Health Marketers Embrace Digital + Creativity But There's Room to Grow

Healthcare companies understand the need to reach consumers in new ways. They’re utilizing digital channels and executing more creative, emotionally driven campaigns. Companies have a business priority to build relationships with consumers through both HCP marketing and DTC marketing. The old ways of growing a brand through an army of sales reps and doctor relationships are less effective. Companies must understand their stakeholders and know how to reach them, where to reach them, with what message, and at what time.

Can Creativity Live Within Healthcare?

Just in time for the inaugural Cannes Lions Health Festival, healthcare marketers share their thoughts on creative bravery in healthcare for an article on Medical Marketing and Media. “Social media and mobile technology have quite simply turned communications on its head,” said Catherine Steele, global head of communications and patient relations at Novartis Pharma AG. “The key to success goes beyond the basics of ensuring your campaign fits in clearly with the brand or company strategy and having measurements in place to assess its impact.” She stressed the importance of having senior management support and cross-functional collaboration. For Sameer Desai, head of consumer healthcare at Mundipharma, campaigns that communicate the emotional impact of the individual are much more effective than “my molecule is better than their” communication. He believes it is the marketer’s role to educate the different functions within a company needed to sign off on a campaign about the benefits of campaigns that go beyond the product and speak to the patient and “the person” behind the HCP.

Marketing Strategy Insight: Changes to the healthcare economy means there are higher expectations for healthcare brands. Healthcare brands are being forced to connect with consumers in ways they haven’t done before, but are standard in other industries. This has lead healthcare marketers to become experts on their customers. They need to do this in order to create communications that effectively reach consumers with content that resonates. In today’s overcrowded, information-overloaded environment, marketers have to go beyond selling “a molecule,” and reach consumers on a deeper level. If you want to create valuable engagement that drives demand, you need to make an emotional connection. Marketing should contribute to relationship-building not just push transactions. Will this require creativity? You bet.

US Healthcare and Pharma Leans Toward Direct-Response Digital Advertising

The US healthcare and pharma industry will spend $1.41 billion on paid digital media in 2014, and this is expected to increase to $2.22 billion by 2018, according to a report by eMarketer titled “The US Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industry 2014: Digital Ad Spending Forecast and Trends.” Industry advertisers include marketers of RX and OTC products, facilities, services, research, healthcare professionals, hospitals, and biological products, in addition to establishments providing healthcare services, health insurance and social assistance for individuals. This group will invest 56% of their paid digital dollars in direct-response efforts and 44% in branding-focused campaigns this year. Search is used for both DTC and HCP marketing, in addition to efforts to increase awareness for health conditions, products, and services. It also notes that although there’s been significant growth in the use of tablets and smartphones, the healthcare and pharma industry is behind in mobile advertising.

Marketing Strategy Insight: It’s become more apparent to healthcare companies that they need to reach consumers through digital channels. Healthcare marketers are leaning slightly toward direct-response digital advertising, which could be indicative of the increased pressure to provide measurable ROI that directly affects the bottom line. For direct-response advertising, buy-in may be easier to get because of the ability to prove progress much faster and demonstrate the value that provides instant gratification for senior management. But there can be great value developing branding programs with a long-term vision. Branding-focused campaigns still make up a significant part of spending. Marketers understand the value of a healthcare brand. One thing to consider is that there are many healthcare products and services don’t stand to benefit as much from direct-response advertising, because they can’t sell a solution to people who aren’t aware a problem in the first place. eMarketer also notes “industry experts see things moving toward a more performance-based analysis of overall spend, regardless of objective.” This suggests healthcare marketers may need a cultural shift to adopt different ways of evaluating success.

Healthcare Apps Poised for Growth

A report shows serious growth potential for mobile health apps, with the market growing from $2.4 billion in revenue in 2013 to $26 billion by the end of 2017. The report, titled “mHealth App Developer Economics 2014,” was created by German market research firm research2guidance. It was based on responses to an online survey of 2,000 mobile health app publishers and category experts. Currently, apps in the fitness monitoring space hold the most business potential, but by 2017, apps for remote monitoring and consultations will take the top spot. Fitness monitoring apps will drop to fifth. The report also asserts that hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical and medtech companies “have the longest way ahead of themselves to find their way in the mHealth app ecosystem.” This group represents 3.4% of the total app publishers, but they’ve struggled to attract the attention of consumers. The number of downloads their apps get are well below average, indicating limited reach. “It seems that traditional healthcare players put much effort into the mHealth app business, but have not found the right strategy yet. If they did, it would accelerate the market’s development.”

Marketing Strategy Insight: For hospitals, insurers, and pharma and medtech companies, they will need to do more than publish apps. They need to drive users to the apps, increase interaction, and keep them engaged. Understanding consumer needs and what motivates them to download apps will contribute to more effective strategies. Analysis should be done on existing apps to determine download rates, how the apps are currently being used, and how many people delete them after a period of time. Marketers should take note of what Cleveland Clinic is doing with their Mobile Center of Excellence. Without a commitment to digital analytics and better strategies, it will be difficult for these companies to see a return on investment. In addition, companies with ineffective apps that go unused risk appearing out of touch with consumers.

Wrap Up

Healthcare marketers are creating better marketing strategies to align with today’s current technology standards and consumer expectations. It took a while for healthcare marketers to adopt digital channels. Communications didn’t always talk directly to the patient. There hasn’t always been a focus on the human at the other end of the product.But all that’s changing. The progress is gradual, but for healthcare marketers who can demonstrate value to senior management and effectively coordinate with cross-functional teams, there’s big opportunity to be gained. The industry as a whole has a lot of room to grow – healthcare companies are not used to being judged on the same level as consumer brands. But soon enough they will because consumerism in healthcare is inevitable.

Health Marketers Embrace Digital + Creativity But There's Room to Grow