Thinking about healthcare marketing as a service

Thinking about healthcare marketing as a service


Here’s a good article for healthcare marketers on MediaPost’s Marketing:health – The Art And Science of Effective Work. While it’s primarily speaking to pharmaceutical marketers, it rings just as true for health system and hospital marketers.

The context of the article is the talk by Chuck Porter (chief strategist at MDC Partners) on creativity at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival last year. But the more important point by Graham Mills, a member of the 2015 North American Final Round Health Effie Awards Jury, is that people want more than advertising from brands; they want a valid reason to let brands into their lives.

In order to do this, marketers need to go beyond product-centric advertising to positioning marketing as a service that answers both the emotional and practical needs of the consumer. Selling product features is not enough to prove value.

We refer to this as creating marketing that matters. Marketing that in and of itself can make a difference in people’s lives (i.e. “marketing as a service”). Marketing that goes beyond the still too typical health system and hospital advertising that touts latest technology (until tomorrow), number of awards (which are not an important driver in decision-making) and is written in insider hospital-centric language.

This need is intensified given the shifting landscape of consumer and technology brands like CVS, Apple and Teladoc (among hundreds of others) fighting for a piece of the traditional healthcare pie. Brands who’ve cultivated consumer relationships in ways that health system and hospitals have not.

In this environment, traditional health system and hospital marketers must re-evaluate their marketing through a new lens of possibility. Because the interrelationship between people’s needs (people who you used to refer to as your patients) and the new benefits that are offered up to them by the new “health” companies and brands are where the real “maas” opportunities lie.

By understanding the emotional payoff that people will feel as a result of their ideal “health” experience (which now could be CVS, Apple or Teladoc), you can then begin to identify what’s driving their choice and the direction your marketing should be heading. Clearly, this is beyond communicating the “functional benefit of your traditional healthcare services.”

Robin Wight, co-founder of WCRS in London, mentions in the article about interrogating a product until it confesses to its strength and that strength is not always a product attribute. That underlying strength for health systems and hospitals is an emotional end benefit far beyond the immediate functional fix. And owning this emotional end benefit territory provides a more robust platform to keep you ahead of constantly evolving market changes, consumer needs and competitive activity.

But in order for the relationship with a brand to work, as with any relationship, it must be based on exchange of something of value. One of these “exchanges” should be going beyond product-centric advertising to positioning marketing as a service that answers both the emotional and practical needs of the consumer.



Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment as an opportunity to move customers, brands and businesses upward to a new destination.