The pandemic thrust the healthcare industry into the spotlight and fundamentally changed the way business is conducted, how marketers build connections with stakeholders, and the expectations that stakeholders have of brands. Looking ahead in 2022, healthcare marketers should pause to reflect on key learnings from the pandemic to assess the opportunities made possible. Jack Morton’s vice-president and strategy director Jimmy Doucette, with editorial input from vice-president of growth and partnerships Nigel Downer, looks into the evolution of the industry.
What can we expect to see from the world of healthcare brand experience marketing in 2022?
As healthcare brands continue to grow, they should prioritize keeping patients, healthcare professionals (HCPs) and their own employees informed and supported. Last year alone, the FDA approved 61 new products in 2021, and the demand from consumers to receive experiences across virtual and hybrid formats is increasing.
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies including Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and Regeneron are becoming household names for the first time ever, meaning that brands can work to define themselves among their consumers and focus on dispelling widespread medical misinformation.
Healthcare companies are embracing social channels, coveted by the accelerated need for brands to reach their core HCP audience and address their growing consumer audience, which emerged when conferences and live events were on hold.
Agencies and brands alike have been emboldened by this agile way of working and are ready to redefine the way people think about healthcare. Here’s how they can continue to adopt this approach:
1. Humanity at the helm
The pandemic has accelerated the humanization of healthcare. We’re entering a new era for healthcare where patients sit at the forefront. Everybody has been impacted by the pandemic, and this coupled with the connectivity and empathy of younger generations – who are making healthier decisions – has contributed to an intensified focus on prevention, education and caretakers.
Traditional healthcare marketing doesn’t cut though the noise. HCPs are more time-crunched, and patients and caregivers are increasingly turning to unreliable channels for health information. Patients and HCPs need to be moved from inertia to action, and brands can be used to do this.
2. The responsibility of public spotlight
Consumer appetite for receiving health information is at its peak, but often the public doesn’t fully understand this information. A consumer knowledge gap issue has plagued healthcare for years, and it needs to be resolved.
In 2022, marketers need to consciously create post-pandemic innovative moments. Healthcare brands can show up in new public spaces to fundamentally change how consumers think about healthcare brand experiences. They will need to ensure that their content is accessible and understandable to new audiences. Large-scale, experience-focused efforts are likely to be used to explain advances in healthcare and health tech.
3. Health tech is the new high-tech
There will be a continuation of investment in mental health, behavioral sciences and connected health tech in 2022 and beyond, as the sector becomes more personalized and connected to HCPs and health institutions. That investment directly links to the pandemic, which resulted in more people wanting to take better care of themselves and use technology to do that.
To drive further uptake in consumer health tech, health companies must act more like technology companies. The tone and tenor of healthcare marketing will need to change in 2022. Health tech may be the new high-tech, but winning brands need to strike a balance between technology, science, health literacy and empathy to meaningfully connect with their audiences.
4. Changing channels
Compliance teams have seen how digital, virtual, social and on-demand channels can be used compliantly, and the impact they have on evolving guidance frameworks. Last year, science company Merck partnered with social gaming platform Twitch to promote multiple sclerosis awareness through an eight-hour livestreamed gaming event on World MS Day, bringing MS experts together with a selection of Twitch’s top pro gamers.
As compliance teams are becoming more open to new ideas and thinking, while HCP audiences crave new things, now is the time for marketers to push the envelope.
5. Content for younger demographics
How we consume content has changed in our daily lives. Across all audiences, people now prefer bite-sized, experiential and passive content. This is especially true of younger generations, who are being recruited to join the healthcare workforce to meet demand as the existing workforce ages out.
The HCP workforce will see a major shift in demographics as a significant number of HCPs approach retirement age. More than 40% of active physicians in the United States will be 65 or older within the next decade. And the average age of registered nurses was 52 years in 2020, with nurses aged 65 or older accounting for 19% of the RN workforce, comprising the largest age category in the profession. Making matters worse, more than 20% of all nurses plan to retire by 2025.
Healthcare influencers have generated content on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. And while that type of content can be hard to pull through to external healthcare engagements – because headlines quickly become pages of dense compliance, safety and sourced information – it’s evident that HCPs are made up of younger generations that want to consume content like they do elsewhere.
This year, healthcare brands will combine new and old ways of communicating. Healthcare marketers need to sustain innovation and not revert to old habits. Now is the time to engage your innovation partners and reimagine how you connect to your most important audiences. Healthcare brands should be proactively exploring new ideas to remain competent in a new world of changing expectations to win over people and businesses.
Brands that embrace the evolution of innovative experiences will lead growth in this new era of experiential healthcare marketing.