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Patterns - a series of professional observations about package design practices within specific product categories

Children's Cold Medicine

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Patterns is a series of professional observations about package design practices within specific product categories - brought to you by the design team at R.BIRD.

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Featured in this report:

01 - Environment


The above images were taken at a supermarket in the metropolitan New York City area. The shelf space dedicated to this category is approximately 20 feet in length and located in the pharmaceutical section of the grocery store. A vast array of medicines for everyday ailments also appear within close proximity to children's over the counter cold relief products. Most children's cold medicines are grouped together while some are interspersed with their "parent" brands. Brands Tylenol, Advil, and Motrin block shelf space with use of ownable color. Confusion among shoppers is apparent when trying to find the right product for a child's particular symptoms.

02 - Structure


The dominant physical structure within this category is a vertical oblong box. Most children's medicines are presented in a syrup form in a 4-8 fluid ounce bottle, with a measuring cup for accurate dosage. Additionally, all medicines are secured with a mandatory tamper resistant feature to ensure safety of the consumer.

Response: Opportunities for unique structures or alternative methods of delivery could create a point of difference that sets one brand apart from the competition.

03 - Product Form


Typical forms in the children's cold medicine category include: chewable tablets, syrup, dissolving tablets, throat drops and nasal sprays. Syrup formulas in both droppers and measuring bottles seem to prevail as the most sought after form of relieving cold and flu symptoms for infants and young children.

Response: Paramount to successfully distinguishing a different form of product from its counterparts are the visual cues that represent the form of the product. Products such as Dimetapp successfully use a spoon to communicate liquid formulation, while Triaminic illustrates a picture of the actual bottle in the background.

04 - Color and Brands


Tylenol, Motrin and Advil have an ownable color to communicate the brand while using accent color as a secondary communicator for flavor and symptom. Sudafed, PediaCare and Robitussin have a pharmaceutically inspired black and white color palette. A wider range of brand colors are present in the balance of the category.

Response: Bold, unique colors will be required for new brands that want to compete.

05 - Brand Color Spectrum


Mapping brand color along a coninuous spectrum reveals gaps and /or oversaturated areas. While many other factors come into place, this tool provides a visual understanding of color at a glance.

Response: An opportunity to explore brand colors between yellow and blue/green becomes instantly apparent with tis method. While purple is also seen as a potential opportunity on this chart, many products use this color to represent grape flavor.

06 - Function & Flavor


Accent color is widely used to indicate flavor as well as symptom. While color aids in benefit differentiation, not everyone will go for the flavor associated with that color. What happens to consumers who dislike grape, but suffer the symptoms that the grape product will relieve?

Response: Exploration of new flavor & symptom color relationships should be considered across the category.

07 - Flavor Color Spectrum


Using the spectrum model once again reveals populated areas of flavor and color. Strawberry, Orange, Cherry, Blueberry, Grape and Bubble gum are the most common flavors.

Response: There is a flavor/color opportunity for Yellows and Greens and the colors between them. Citrus flavors have long been associated with relief of sore throat symptoms, yet are untapped here.

08 - Hierarchy


The brand mark dominates as a primary communicator throughout the product category. Symptom relief and flavor usually are found to compete with one another and generally follow secondly in hierarchy. Throughout, imagery and iconography support product claims and set a sympathetic tone for the consumer.

Response: Marketers and designers should explore opportunities to clean up this extremely cluttered looking segment. Many of the packages have elements that add little in terms of differentiating, leaving important information hard-to-find and understand.

09 - Iconography & Illustration


A common feature among these products is the icons and illustrations that are used to appeal to children, as well as their parents. Many products within this category use silhouettes and illustrations of young children frolicking and playing to help support product claims: relief and effectiveness. Also popular across the category are illustrations that help depict the drowsy versus non-drowsy effects received from taking medication. Usually night-time effects are signified by an illustration of a crescent moon and day-time effects are illustrated by alert and vibrant children.

Response: The Illustrations and icons seem like a required signal for purchase decisions. They offer a relaxed attitude about giving your child medication. Images show the benefits of relief through active happy children.

10 - Endorsements


Many reputable brands have been endorsed by pediatricians. These endorsements usually appear as a recognizable icon which includes stylized versions of a Caduceus.

Response: Endorsements help to distinguish one brand from another. A seal of approval from pediatricians instills a sense of confidence and loyalty for the consumer.

11 - Symptoms


We have observed that the hierarchy of symptoms is not as clear as it could be. Frequently the level of communication between flavor and symptom competes and delays getting the idea across. Similar benefits are often described differently within the category.

Response: Communicating the symptoms more clearly and consistently would aid consumers with their purchase decisions.

12 - Additional Benefits


ElixSure's spill resistant feature is communicated with a lenticular device that illustrates the spoon turning while the product stays in place.

Response: Unique production techniques such as this aid in getting attention on shelf.

13 - Effective Duration


To know the effectiveness of the product is paramount. Not all brands communicate this information in a clear and easy way.

Response: By communicating the effective duration of the medication, consumers have a better understanding how long they will have relief.


On August 5 Jeff Lindsay said...

Helpful report. The link to the PDF file is brooken, FYI. You might also wish to discuss trends in flavors and private label offerings.

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children's cold medicine, otc, over the counter, tylenol, sudafed, dimetapp, pediacare, elixsure, robitussin, triaminic, advil, sudafed, stop & shop, benadryl, vicks, structure, store environment, product form, color, brand, function, flavor, hierarchy, iconography, illustration, endorsements, symptoms, features, duration

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