Ironically, for an industry that targets potential consumer by ailment/condition and often age cohorts, there seems to be a lack of focus on targeting different ethnic segments.

While the specific conditions for which the pharma industry develops treatments may be universal (regardless of ethnicity), the way different ethnic groups view their health and well-being can vary dramatically.

  • Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to eat a balanced diet or take vitamins when compared to White or Asian adults.
    • As a result, they show a higher obesity rate according to the CDC, leading to various health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
  • A higher percentage of Black Americans and Hispanics are uninsured when compared to Whites.
    • So when selecting a healthcare professional, they pay more attention to reputation and quality of care instead of coverage.
  • Hispanic adults are far more likely than non-Hispanic adults to believe they are healthier compared to a year ago, according to Mintel.
    • This positive outlook may represent a barrier for Hispanics to take preventative measures to maintain their health.
  • Asian Americans tend to live very healthful lifestyles overall, by exercising regularly, taking nutritional supplements and maintaining an ideal weight level. They also gravitate toward a more holistic approach to health.

Push Versus Pull Strategies

Pharma companies often make the mistake of focusing on the Promotion ‘P’ of the 4Ps of marketing when addressing ethnic groups, driven by the misconception that Hispanics’ or Black Americans’ main barriers to health are purely financial. Instead, pharma companies should focus on understanding the unique nature of each ethnic group’s patient journey and how to address the significant cultural gaps within diagnosis, treatment, and adherence rates. By diving deep into each ethnic group and culture, marketers would find:

  • A pull strategy may be more effective among acculturated Hispanics; while a push approach is likely to be more effective with less acculturated Hispanics who tend to rely heavily on personal interactions and guidance from a professional whom they have grown to trust over the years.
  • A push strategy to practitioners could be highly effective among Black Americans, who are most likely to refer to a health professional (i.e., a doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian) when seeking out health information, as opposed to friends or family.

Becoming culturally attuned, especially to multiple cultures and ethnic groups is complicated, is time-consuming, and expensive—which is why many pharma companies have shied away from it in the past. Despite non-Caucasians currently representing around 37% of the U.S. population, minorities represent about 70% of the population’s growth by 2020. Pharma companies who don’t come to terms with how to win their fair share of multicultural segments will be leaving a lot of money on the table.

  • Andrew Delbridge

    Andrew Delbridge is Co-President & CSO at GALLEGOS United. Andrew has lead pitches, strategy, and award-winning campaigns for agencies around the globe. He has implemented imaginative campaign strategies for Audi, Toyota, Hyundai, Sony, Travelocity, Nationwide Insurance, and more.


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