Interactive healthcare marketing innovationA few years ago, a barrister told me a story about an open-and-shut court case involving a burglar caught red-handed by police as he was carrying a television through the window of a house he'd just broken into. After the evidence had been presented, the jury made a request – would the prosecution present the forensic evidence they'd taken from the scene tying the burglar to the crime? "It's the CSI effect," the barrister lamented. You see, the general populace has watched a lot of crime shows on TV and now think they're experts in how and when legal evidence should be gathered and presented. 

When it comes to health and well-being, there's something even bigger than a top-rated TV show influencing consumers – the Google effect. We all turn to the Web at the first sign of a cough and are happily diagnosing or researching our ailments daily. There's even a word for people who diagnose themselves mistakenly from the Web: "cyberchondriacs."

As the classic connected "Gen Xer," I'm constantly Googling symptoms and cures when I'm unwell. So despite my previously limited knowledge of marketing healthcare, I sought to answer these questions: Just how big is the digital opportunity for healthcare brands, and what are brands doing to take advantage?

The research showed what you'd expect. Opportunity = huge, execution = limited. Healthcare brands across pharma, medical devices, over-the-counter (OTC), and consumer health are spending conservatively (compared to both offline marketing and other industry sectors, such as financial services). We also picked up that there was a frustration in the lack of innovation taking place.

What do I mean by innovation? It's not about jumping on the latest social media platform (*cough* Pinterest *cough*) but, as one interactive health marketer I spoke to described it, innovation is really about relevancy – understanding customers and servicing them in ways that suit them. For today's customer, more and more, that means that customers need to be serviced with smart use of digital technologies and marketing practices.

One outstanding example we use in the report is a brand re-evaluating its classic search campaign. Product promotion was mapped to the wrong patient life-cycle phase. The brand was buying search ads and optimizing content educating customers on the illness. Evaluating customer behavior showed that consumers already relied on high-quality free information available online that the brand was wasting spend on competing with. What the consumer really needed to convert to a customer was to be able to locate a retailer easily while out and about on a mobile phone. The brand optimized mobile search to drive sales and saw a much better ROI.

As more customers, both consumer and professional, turn to the Web for health products and services, it makes sense that this is where brands in this space must follow.

What's stopping them? Yeah, regulations for pharma/medical/OTC can be a barrier, but as one leading agency told us, "There’s almost nothing that pharma and healthcare can’t do; there’s just additional considerations and planning.” 

My new report, "Innovate Interactive Healthcare Marketing Without Rocking The Boat," addresses interactive healthcare marketing in four ways;

  1. Provides research into the digital opportunity for health and wellness and some benchmarks on customer behavior and industry spend
  2. Clearly pinpoints the barriers (beyond the obvious) so that organizations can look at where and how they need to problem solve
  3. Recommends the three values healthcare needs to adopt today to activate innovation within their organization's interactive marketing
  4. Provides a process and planning framework that digital marketers in this industry can use to develop their campaign strategies (we've even made this a downloadable planning matrix for you to use or adapt)

As always, a lot of the credit goes to those already innovating in the healthcare industry today who were willing to share their thoughts, learnings, ideas, and experiences. A big thank-you to those who contributed to the report: Across Health, British Medical Association, Cambridge BioMarketing, Digitas Health, Edelman Digital Health, GSW, Novartis, and Philips Healthcare.

Although I'm not currently researching on this topic, I'd still be keen to talk to others innovating in this space, as I'm collecting case studies. Just contact the briefings team.

[Image credit: aeu04117]