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Why Authenticity Is the Prescription for Modern Healthcare Marketing

Nearly 1 in 2 Americans, or roughly 133 million people, have some sort of chronic health condition. By 2020, that number is expected to rise to 157 million, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While many severe and debilitating diseases fit into this category, for many of us, they tend to manifest in lesser (though still unpleasant) ways, such as migraines, anxiety, lower back pain, or lactose intolerance. Aside from the obvious ramifications, chronic and often “invisible” illness has had an enormous impact on marketing strategy in the healthcare space. How can brands create effective marketing experiences to capture the very unique circumstances that each of their potential customers face? Additionally, with such a highly regulated and ever-changing space, marketers must be careful about how they connect with patients, and what they can and can’t promise to them in the way of relief.

As marketing has been driven toward more authentic and meaningful experiences in recent years, primarily through the rise of earned content on social networks, retail and travel brands have found enormous success in tapping the power of their consumers as brand contributors. Still, healthcare has struggled to capture the same momentum…until now.

Authentic Healthcare Marketing

Smart healthcare marketers are recognizing a commonality between their patients/consumers that can be used to connect with them emotionally. That is, regardless of the individual manifestation a person has with a particular “invisible” illness, the feeling of being isolated, doubted, and well…”invisible” still persists. Healthcare marketing of the past focused on what a person felt internally during a panic attack, or alergic reaction, or other physical ailment. Messaging along the lines of “[INSERT MEDICINE] will help you feel like yourself again, so you don’t become a burden to your fun friends at this circus.” OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea. What most people want (along with relief) is the sense of understanding from their peers. That is an emotion fairly common across the enormous segment of the population with “invisible” illness. And marketing teams are tapping into that emotion to craft the authentic experiences that have alluded them for so long.  In the last week, I’ve noticed several daring and innovative marketing campaigns baked in the common emotion of acceptance and authenticity. Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Excedrin® Migraine Experience

A migraine headache is a quintessential “invisible” illness, impacting everyone differently and still very much misunderstood by those of us fortunate enough not to experience them. Excedrin, a popular medication to alleviate the symptoms, released a Migraine Experience using virtual reality (VR), whereby users could try on a headset and experience a simulation of what a migraine would do to their normal vision, balance, and overall function. In their primary commercial, they tell the story of Elisabeth, and more importantly her mother, who for the first time understands what her daughter is going through. Certainly something any of us could relate to, migraine-stricken or not, as the video has crossed the 2 million view mark in a short time. What’s even more powerful is that the company is using this campaign to shed light on the individual and authentic experiences of several people, as evidenced on their YouTube channel. While so many unique reactions presented them with a marketing challenge, the brand has found it an opportunity to share an infinite amount of personalized stories with its audience.

Mylan ‘FaceYourRisk.com’ Peanut Allergy

This campaign takes a different approach, not involving the fully immersive VR experience, but is filmed from a first-person perspective to give all readers at least a cursory understanding of what an allergic reaction can feel like. In addition to the PSA-quality of the spot, viewers are pushed to a highly cultivated and personalized site experience in FaceYourRisk.com. There, users can choose common allergens and customize the site information and path depending on their unique circumstance. Certainly, lots of resources went into developing this end-to-end marketing program, but it feels authentic in nature, and again resonated with me as someone who doesn’t actually experience extreme allergic reactions.

What about you? Given that the math suggests one of every two readers of this post will have a chronic ailment to compare to, are there other examples of authentic healthcare marketing that we should add? The evolution of this industry, with emerging technology, care options, and an aging population, will be fascinating to watch over the next several years. Ultimately, like all brands on this new path to success, marketing will need to be an emotional and utility-based engagement, and brand messaging must be a collaborative effort between brands and the consumers they serve.

Image Source: Unsplash.com / By: Jesse Orrico

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