Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drug Vial Program Considerations

Fact: Vial Safety Programs are Essentially Target Marketing of Persons Who Take Prescription Medications.

They persist because they help promote drug sales by drug stores and have done so since the early 1970's. Naturally, the drug vial is the medium of choice for use by this type of merchant.

Some of the regional drug chains may actually now be venturing into creating an auto vial that expands the use of the concept to the automobile.

The problem now is recognizing the myriad of competing symbols and marketing information to promote the various regional programs.

Here are three (3) simple benchmark questions for checking out the Vial Program you are evaluating to see if it is marketing or public service:

#1 Is the Drug Chain Logo the same size or larger than the symbol being used to denote the purpose of the device?
If Same or Larger - It is Advertising.

The main purpose should be to identify the emergency vial - not advertise the drug chain. Now ask yourself - do I or my police/fire/ems organization want to serve as a pimp for a store chain?

#2 Are the people creating this program advertisers or safety professionals with experience? Are they using your agency to get street cred? Can your agency help the distribution of these vials through other merchants or outlets in your area? What about other drug chains - since not everyone uses just one of the say 8-10 major chains in most cities and suburbs? Not likely if the design involves advertising for another chain!

#3 What is the "service after the sale" - in other words what kinds of programs, tools or control over how your(?) program rolls out. You get billboards, some radio and people to visit the store.

Having most of the device consist of advertising compromises the effectiveness of the idea and the ability of responders - especially those from outside your district, to recognize the symbol - which is the whole purpose. You might eventually see one small line of text on the ICE Sticker to identify the source (ICE4SAFETY) or the agency using the system. We don't need to advertise because we aren't planning to spend $500K on a marketing campaign.

Still considering placing that advertisement on your ski helmet, bicycle, car, or snowmobile? We have conditioned ourselves to advertise the likes of Nike and North Face on our shirts and jackets, so maybe that is what you have come to expect......but this about safety - right?

How about if your fire/police/city/non profit were to have their name on stickers and posters and brochures that promoted a safety program? Would that make more sense? Will the program sponsor allow you to place your name on program materials or just be a supporter endorsing their product?

Also you may want to consider how you might improve the distribution of the Vial Materials through other outlets - if advertising conflicts are a problem then you are hampered in your overall effectiveness.

Most charities will have an event and feature multiple sponsors on a brochure, banner or poster - some undoubtedly will be competitors. Consider how this might affect your rolling out your Vial Program if you are counting on multiple community sponsors using a proprietary advertising based program.

Depending on the type of design offered, you by all means would NOT want to display a picture of a drug vial on your car, your home or apartment door for all the local robbers and burglars to see given the widespread problem with prescription drug misuse.

Let's face it, most people are unwilling to take (much) time when it comes to making sure they are equipped to survive. Look around - people wearing flip flops or bedroom pajamas and slippers out in public malls or when this stylish or simply clueless? So it comes as no surprise really that many people will follow the path of least resistance - even with their own safety...and often with the same predictable result.

So, if you are a large drug chain and want to gain a competitive marketing advantage over other chains in this area - simply don't spend $500K -$1M in advertising start up to establish (not maintain) a new image - just use ICE.

Some advantages to using ICE to improve vial program effectiveness:

  • It is more flexible and has many more uses than representing one system or method
  • Superior recognition by design and through widespread use
  • The design (ICE) is not going to change like Vial Programs - then what do you do????
  • Not limited in the use of the image for one emergency purpose
  • Encompasses all disciplines of emergency action planning, safety and preparedness
  • Not limited to representing first aid kits or Drug Vials
  • Has applications for the home/auto/work/your person / recreational equipment etc...
  • Image can be uploaded to cell phones or other electronics for increased program efficacy
  • Doesn't suggest drug use or disability
  • Co-Branding of promotional materials (like large stickers) already developed - saves money and resources not to mention makes perfect sense for business
  • Designed by safety professionals with field experience not marketers
  • You have control over expanding your program to home/auto/person/boat/workplace
  • Not limited to the geographical region where the drug chain only promotes the program
  • Can be supported online at ICE4SAFETY where it is viewed by thousands of people in over 70 countries!
  • ICE is not language dependent using E.123
  • ICE is designed to be a public service and has been for almost 4 years.
  • Less (if any) chance of conflict with design use by business sponsors to support program.

Bottom line - using ICE for HOME/AUTO/TRAVEL/WORK is still the simplest and most cost effective solution for preparedness and one that continues to find new uses. If your organization wants to be an extension of the marketing department of any retail chain, then hopefully you brainstorm out all the details.

Applications using RFID and 2D Barcode are also available.

This may have been a tough love article for some whose hearts are in the right place - if it helps you make a more informed decision that ultimately better serves the community, then that is a good thing.

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