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Connecting to consumers with OTC packaging

Bayer and Aleve serve as examples that satisfy consumers. Packaging needs to appeal to the 4 Es.

This is a photo of Bayer aspirin packaging.
This is a photo of Bayer aspirin packaging.

Packaging for over-the-counter (OTC) medications is no longer merely a carrier of the product. It is an integral part of the product and a way of connecting with the consumer, says Guido Schmitz, Head of Packaging and Technology Innovation at Bayer Healthcare.

Schmitz discussed his comprehensive approach to OTC product packaging in a presentation at Pharma Packaging and Labeling USA 2013 in Philadelphia.

The packaging development team also needs to have the end result in mind at the start of the development process in order to take the right steps early on in the project, he explains in an interview.

Innovative packaging designs spearheaded by Schmitz include bottle concepts for Bayer Aspirin and Aleve launched in 2009.

“In developing product packaging, the first step is to consider who is the customer,” says Schmitz. The packaging team needs to understand materials (blisters, pouches, and cartons), product positioning, marketing, product indications, where and how the product will be sold, and customer demographics, he explains.

“If new technology is used, new equipment or new production processes may be needed. What is the country and distribution channel? Will the product be placed on shelf in a mass-market retailer in the United States and need to attract consumers’ attention? Or will it be sold in individual blister packs by small pharmacies in Latin American countries? We also have to take into account whether the product is to be mainly used by an older population,” Schmitz adds.

Product marketing used to be limited to emphasizing the four Ps: product, price, placement, and promotion. More recently, the concept of product marketing has expanded to include the four Es: excitement, engagement, exclusivity, and emotion, says Schmitz. “We need to interact with the consumer, add new elements to increase the attractiveness of the product, and tell the product’s story with the packaging.”

Schmitz set out to develop a new packaging concept for Bayer Aspirin and Aleve that would make the analgesics stand out on a retailer’s shelf, be more sustainable by eliminating the outside carton for all but the smallest bottle sizes, and feature a distinctive cap.

For Bayer Aspirin and Aleve, Schmitz’s team developed a “soft touch” cap, using a softer material to incorporate the sense of touch into the package design. The packaging eliminated the carton, a first for the analgesics category, both reducing cost and allowing the brightly colored bottles to stand out on the shelf.

Bayer Aspirin is in a yellow bottle with a yellow cap. Aleve’s colors are blue and white. Aleve is also available with a red cap to indicate it is easy to open for arthritis sufferers. The red Aleve cap was endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation and has elicited favorable comments from arthritis sufferers. One 88-year-old woman with arthritis wrote to the company about how she loves the Aleve cap, and can open it easily, adding: “the person who designed this is a genius.”

“It is important that we connect different to the consumer,” emphasizes Schmitz. “We are not just creating a package design; we are looking to make someone’s life easier.”

The packaging format is used for Aleve 40-, 100-, and 200-count bottles; Bayer Genuine 325 mg in 100-, 200-, and 300-count bottles; and Bayer Low Dose 81 in 120-, 200-, and 300-count bottles.

For its Bayer Aspirin and Aleve packaging, Bayer Healthcare won an AmeriStar award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals and the WorldStar award in 2009.

Schmitz has worked in OTC packaging development for 25 years. He is currently at work on a new packaging concept. “My dream is to design a bottle that is totally unique for every Bayer product while taking into account such trends as sustainability,” he says.

Within OTC pharmaceutical manufacturers, the packaging function may be connected to marketing, product supply, or to research and development (R&D), as at Bayer. “With the packaging function connected to R&D, the packager has an opportunity to influence the packaging design at an early stage,” says Schmitz.

—Article contributed by Peter Sonnenreich, a freelance healthcare writer in Bethesda, MD, and Janice Zoeller, a freelance healthcare writer in Wilton, CT.


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