Healthcare marketers need to educate, support female consumers: panel

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Lauren Weinberg
Lauren Weinberg

Healthcare marketers should prioritize educating and supporting female consumers, rather than just promoting their products or services to them, industry experts said June 1 at the “Health Styles of the 40-Everything Woman” panel in New York.

Deborah Radcliffe, team leader of consumer portfolio marketing at Pfizer, said healthcare brands need to “be more relatable” to consumers.

“As marketers, we tend to be comfortable in the world of pushing communication and being much more directive,” she said. However, she added that such a strategy is no longer “appropriate.”

The panel based its discussion on a study of the same name conducted by Yahoo and digital healthcare agency Digitas Health. More than 2,000 40-to-59-year-old women responded to the survey, which found that consumers in this demographic are seeking online healthcare communities that provide a variety of information and support. More than half (56%) of respondents said they look online for health information and support, and 43% turn to online communities as information sources.

Lauren Weinberg, senior director of strategic insights at Yahoo, said 40-to-59-year-old women are important to marketers because they “control 85% of household spending.”

Cassie Hallberg, group director at Johnson & Johnson, said her company has expanded its marketing to focus on education, in addition to product promotion, “because the educated consumer is going to be our absolute best customer.”

“Ten to 15 years ago, people were really just looking for expertise, but now they're looking for a wide variety of opinions to validate what they're thinking is,” she said. “So no longer is it good enough just to put out what a doctor says; now you need to put out [consumer testimonials] and really need to get a whole bunch of really diverse experts and really diverse opinions.”

However, because the Food & Drug Administration has yet to issue clear guidelines on healthcare companies' use of social media, many industry marketers are struggling to engage consumers through Facebook or Twitter, said Alexandra von Plato, EVP and chief creative officer at Digitas Health.

Instead of ignoring social media, she said healthcare brands should work to replicate their capabilities within regulatory boundaries.

“Anticipating the questions people have and creating content in a way that it can be distributed in a medically, legally approvable way across a number of platforms in an on-demand environment seems to be a surrogate for a full-on social dynamic,” von Plato said.

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