2017 Trends: Healthification

Consumer brands are tackling healthcare – how can the industry adjust?

By Ashley Merchant • November 4, 2016

Target, Apple, and Nike.

We’re all familiar with this consumer-friendly trio and can likely speak to how each company has enhanced our daily lives. In fact, it’s hard to remember life before these companies existed – from using your iPhone to check email, make a phone call, or do practically anything; to picking up paper towels, groceries, and buying way more than you planned – look at that lamp! I need those shoes! – from Target.

These three distinct and well-known brands might be known for their consumer-centric approach and knack for creating experiential initiatives, but they have something else in common. They’re also all in the healthcare business. That’s right. They – along with dozens of other companies and corporations – have identified industry adjacent opportunities to expand their footprint through new care delivery initiatives, health tools, and technology solutions that serve as extensions of their current business model and an added opportunity to boost their bottom line.

Healthification of Non-Healthcare Brands

This is a trend that’s clearly on the rise and having a dramatic impact on healthcare. Target has expanded its role in consumer health by adding clinical-level capabilities inside its stores to appeal to time-strapped shoppers who want to buy toiletries, shop for holiday decorations, and get a flu shot in one convenient location.

Apple’s continued revolution of how we interact with others now extends to our engagement with our own health through its enhanced health software application, which supports a user’s ability to track health-related goals. And just last year, Nike dipped its beloved sneakers into the mobile health pool by creating a new fitness tracking system designed with an added gamification layer to create communities and drive conversations and competition.

What does this mean for traditional healthcare companies?

You’re now competing with savvy brands that have seemingly mastered the art of consumer marketing with an uncanny ability to become embedded in their day-to-day lives. This should be especially concerning for hospitals, which don’t have established brand equity and aren’t currently top of mind for many consumers. In fact, according to the National Research Corporation’s (NRC) MARKET INSIGHTS study, three in five consumers in the average market feel a lack of familiarity with their local hospitals.

So, what’s a traditional healthcare provider or company to do in this new era of the healthification of non-healthcare brands?

It could be tempting to shift the way you market or represent your company or its product offering to compete. However, a brand is not simply what you say about your organization. According to Marty Neumeier, author of “The Brand Gap,” a brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.” Simply saying something about your organization doesn’t make it inherently true, especially in the eyes of consumers.

Consider these insights as you evaluate your place among – and identify how to compete with – these emerging peers and competitors in the healthcare ecosystem:

Create an experience – and map it. Healthcare has long been largely focused on reactionary treatment or service delivery, instead of anticipating needs and creating an experience that’s linked. Leverage data and consumer insights or feedback to better understand trends among your user base. This will enable journey-mapping exercises to identify how individuals flow through your organization or use your product or service, and ultimately, help you uncover the touch points that will help improve or enhance the consumer’s experience and establish a relationship, as opposed to a transaction. According to the NRC’s MARKET INSIGHTS study, consumers are seeking a true one-to-one relationship with brands.

Innovate and collaborate. It’s important to look beyond your own four walls to assess how you can find an innovative way to reach consumers. Healthcare organizations are uncovering new ways to collaborate with well-known brands like Walgreens to assist in this effort. Partnerships like these can also enhance and raise awareness of both brands through co-marketing initiatives that reach different stakeholder groups.

Build a community of champions and galvanize them. One of the key differentiators of the consumer powerhouse trio – Target, Apple, and Nike – is that they have uncovered and rallied their supporter community to their benefit. With more and more consumers seeking outside opinion from family members, friends, colleagues, and even online rankings before they make a purchasing decision, it’s important for brands to create and maximize the voice of its champions. This can be accomplished through a number of marketing initiatives, including digital tools, user experience conferences, or online forums.

Don’t want to be overshadowed by new market entrants in healthcare? In 2017, take note of how your brand currently interacts with, treats, and leverages your own user base – then, compare it to a beloved non-healthcare brand’s marketing initiatives and overall experience. Can you compete?

  • Ashley Merchant

    Ashley Merchant

    Ashley specializes in developing savvy media and social media strategies that help reach – and influence – key decision-makers within hospitals and health systems across the country. Throughout her career, Ashley has managed public relations efforts for a variety of consumer, health, business, and nonprofit accounts. Her skills include internal and external communication strategy development, PR and marketing material creation, community relations coordination, and management of traditional media and social media efforts.

    More about Ashley »
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