The Convergence of Pharma and Fashion

runway modelsImage courtesy of Pierce Mattie Public Relations

By Christina Brodie

What do pharma and fashion have in common? Both are multi-billion dollar a year industries that influence how people look and feel. Pharma marketers should take note that fashions influence is becoming more prevalent in the industry as our culture becomes increasingly obsessed with physical appearance and beauty. These cultural shifts give marketers cause to rethink everything from a products packaging and design to how medical devices and procedures are marketed. Its not new, either: As early as 1927, adman Ernest Elmo Calkins opined about “Beauty the New Business Tool” in the Atlantic.

Obsession with a youthful appearance is an evergreen quest. Although recent economic woes have put a deep wrinkle on most consumer finances, spending in anti-aging skin care is growing. According to this report from Medical Insight, Inc., projected growth of this segment is up to 17.1% per year as physicians continue adding skincare lines to augment their aesthetic treatment services. Botox, facial lasers and many surgical procedures are also gaining popularity. Fashion magazines such as Elle routinely test out new techniques, educating readers of the newest spring in the pharmaceutical fountain of youth. While controversial, even young people are turning to the cosmetic enhancement offered through Botox. This 18-year-old pop star created controversy after undergoing treatment in an effort to “look fresh on camera.

Fun and fashionable bling removes the social sting. Medical alert bracelets have gotten a much needed makeover. For individuals who may have drug or food allergies, diabetes, heart disease or any other medical condition that needs to be brought to the attention of medical personnel in emergency situations, medical alert bracelets can be lifesaving. And, those who need them no longer need to sacrifice style for necessity. New medical alert symbols can also be found on necklaces, charms for a charm bracelet, tie pin or watch, even military-style dog tags and money clips. Tiffany & Co. sells an 18K gold medical alert bracelet for $2,250, but for those that dont want to break the budget, other companies have more affordable options adorned with letter beads, Swarovski crystals, pearls and gemstones. These more stylish medical alert accessories may encourage more people to wear them and ensure they get the care they need in the face of an emergency situation.

Functionality meets fashion-flair. Its not just medical alert jewelry that has received a fashion makeover. Theres a plethora of attractive medical alarm watches on the market to remind patients to take medication. Although designed for medical purposes, these watches provide this functionality but can also be used as an everyday wristwatch. Ugly neck and back braces are also a thing of the past. Todays support devices are also easy on the eye. For young adults with scoliosis, some of the newer braces are as attractive as a corset and incorporate lace, leather, and even colorful patterns.

The convergence of pharma and Seventh Avenue opens the door for innovation and inspiration. While the next great life-saving drug doesnt need to come in next seasons hottest colors, the long, constant march of western marketing with products moving beyond their functional forms to more aspirational design continues apace, even in a down economy. In a time when beauty and style are found everywhere, its a trend that even pharma marketers need to be aware of as they go to market with new products.

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