Health care has always been … a bit dull. At least compared to other categories like cars, cosmetics and sports apparel. But since the pandemic, health care is having its “moment.” Is it time to make health care cool?
Don’t roll your eyes just yet. There’s a business case to be made for repositioning and rebranding hospitals and medical organizations with a bit more “cool” vibe. After all, most people think of hospitals as the place you go when you have to. There’s more to health care than hospitals. But it’s hospitals that most consumers tend to think of first when they think of “health care.”
And that’s one of the reasons many health brands have struggled to gain traction on social media. Look at the competition for attention! You’ve got celebrities, silly cat videos and posh resort photos. Then you’ve got health care: white coats, masks, and exam rooms that had their last makeover circa 1985.
Health care marketers: we’re playing with a losing hand. We must rally together.
We must make health care cool.
I’m not talking slick—unless your brand is a futuristic wearable that benefits from slick.
When I talk about making health care “cool,” I’m talking about making health care more down to earth. More relatable.
In other words: make health care a topic worth engaging in and sharing.
It’s possible. And there’s ROI in making health care cool.
Recently, Hailey Sault began working with Titanium Healthcare, an innovative company that provides post-acute care, primary care, and care coordination in California and Washington State. Tor Miller, Titanium’s Chief Marketing Officer, was the one who turned me on to the notion of “Making health care cool.”
Tor spent her formative design years in England, designing and developing brands for notably “cool” brands in categories that naturally lend themselves to a sleek and “cool” aesthetic.
But when Tor began designing Titanium’s brand, she knew early on she wanted to avoid the cliche marketing, branding and design aesthetic of traditional health care branding.
“I didn’t want the warm and fuzzy photographs of grandma baking cookies for grandkids,” said Tor. “I wanted images of real life. Our patients often live in urban areas … Many of them are economically- and housing-insecure … Many are living with multiple disease conditions. Our images needed to have a grittiness and depth to them because that reflects our clients and their lives.”
What about your health audiences? Are their lives fairy tales? Should your imagery and messages be aligned with your patients’ real lives?
To entice busy moms and dads to return for care, we developed a series of relatable :15 spots encouraging people to find time for care.
It’s understandable why the default brand and marketing approach to health care is vanilla.
Health care is highly regulated.
Health care is risk-averse.
Health care is data-driven.
But the heart of health care—including product brands—is people. When you strip humanity out of health care branding, all you’re left with is data. Data is rational. Rational doesn’t sell.
So make health care cool if you want prospective patients to tune in.
Make health care cool if you want people to talk about your services.
Make health care cool if you want people to engage your brand.
Making health care cool means making marketing relatable. You want your audiences to see your branding and say, “Oh, this health care brand gets me.” You can achieve this connection by sharing relatable content that resonates with what is going on in your audience’s lives.
Making health care cool also means making our marketing meet our audiences more than halfway. Nobody looks forward to a colonoscopy or mammography. So why not be a bit more playful in how you market screenings? (Trust me: the average adult knows the health value of annual screenings and check-ups. You might very well boost your appointments if your outreach was a bit friendlier … even playful.)
Making health care cool also means stripping away health care jargon. Most people tune out of health care marketing because it’s confusing. Let’s simplify the health care conversation with our audiences—most of whom are not medical professionals.
Making health care cool also means being honest and straightforward. Distrust in brands, media companies and the government is at an all-time low—except for doctors and the health brands who recognized early on that people wanted trusted sources of health information, and provided it. Those brands found increased trust and loyalty with their audiences. In times of crisis, people seek leaders: and one of the keys to being a great leader is engaging in straight talk with others.
For CHI Memorial, we helped motivate people to take small steps to improve their health. Over 10,000 people clicked to find a doctor after engaging with the campaign.
HEALTH CARE IS HAVING ITS MOMENT
If there’s an upside to the pandemic, it’s that people are engaging with health brands like never before. Research suggests health app downloads increased 25% during the pandemic. Virologists and public health experts have become talk show stars. “Trust the Science” has become a maxim. People who have never studied data tables now pore over the NYT’s newest report on the Delta variants. People don’t just tell their friends they got vaccinated: they also have to mention the brand name!
Hailey Sault’s consumer sentiment tracking studies have consistently shown that health audiences want to engage with their providers and health care organizations like never before.
Suddenly, health care is cool.
Are you leveraging this moment for your health brand and engaging your audiences in new—and dare I say, “cooler” ways?
Engage people who have never engaged health care organizations—but are now tuned in to their own health like never before.
Engage people to take simple steps to improve their health—like scheduling that long overdue doctor’s appointment or purchase a health tracking wearable.
Engage people to apply that same rigor and proactive defense against COVID-19 to other diseases, which are as deadly and which they are at risk of developing: like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Your health brand might not be Titanium Healthcare’s gritty, urban brand aesthetic. That might not be your health care organization’s application of “cool.”
But the core principle of making health care cool applies: make your messages relatable, accessible, and honest. Find your brand’s own unique way to encourage conversations and engagement among your health audiences.
Your marketing will be better off for it—along with the results you generate.
And that’s pretty cool.