The branding creating a “positive conversation” around erectile dysfunction

New brand Manual tackles the potentially tricky topics of erectile dysfunction and hair loss, using clever design and witty advertising to set it apart

Onwards, Manual website designs

It’s safe to say that erectile dysfunction and hair loss aren’t the sexiest topics; neither are they things people find easy to talk about. In creating its work for Manual, a company that deals in both issues, London-based agency Onwards aimed for an identity that would help “start an open, positive conversation”.

The brand currently comprises medication for erectile dysfunction and hair-loss, with products delivered discreetly direct to consumers.

Onwards was brought in to work on the project in August last year, initially working alongside LA-based agency Fndr, which created the brand’s “initial thinking” and name, according to Onwards creative director Chris Banks.

Manual launched last month, and emerged thanks to upcoming expiration on the patent on Pfizer-owned ED brand Viagra. According to Onwards, this created a “rush to market in the ‘men’s wellness’ space”. Onwards adds:  “This brand had to be bigger than the products – long-term success depended on it.”

As such, the agency was keen to avoid “medical or sympathetic language,” instead aiming for a “playful, positive” tone of voice throughout the copy that read “like a manual” in its clarity.  “We spent a lot of time trying to get the balance right for the tone of voice, knowing when to be charming and playful but also make people feel comfortable,” says Banks. “It’s a difficult subject to talk about, so we were trying to make it feel natural within a consumer brand and slightly reframe [ED and hairloss].”

The packaging designs look to be “friendly” and “fun”, aiming to help ease any potential  embarrassment around the products. While the products on sale are essentially pharmaceutical, the agency was keen to create branding that looked much more consumer driven than scientific, steering things away from white pill packs. “It’s about being smart in how you communicate,” says Banks. We’re trying to create a brand that feels like a considered brand, but that has trust and authority.”

For the visual identity, Onward also looked to the idea of manuals as inspiration. “We created a logo that symbolises positive, modern masculinity by combining the ‘M’ in ‘Manual’ with the international male symbol,” the agency says. “And we drew on the visual language of manuals – the pointers, the technical drawings – to create a distinctive, fun, genuinely helpful identity.”

London commuters will likely have spotted the ads that have appeared across the underground, showing simple portraits of often beaming men, with much of the copy centred on ED: ‘not a guy, but a guy thing’, they tell us. ‘It’s short for erectile dysfunction.’ Slogans include ‘Ed is Dead’, ‘We all hate Ed’ and ‘Oh my yays’. The out of home advertising campaigns deliberately feature ‘real’ men rather than chiselled models; and Onwards also worked on the brand’s editorial platform, Guided, which offers advice and “explores what it means to be a modern man”. As time goes on, this platform will expand to become a sort of manual where users can find out information around health and wellness.