Inner Materials: Buyers have standards when it comes to their purchasing decisions. If you want to convince customers of your brand’s high quality and value based on the exterior aspects of the packaging, then you must bring that same attention to detail inside the box as well. The situation of items inside the box, in addition to the materials meant to secure them in place, should echo the quality of your brand’s exterior shell design. From a practicality standpoint, the most common concerns surrounding medical device packaging include questions of sterility and the ease of opening/accessing the device at times of emergency. Due to stringent FDA guidelines, this area is where most manufacturers focus their attention. With so much importance placed on the practicalities of the package, it comes as no surprise when the aesthetics go ignored.
In spite of this strategy’s potential for success, do not undertake it without considering certain hurdles that will need to be overcome, namely the frugality of researchers and the lack of a major physical market for healthcare devices.
Scientists with purchasing power are generally known for two things – their tight wallets and lack of brand loyalty (although even THAT may be changing). There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these mentalities. Both could very well characterize a level of luxury considerations that often fall outside the realm of the purchaser’s budget or decision-making power. Faced with these restrictions – and in small part due to their own nature – researchers and scientists opt for the most logical solution best suited to their needs. Unfortunately, this usually leaves little room for brands to stand out based on visual packaging alone, but that does not make it impossible.
The second obstacle life science companies must conquer is the notable lack of a physical interaction between product and consumer. In the healthcare space, businesses typically sell their products through sales representatives or via their website, meaning that the experience of seeing a visual package almost never happens. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (pharma anyone?), but in the overwhelming majority of cases, purchasers will not see the packaging until AFTER they have already made the decision to buy the product.
Retail consumers have the benefit of being able to touch, hold, and interact with a brand through its package. While life science consumers may not engage with brands on same level, they can still get a form of the experience virtually. On your website, try featuring your packaging side-by-side with the product itself. That way, you unite the current industry standard marketing strategy with a new one; thus, adding another point of difference between your brand and the competition. After all, one can only photograph microchips, testing kits, and imaging devices so many ways before they all start to look the same. That’s why messaging and packaging deserve more focus in the industry moving forward. It represents a much stronger point of differentiation than what exists now.
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What are some other ways life science brands can use packaging as a marketing asset? How much would say FDA regulations limit opportunities for innovation on this front?
Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below.