Looking through the lens of the healthcare marketing consumer

As specialists focused on healthcare and wellness, we’re continually taking the pulse of today’s health-minded consumer – to expand our understanding into what influences and drives them, and to help our clients use their brands’ unique clout to more meaningfully connect and bring about change.

Our Q3 2019 Trajectory Consumer Lens survey focused on how health system, hospital and physician group marketing teams can build trust with today’s active healthcare consumer who has more power and choice about where, when and how they receive their elective care. We focused on trust in this survey because it’s really at the heart of every purchase decision we make. And it’s in turmoil.

The State of Trust

According to a survey conducted by Contagious, 74% of people in the US felt that there was less trust today than there has been in the past. In this same survey, 77% of respondents in the US say they only buy products and services from brands they can trust. Rachel Botsman, a leading authority on the changing nature of trust and author of the book Who Can You Trust, adds that trust is the currency of interactions and if a brand wants to transcend to a place where there is meaningful human or lasting connection, they absolutely need trust.

A Glimpse Into Our Consumer Lens Survey

Here are three questions, responses and our quick takeaways from our Q3 Trajectory Consumer Lens survey.

What are the top two ways a health system, hospital or physician group can earn your trust?

Top two responses were be transparent about things like pricing (68%) and being open and honest when they make a mistake or have a weakness (49%). These two characteristics are consistent with other literature about the values that comprise trust. Important to remember (as Edelman Trust Barometer points out) is that trust is a forward-looking measure, and a predictor of whether consumers will find you credible in the future. It’s therefore an important strategic priority for all organizations.

Context is also important when it comes to trust, as these responses are influenced by the choices and information people have about the outside category brands that are part of their everyday lives and which therefore promote unconditional expectations. Here are a few examples. Online-only US clothing manufacturer Everlane provides a precise breakdown of the costs involved in making every one of its garments. Southwest Airlines “Transfarency” philosophy dictates treating customers honestly and actually keeping fares low. And in a long-standing nod to honesty, Avis doesn’t just admit their number two market share, they make it the focal point of their advertising, i.e. We’re Number Two, We Try Harder.

What are the two sources you trust most when researching a new healthcare provider for you or your family?

Top two responses were overwhelmingly family and friends (79%) and branded website (70%). In fact, the next most trusted sources (both of which reflect consumer opinions posted online), were social media (22%) and influencers (17%). A couple things to note. First, we did not include HCP’s as an answer choice to this question. Second, it’s likely that the answer choice of “influencers, e.g. celebrities, bloggers, social media stars, industry experts, thought leaders, people like me” – would have been higher had we not led with celebrities and bloggers.

For the majority of us, the most credible advertising comes from the people we know and trust. A study performed by Nielsen Company found that 90% of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth from their friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Second most-trusted source (similar to our findings) were other consumers’ opinion posted online. Upshot is that family and friends can be powerful brand advocates to amplify and add credibility to a brand’s message. Healthcare marketers need to give them a reason to talk, share and promote two-way conversation.

We followed with a question specific to influencers — which two types are most influential in your choice of a healthcare provider?

Overwhelmingly, and more than 4x higher than any other response, were top two responses of everyday individuals (79%) and industry experts (76%). These responses confirm much of what we read about the growing influence of “micro-influencers” — those everyday individuals with small but dedicated followings on social media; and who are usually knowledgeable and passionate about a specific subject.

As Contagious wrote about in 2018…

no set number of followers defines a micro influencer. Some have just a few hundred, some a thousand, others tens of thousands. But their followings are usually small enough to enable personal associations, interactions, or at least the feeling of a personal relationship, between them and their audience. For this reason, micro influencers are often viewed as trusted sources of recommendations, a view backed up by evidence suggesting micro influencer content regularly achieves higher levels of engagement than big-name macro influencers.

While celebrities and social media stars might reach thousands of people, engagement is likely to be sacrificed. Authenticity (related to transparency and honesty above) is key — as people need to be able to trust what is being posted.

We look forward to sharing our Q4 Trajectory Consumer Lens survey findings (though we’re not looking forward to the accompanying weather). 😂

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Since 1999, Trajectory has shaped and guided the trajectory of healthcare and wellness brands and businesses — combining deep understanding and experience with new ways of looking at client challenges and opportunities. Reach out for a conversation if you need strategic guidance and new creative thinking to better connect with today’s healthcare consumers.

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Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.