Health and Wellness Health & Wellness Marketing

How modern design is giving traditional Asian medicine a new lease of life

By Floydd Wood, Strategy director

1HQ Brand Agency


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March 6, 2024 | 8 min read

1HQ’s Floydd Wood charts a boom in creative branding of neo-traditional Asian medicine, enabled by smart packaging, modernized designs, and cutting-edge spaces.

Someone dropping a quantity of oil onto their hand

Traditional Chinese medicine has taken a modern infusion, says 1HQ's Floydd Wood / Christin Hume via Unsplash

Driven by Asia’s extraordinary economic momentum, traditional medicines and healthcare services are being repackaged for a growing, younger, and style-conscious audience. The results are remarkable and inspiring.

Dating back some 23 centuries, it’s hardly surprising that traditional Asian medicine systems were beginning to go out of fashion. In affluent and consumerist modern Asia, the dated image of traditional medicines lacks accessibility for a new generation of consumers.

According to The British Medical Journal, in 2010, 30% of Chinese people were using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), but less than 10 years later, this figure had dropped to just 13%, with many taking a new interest in ‘modern’ alternatives.

While TCM is one of the most well-regarded traditional Asian medicinal systems across the globe, this same relevancy problem exists for other popular systems including Kampo from Japan, Jamu from Indonesia and Ayurveda from India. Popular? Well, less so as time moves on.

Changing expectations of millennials and gen Z

The changing age demographic in Asia has compounded the issue for this business sector. Many Asian populations are getting younger; over 60% of the world’s youth live in the Asia-Pacific region. That’s more than 750 million young adults aged from 15 to 24.

Many of these young adults have increasing levels of disposable income, with Asia’s economic success over the past 30 years raising living standards for people at every income level, according to McKinsey. The question, as McKinsey puts it, “is no longer how quickly Asia will rise; it is how Asia will lead.”

With their money, their aspirations and their social media, many young Asians are keen to explore new ways of doing things and are developing tastes for elevated experiences.

Packaging and the process of rejuvenation

For traditional Asian medicine to survive in this shiny modern world, something needed to change. Packaging design has played an important role in making these remedies relevant again.

Inspired by ancient Chinese cosmic concepts of yin and yang, the stunning new brand identity for the Mari Acupuncture Clinic, by Nero Atelier, is a perfect illustration of the new wave of design within the sector. The yin, dark and passive, is represented by the earth; the yang, active and light is represented by the heavens. Symbolizing wisdom, 16 acupuncture needles make up the sun at the heart of the design, while the sun itself, embodies the center of healing energy.

Now check out the fresh (literally) design cues of the Indonesian wellness brand Jamu With You. Both the taste of the product and the appearance of the stylish packaging have been transformed to appeal to a new fashion-conscious and youthful target, with an emphasis on the natural health-promoting ingredients.

Then look at Namaskar Ayurved, an Indian-origin, Ayurveda-based range of beauty and wellness supplements made from natural ingredients. The packaging is sleek and contemporary; the free-flowing typography is refined; the sun-kissed color palette evokes warming Indian spices. The jars use frosted colored glass with a screen print to make the packaging even more distinctive.

Many traditional Asian remedies are now being marketed in similarly sophisticated ways to give them the kind of social kudos that would normally be reserved for leading FMCG brands. The zinging colors and intricately-shaped containers are attracting both plaudits and customers.

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Modernizing retail and treatment spaces

Retail and treatment spaces are another key component of the shopping experience that’s undergoing transformation. We’re beginning to see stylish environments that would look quite at home on the glossy pages of an interior design magazine.

The Sumiyoshido Kampo Lounge, specializing in acupuncture and moxibustion, feels more like a leisure space than a medical clinic. The use of soothing mint green and white creates a fresh and tranquil ambiance, with the designer boldly striving to achieve the look of an expansive shop window. Unfamiliar for older consumers, perhaps, trend-setting surroundings like this are creating a buzz with an image-conscious younger audience. Traditional Asian medicine has never looked less traditional.

While these changes are predominantly impacting the local market within Asia, the sophisticated designs are finding their way into alternative therapy outlets further afield in trend-setting cities such as Sydney, San Francisco and London.

All these best practice examples illustrate the way that, driven by Asia’s economic development, healthcare products and services are being reframed as approachable, everyday, even enjoyable products. This reflects a global shift of health and wellness products into a new space we like to call FMCH (‘fast moving consumer health’).

Health and Wellness Health & Wellness Marketing

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1HQ Brand Agency

1HQ is a global brand agency. For over 30 years, 90% of our business has come from people happy to spread the word about their experience working with us, and the...

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