The most effective way to be disruptive in

today’s marketplace is to have the deepest possible

understanding of your consumers.

Have you ever been behind a focus group mirror watching a group of your customers, wanting to reach through the glass to educate them about your brand so they could better understand healthcare brand messaging and successfully choose your product or service? All the work you think you’re doing to develop the most compelling and differentiating brand proposition is falling terribly flat!

It has happened to all of us and, while it is a humbling and reflective experience, it reinforces a basic principle of brand messaging, communications, and breaking through the clutter. It’s not that customers don’t “get” or care about the message, it’s mainly that the content is not engaging or disruptive enough to rise to the top in their already multi-tasked lives. And this leads to the brand marketer’s next task.

We use the term disruptive as an adaptation of Clayton M. Christensen’s work— the message needs to create a new value proposition that disrupts current thinking or existing positioning.

Cost of Entry for Healthcare Brand Messaging Preference

There was a time when creating a brand proposition based on consumer needs and competitive gaps was enough to gain consumer preference. Today, however, being meaningful and relevant is the cost of entry for positioning your brand and generating interest from your audience.

To gain brand preference, or even acknowledgement, we have to be far more like-able and relevant than ever and reach consumers in new, immersive ways that present our brands as part of their lifestyle, not our selling cycles. And, it has to be done in new and engaging media that catch people on the run, at home, in the office, at the airport, in the grocery store, or in their neighbor’s kitchen.

Engaging and Disruptive Brand Messaging

There is a new healthcare activist emerging. One who is becoming increasingly well informed, exposed to an explosion of choices, digital channels, personalized treatments, technology-enabled self-care, and has an intense focus on the overall experience of the care. Trying to reach this new consumer with traditional methodologies is not only inefficient, but it can be a significant destructive force to your budget and branding platform.

The most effective way to be disruptive in today’s marketplace is to have the deepest possible understanding of your consumers: their passions, interests, habits, family profiles, and lifestyle preferences. You have to be sensory-driven as much as data-driven when it comes to knowing how to integrate your brand through touch, sound, sight, and even smell! Harvard researcher David Edwards has developed a scent-based messaging app called oNotes that can send aromatic messaging. Oscar Mayer developed an alarm clock app that actually emits the smell of bacon—now that’s disruptive!

With nearly 5,000-plus messages bombarding us every day, you have to be more than meaningful to break through. You have to be disruptive and speak to consumers in ways that not only get their attention, but engage them in every sense of the word.

As David Aaker shares in his book, Aaker on Branding, your brand needs to hit the “sweet spot” of your customer; the place that resides at the intersection of their interests and passions and your brand benefits.

Consumer Trends

The first place to look when considering your most disruptive messaging opportunities is the many trends and forces taking place in the lives of your customers today. How can you be disruptive if you don’t know what they’re buying, eating, reading, watching, feeling, afraid of, happy about? Look at some of the broad issues that are shaping how people live, shop, and work in America. These are where we need to meet our consumers to gain their attention and loyalty.

  • Families and households in the United States are changing. Consider that only 64 percent of children have two married parents today. Nearly three-quarters of mothers work outside the home; but note that the number of mothers who stay at home is up from 23 percent in 1999 to 29 percent in 2014. Only 51 percent of Americans are married—the fewest number of people in our history. More people are living together without getting married or for a long time before getting married. About one-third of men say they now have primary shopping responsibility in the household…what happened to women making all the household decisions?
  • There is a strong desire for products and services that multi-task with a focus on convenience and accessibility. Healthcare systems wanting to grow outside their local markets, will not only consider acquisition of medical groups and other facilities, but it’s absolutely imperative to have a mobile presence as well. Tele-health and health kiosks in malls, worksites, health clubs, and similar locations are sprouting up everywhere. Live video is another fast-rising area that will provide consumers with instant access to health professionals. Convenience is king for primary care. The Advisory Board suggests that consumers prioritize convenience over credentials and continuity of care.

Healthcare Is Getting Personal

Another inspiration for disruptive messaging strategies is the desire for personalization. People will respond to messages and products that are created specifically for them. Nike, for example, offers the opportunity to design your own shoes.

In healthcare, everything from your sun exposure to your heart rate to how many flights of stairs you climb every day is becoming highly personalized and gaining traction. Through wearables technologies, consumers are increasingly looking for more benefits that are both personal, measurable and specific to them. Today, there are approximately 15 million users of app-enabled mobile health and fitness devices. By 2018, this number is projected to reach 96 million. For wearable devices across all consumer segments, Morgan Stanley is predicting shipments of nearly 250 million by this same time. Now, that’s a lot of opportunity for disruption! Remember, you can customize a million applications but you can only personalize one.

Revolutionizing Your Brand

The journey of healthcare brand messaging has come a long way. Relevance and value are key mile markers, however, they are just at the starting line of your brand strategy. Healthcare brands will need to introduce new “ journeys” for their consumers to give them a sense of personal progress and engagement.

Also, how will your brand position itself in a disruptive and personalized way? What trends and technologies will you embrace or partner with to make the journey both fun and effective?

These are the questions healthcare marketers should be asking. As we shift from the age of differentiation to the age of disruption through to differentiation and personalization.

Paul A. Szablowski
Senior Vice President Communications & Image
Texas Health journeys
Arlington, TX

Rob Rosenberg
Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, Ltd
Arlington Heights, IL

This article originally appeared in the March/April edition of Spectrum. ©2015 by SHSMD.

Click here to learn more about Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy and healthcare brand messaging.

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