What Really Drives Engagement?

Emotional engagement is the dominant driver of purchase decisions and brand loyalty. In healthcare, it’s no different. In fact, when we see price taken out of the equation of purchasing decisions due to product discounting, rebates and promotional campaigns, we can clearly see that those decisions are being made purely through emotional engagement.

Social networking continues to raise expectations as patients are increasingly using social media to engage in diagnosis, inform treatment options, select and rate healthcare professionals, share stories and decision points, deliver information about innovations and more.

Purposeful viewing (the shift in the way we consume TV and media) and purposeful scanning (the shift in the way information is digested) requires information to be easily accessible and understandable, as consumers are spending less time trying to understand a message. A brand’s message must grab the viewer’s attention quicker than ever before—and placing the relevant information in the most appropriate spot is imperative.

Patient Involvement in Health Decisions

So how do we make heads or tails of it all? When we look at the following statistics, it becomes evident that people are going beyond the doctor’s office to connect with their personal health:

  • 72% of patients use online search prior to going to see a doctor (Pew 2011).
  • 8 to 10 patients use online to attempt to diagnose based on symptoms (Pew 2010).
  • 40% of adult patients surveyed reported asking about a drug that they had seen advertised, and 17% asked by brand (Singh and Smith 2005).
  • An estimated one-third of Americans have asked for a drug by name.

As individuals continue to advocate for their own health and the insurgence of virtual healthcare evolves, emotional decision points will be key to driving initial and ongoing engagement.

For brands, it’s critical to identify how various products and services must evolve to remain successful. This can be done by understanding the emotional aspects motivating purchases as well as identifying the attributes of a successful experience that drive continued engagement, and conversely, what creates a poor experience that leads to lack of engagement.

The key is to know what matters to both customers and doctors. Brand managers and teams should ask themselves:

  • What is important to doctors?
  • What is important to patients? (Hint: experience)
  • What emotions motivate doctors and patients?

The emotional aspect of decision-making is not a new concept and in fact has long been a known key factor in how people make decisions. With the increased amount of specificity in targeting consumers and the growing adeptness of viewers (both doctors and patients alike), it is more true than ever that emotional creativity far outweighs rational messaging when it comes to influencing decisions.

  • Tim Pantello

    Tim Pantello is Managing Director of Digitas Health LifeBrands New York. As Managing Marketing Director, Tim’s experience has been instrumental in helping the agency become a leader in the creation of innovative programs that meet the diversity of needs present in the life sciences industry around the world.


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