Pioneering healthcare firm launched one of the UK’s first over-the-counter (OTC) contraceptive pills, Hana.
Deborah Stafford-Watson, UK Head of Provocation & Strategy, outlines in this issue how Hana’s design was carefully considered to not only provide a functional need, but also an opportunity to send out a rallying cry for products across the fem-care journey to create brands that empower women and challenge the taboos associated with them.
Read the full feature in the newdesign Magazine January issue below:
Elmwood’s clients range from healthcare start-ups to global FMCG firms and it prides itself on taking a unique approach to design and brand building, which involves tapping into cultural and consumer tensions to create meaningful and memorable brand ideas that challenge the status quo.
From its ‘Made for You’ campaign around gender neutral razors to its global design strategy for Amstel that enabled the beer brand to increase accessibility in local markets, the design consultancy not only wants to support new product launches and campaigns – it aims to build platforms and change conversations.
It comes as no surprise to learn then that one of Elmwood’s chief UK strategy lead, Deborah Stafford-Watson, comes with the job title ‘Head of Provocation & Strategy’ – which perfectly matches the design consultancy’s modus operandi.
Stafford-Watson is a double DBA Gold Winner with over 20 years experience in helping brands tackle big challenges, open up new opportunities and discover solutions through actionable strategies.
Some of the firms she has developed breakthrough ideas and designing experiences for include GSK, the BBC, Goal, Pizza Express and Arsenal FC.
Her latest challenge at Elmwood has been to change the conversation around fem-care products through her work with healthcare leader HRA Pharma.
In July this year, the pioneering healthcare firm launched one of the UK’s first over-the-counter contraceptive pills, Hana, after being given the go ahead by the national drug regulator following a landmark ruling.
This decision was welcomed by campaigners at the time, who said that it would make access to oral contraception easier for thousands of women – especially following the coronavirus pandemic which, they added, has made ‘a difficult situation even worse’.
Given this context, Stafford-Watson sought to create a brand for Hana that not only embodied the historic nature of its launch but also challenged the traditional design conventions. The idea was to create a product that was desirable rather than one that’s designed to be blandly discrete to avoid embarrassment.
According to Stafford-Watson, this involved creating a brand that provided more than just a functional need: Hana’s launch was an opportunity to send out a rallying cry for pharma products across the fem-care journey – whether it be for period pains or the menopause – to create brands that empower women and challenge the taboos associated with them.
“From contraceptive pills like Hana to fertility trackers and sexual wellness apps, a new wave of products are putting women firmly in the driving seat of their own healthcare journeys,” she observes.
“We need to go further in speaking to women by creating products that look and feel contemporary and relevant to them, so it was essential to bridge the tension that exists between efficacy and empowerment,” she adds.
According to Stafford-Watson, the design process involved balancing established codes of fem-care with a bold new ‘digital-first’ approach that would talk to an Instagram generation.
Traditionally, contraceptive pill packaging has drawn from a restrained design lexicon. “Colours tend to be muted and information is dense, with a clinical sense of formality throughout,” notes Stafford-Watson.
By contrast, the packaging for the new OTC contraceptive is a deep purple – which not only flouts convention but also helps the brand status out throughout its journey – from digital marketing campaign to pharmacy itself.
Its trademark logo meanwhile – a hand drawn ‘Hana’ signature – was created by a lettering artist to give Hana a warm and personal touch. Stafford-Watson explains that this signature design puts the focus on the female consumer, introducing a more personable, friendly ethos. She adds “We see Hana as more of a trusted companion than a medication per se. It’s direct, simple and relatable, like a wiser older sister.”
Stafford-Watson’s vision is for Hana’s packaging design to act as a “leading touch point” for a wider visual identity that will help to build it as a brand in a newly competitive environment.
“There should be messaging at multiple touch points throughout the brand journey, making conversations around reproductive health less clinical and formal, and more normalised in day-to-day life,” she says.
“The products we create now should be central to creating a new set of values and a fresh sexual legacy; both for women now, and girls to come,” she adds.
Fem care efficacy
While the bold new design personalizes the brand and champions female empowerment, this also needed to be carefully combined with established codes of fem-care efficacy, according to Stafford-Watson.
Surrounding the logo, for instance, there’s a circle made from 28 mini pills – one pill for each day of the month, which signifies traditional contraception messaging of safety through a constant cycle and consistent protection.
And while the gold foil wrapper positions Hana apart from the clinical restrained semiotics of similar contraceptive brands, it also contains a ‘Same Time, Every Day’ reminder for users to signal the importance of timing.
A branded blister also clearly marks out the different days of the week and the back-of-pack design is visually simplified with clear bullet points to aid consumer understanding.
The information leaflet has also been simplified, to reflect the consumer experience and includes infographics for visual learners. Stafford-Watson adds that all the content design was tested among a diverse range of users to ensure inclusivity.
The result, says Elmwood, is a brand that combines functional use with a desirable look, which creates a new dialogue around female healthcare. As Stafford-Watson concludes: “We hope that this tension between efficacy and empowerment creates a vivacious, confident brand that women can rely on and at the same time, be strengthened by.”
Find the full feature here.