A couple of weeks ago, we received a news release advertising a handy pill organizer for Miami’s Winter Music Conference. “WMC is soon approaching,” it read, "the lineups and parties have been announced and the excitement is building amongst music enthusiasts… being prepared is key.” The release was describing the MedCenter Traveler, a conveniently sized, compartmentalized pill box with a durable nylon pouch. The product looks legit. But the ring of the release sounded questionable – like how it’s ideal for “a festival season essentials round up.”
We weren’t sure if this was the subtlest or most naive release we’ve ever read. “Medication” must be a euphemism here, right? But many partygoers do habitually take legal and necessary medication as well. So perhaps this was a genuine appeal to the allergy-ridden folks of Miami Music Week. Intrigued — and a little confused — we reached out to MedCenter Systems to discuss their marketing strategy.
Mandy Engel, public relations manager at MedCenter Systems, explained to us how her company’s products were invented to help an aging father remember to take his medication. Indeed, she says that the vast majority of their intended clients are elderly citizens. Asked why MedCenter would market its pill organizer for Miami Music Week, she laughs and admits, “I don’t know. We put it into our PR agency’s hands to know where to [market] our products.”
Surely, though, there must be some relation between MMW and, well, a drug pouch. “Are people traveling there?” she asks. “[Because] then they can have something to put their medication in that doesn’t take up a lot of room. They don’t have to tote pill bottles around… I guess people set up in lawns and stuff, so they can just easily whip out one of the containers, stick it in a pocket or purse, and take it with them for the day.”
Engel eventually referred us to her PR agency, BlinkPR, the company responsible with putting MedCenter Systems in the mouth of the media.
BlinkPR’s president and CEO, Katherine Niefeld, sounds as bemused as Engel over the phone about her team's marketing strategy. She admits that the Traveler Pack is not a typical product to market to Miami Music Week, though she's not the one who wrote the news release, so if we'll excuse her for a moment, she’s going to loop her employee into the call so we can get to the bottom of this.
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At long last, we’re on a call with the BlinkPR employee responsible for the release. “My friends and I usually go on weeklong festivals during the summer,” she says. “One of my friends has diabetes, and she has to take medicine every single day. But because there’s so much action happening, she sometimes forgets since she doesn’t have easy access to a case.”
Asked about the connection between music festivals and illegal drugs, Engel admits it's possible people would abuse the pill pocket. “Obviously it could be used for recreational drugs," she says. "Miami Music Week is a crazy time, and everybody knows people take ecstasy and Adderall and all types of drugs. It’s a common phenomenon here in Miami to have drug use, as in any area… But with Miami Music Week, the whole reason people go is to get pretty much drugged up. That’s the truth, and that’s what most of the people end up writing about. Isn’t it?”
Niefeld insists the product was absolutely intended to contain legal supplements and medication, such as Advil, vitamins, and birth control, which some may need to take every day but may forget to take in the chaos of MMW. This makes sense. Festivalgoers could be so consumed in the moment that they forget to ingest an essential drug just as easily as the elderly father who first inspired the device.
In the end, people will use the pill pouch for what they want and what they need. The roughly 70 percent of Americans who take prescriptions drugs may use it for vital medication. Health nuts may pack it full of vitamin C pills or CoQ10. The use of the pouch – like the interpretation of the release – falls on the individual.