Tuesday, 24 February 2015

That's the rub?

It's testament to my rude good health that I rarely run out of household medicines. I have, however, been struck down recently with a particularly pesky cold that had me reaching for my personal snake oil, Vick's VapoRub. Now, those of you who are English speakers but have a passing acquaintance with German pronunciation and German swearwords will realise immediately why this brand is known in Germany as Wick. The others will have to put two and two together. Or ask.

I estimate that I bought the pack on the left in the early years of this century, when my son was young and prone to winter snuffles. The expiry date is July 2006 but I refuse to believe this stuff can go off. I ventured into the Apotheke and picked up the pack on the right, slightly bemused, and even more so when the lady on the counter warned me that it shouldn't be used for children. That was news to me.

I guess I was bemused as Vick's VapoRub in its former packaging has such strong associations for me with the minor coughs and snuffles of childhood. Along with Lucozade (complete with transparent orange wrapping) and Veno's and Savlon, it conjures up the comforting feeling of being looked after by a greater power, that everything would be all right. I'm sure a lot of this comes through the packaging as much as the strong sensory cues of the product itself - that combination of green, blue and red suggests light in the temporary darkness of the winter sickroom.

The "new" packaging, which I am sure has been around for a few years, is something else. It looks like something to put on the garden, to make your grass grow. Those bullet points in the green box look like something that's escaped from a Powerpoint presentation. The pack has lost its mystery, its charm, its power.

Of course brands should keep up to date in their packaging. But there is surely a way of doing this - look at Marmite or Kellogg's Cornflakes - without losing the essence of what makes the brand special.


Barbara Fisher said...

Liberty bodices and Vick’s sum up my childhood! Mum insisted my sister, brother and I wore our liberty bodices even in the height of summer and the three of always smelt of Vick’s. I only have to sniff it to be transported back to the 1950s. Thanks for the memories!

Sue Imgrund said...

Germolene does it for me, too!