4 Reasons Healthcare and Consumer Goods Marketing is Not So Different

In the world of marketing, I’ve heard people say that healthcare marketers are often a step behind our consumer colleagues. And you know what? That couldn’t be further from the truth.

In October, I attended the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, where we heard from the best of the best in the consumer space, including P&G, Cadillac, Walmart, KFC, MGM Entertainment, Lane Bryant, and JP Morgan Chase. They all talked about their discipline and unwavering focus on their core brand principles. From the presentation, I jotted down some notes and four brand principles showed up in each presentation. We see these same principles in what we do in the healthcare industry, but there is more we can do to push and promote them, like our consumer brethren.

1. Brand Authenticity

Brand authenticity is how customers perceive a brand to be true to itself and fulfill its promises. This one gave me pause when reflecting upon healthcare, specifically pharma. How much do our customers trust us? How much of that is reflected in our advertising? Does our industry’s advertising portray life and our consumers in an authentic fashion? Do we admit our faults and speak clearly of our benefits? Often the direct-to-consumer advertising of a pharma brand sets the tone. Success can be obtained by showing true-to-life patients, settings, and results.

Additionally, brand authenticity can be obtained by focusing on the MOA and how it can help you. A great example of this is Pradaxa’s “Red Fish” campaign, in which clarity of benefit and education trumped a category where celebrity endorsers and “happy people” reign supreme.

Are you measuring authenticity or simply effectiveness?

2. Brand Safety

Essentially, brand safety is protecting your brand from finding its way onto third-party websites, blogs, or postings that could harm it. Stating the obvious, brand safety is not new to healthcare, but is it possible to be too safe?

One area in which we are clearly behind is social media. It now plays such an important part of the marketing mix, and we have made very little progress. So much so that many pharma brands throw up their hands and simply say no to social media—any social media. You can be relevant in social media and compliant. It’s done through commitment and resourcing.

Would you be willing to commit a compliance officer to a social media team?

3. Brand Heritage

We learned from many brands at the ANA Masters of Marketing event that they gained focus by returning to their roots and ensuring the principles of their founders or founding mission were not only alive and well within their walls, but also communicated through their brand. From Sam Walton to Colonel Sanders to Danny Thomas at St. Jude, successful brand teams ensured their teams were bought in to their missions. Nearly every healthcare brand was founded on someone’s idea of making lives better. That’s quite the contrast to why many believe healthcare brands exist today—to make money.

Is your agency, and your client, living the values of why the company was founded, and demonstrating it to customers?

4. Brand Purpose

P&G, Walmart, Lane Bryant, and Cadillac spoke of brand purpose. Many created initiatives and followed with advertising campaigns specifically around making society better. They did this through everything from providing disaster relief to innovating a product for a disadvantaged market. It struck me that these brands create good works for the sake of creating campaigns to tell their story of improving society.

Having worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years, I know no industry gives back more. Whether it’s free medication, access to treatment, or funding beyond the treatment, the purpose is there, but rarely do we do a great job of sharing it.

Would your brand benefit from another commercial of a happy couple holding hands walking on the beach after taking your product? Could it benefit more from sharing the stories of hope and happiness you have given through the positive impact on a community?

After spending some time with my notes, I see that those of us marketing in the healthcare industry do every bit as much of this as those in consumer marketing. Why? Because at the end of the day, we are all trying to tell a story and to make a connection to our brands. That’s what marketers do, no matter the industry. But, when you work in healthcare, you get the extra satisfaction of making a difference in people’s healthcare and in their lives.

  • Matt Mizer

    Matt Mizer is the Executive Vice President of New Business and Marketing at GSW, an INC Research/inVentiv Health company and industry leader in healthcare advertising. In his role, Matt is responsible for sharing the GSW story through a variety of channels and marketing efforts. He earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida.


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