What's in a name?

Absolutely everything, when it comes to marketing the male pill, says Hester Lacey
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
TAKING the pill is, for the time being, a purely female ritual. But change is on the way. A male oral contraceptive is likely to be available in the next five years; clinical trials, monitored by the University of Edinburgh, are well under way. Toiling on the mechanics of how it works is the job of the men in white coats; but at the same time, the creatives are sharpening their pencils and setting up their flip charts. Because there's no point in developing a male pill unless men can be persuaded to take it.

The Brand Naming Company, which specialises in coming up with names and packaging for new products, has been turning its attention to this knotty problem - hypothetically at this stage. The simple foil-and-cardboard packs that women are used to won't do; neither will offputtingly clinical names like Logynon or Microgynon. They just aren't alluring enough. The male pill is competing against other contraceptive options with thrusting, virile names like Mates, Arouser or Femidom, points out the Brand Naming Company's Karen Johnson. "In the Sixties, the female pill liberated women and they were clamouring for it," she says. "Here people are not beating a path to the doctor's door, demanding the product. The consumer has a lot of choice. The pill is familiar for women so less effort is needed in the packaging." And, she adds, more pragmatically, daily doses need to be clearly signposted - "for men it needs to be idiot-proof."

First of all, the Brand Naming Company identified the pill's target market as heterosexuals (surprise!), in a stable relationship, probably aged 20 upwards, and already using some form of contraception. Then they looked at what that group would expect from the pill: two key priorities were uninterrupted pleasure and safety, plus the warm glow for the male partner of shouldering some contraceptive responsibility. Then they were ready to start coming up with the names and packs that could persuade men that firing blanks is cool, trendy and utterly desirable.

First off the block: ASSIMIL8 (so-called because men may have to cope with eight pills a week). This, says Karen, is the one for the trendy GQ reader, who is probably keen on gadgets and technology. It looks like a sweetie-dispenser: one of those that's filled with square fruit-flavoured sweets and comes with a cartoon-character's head stuck on the end (though obviously this version doesn't come with Bugs Bunny attached). Another even trendier variation looks like a chrome bullet, which twists to dispense the pills.

A more macho option is TESTOGEN 200, decorated with a little logo of a sperm and a no-entry sign. These pills are tastefully concealed in a brushed-metal-look container that discreetly resembles a credit-card holder.

BIOLOGUE, says Karen, is intended to conjure up an image of a pill that works in harmony with the body's natural rhythms. The pack design, in zingy blue, orange and yellow on a black background, is based on a strand of DNA. "The soft name is balanced by the contemporary design," explains Karen.

And fourthly, there is CERTITUDE, which is meant to sum up trust and reassurance (logos considered for this one include a stork with an empty bundle and a blank-firing gun shooting out a flag that says "pow"). The container looks a bit like a powder compact but would no doubt be suitably masculinised.

When groups of consumers were let loose on these four, ASSIMIL8 came out a clear favourite because of its tactile, gadgety packaging. BIOLOGUE did less well; the strands of DNA were mistaken for party streamers or ribbons, which somewhat changes the message, and its packaging was considered "rather Eighties." CERTITUDE and TESTOGEN 200 alarmed the sensitive because they sounded too clinical and too much like a strong drug, respectively.

So grooving up the image of the male pill would seem to be the key; avoiding any nasty medical connotations and sticking it in a matt-silver container that won't look out of place in a briefcase. And why not? After all, amusing marketing has worked for condoms.