In the digital age, storytelling matters. Even for what could easily be a more analytical, information-forward genre like medical marketing. Your website is no longer just a portal for patients to find your address or look up a doctor. It needs to tell your story, share your practice values, and feel humanized and real.
What is medical marketing?
As with other industries, the goal of medical marketing is to market the brand effectively to the public––in this case, anything to do with the medical field. Doing this usually involves “integration of the traditional marketing field with public health research, theory and practice.” Depending on the type of company or product you’re marketing in this field, the subject matter can be complicated to convey to a larger audience. Medical marketing in the digital age can be difficult also with the Your Money or Your Life restrictions on SEO and Google, which hold pages in this field to “higher page quality.”
Traditionally, this sector of marketing “relies heavily on old-school tactics like referrals and TV advertising.” But, in 2020, those old school ways have less of an impact and get lost in the noise of other ads online. A Salesforce blog points out that medical marketing needs to have a fresh approach with digital marketing and well-rounded customer experience.
Today’s medical marketing is about much more than the types of services offered or how the brand can make users healthier. It’s about being human, “concise but comprehensive,” and creating relationships.
More stories, fewer stats
So, how is that done? Simple. With storytelling.
This doesn’t mean your brand site begins with once upon a time and takes a tangent into unrelated information and stories. The medical field is multidisciplinary, which means its marketing needs to be as well.
Imagine that you own a medical supply company that targets both organizations and individual consumers. Your subject is specialized and your marketing materials might not be something a consumer would choose to read while drinking their morning coffee.
But dig a little deeper into your brand. What’s the point of your products? Who is your audience? And how are the products used? The story behind the materials is where you should focus here. Medical supplies can empower people to take charge of their health. It’s not just a blood pressure monitor; it’s making sure you walk your daughter down the aisle. And it’s not just a glucose monitor; it’s not letting your diagnosis be a life sentence.
Medical marketing today requires extra thought and finesse. “The best marketers, like the best healthcare providers, understand human needs and respond to them accordingly,” which means telling your story well. Storytelling works because it:
Consumers mostly remember how an ad made them feel, not the statistics thrown onto the screen. Did it make them laugh? Cry? Shout in frustration? Although the aim here is to create a positive impact on your medical marketing, that doesn’t mean the emotion has to always be positive. When using storytelling to sell your brand, it “evokes an emotional response––and strong emotions are scientifically proven to improve memory.”
Differentiates your brand
One of the goals of branding is to be different. No (good) marketer sets out to do what’s been done before. You should always be pushing the boundaries and making new connections with timeless concepts. Medical brands can easily take an analytical approach to marketing where they showcase what they offer, what makes them better, and other facts that fail to get to the heart of their brand. Storytelling “offers a ‘why,’ communicating your values, your history, your identity, and your goals for the future.”
Focuses on solutions
Preventative healthcare has been a hot topic lately as it focuses on addressing health issues before they become serious. Solution marketing is the opposite of problem- and pain-based stories. Whereas problem stories “illustrate what might happen if a patient doesn’t take action,” solution stories are powerful reasons why taking action will help. Avoiding fear-mongering in your marketing can go a long way. You can understand your patient’s vulnerabilities without exploiting them.
Storytelling lets consumers know that they are seen as humans and will be cared for. Whether you are marketing for a healthcare practice, a medical device, or a telehealth company, your job is to understand your consumer’s needs. “When patients can relate to their doctors on a personal level, they’re much more likely to stay loyal,” and the same thing goes for relating to a brand.
Telling a great brand story isn’t always easy. You have to understand your consumers on a deeper level and make your marketing authentic. Storyteller Seth Godin outlines the essentials of a great story: they are true, make a promise, are trusted, are subtle, happen fast, appeal to other senses besides logic, focus on a specific audience, don’t contradict themselves, and agree with our world view.
The bottom line: medical marketing centers around patient care. Patients are not just the numbers and diagnoses on a form. They’re living, breathing humans with a full spectrum of emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Speak to them.
Don’t lose focus
Don’t get us wrong, keywords and word count (among other things) are important for SEO. And SEO is important for your brand. But don’t let the optimization details muddle your story and erase the human element in your work. Craft your brand story (with optimization in mind, that’s okay!) and tell it well.
How to keep your brand human
Besides storytelling, there are a few other strategies for making your medical marketing more human. “On average, it takes a minimum of 6-7 brand touches for someone to remember your brand,” so every word matters. In the age of digital distraction, human brands have the unique ability to fight through the noise and be heard. So what are some qualities of a humanized brand? Brands that care about humans, talk like humans, have personality, know their audience, and evolve are displaying humanized and empathetic qualities. What else can brands do to be more human?
Show customer appreciation
Your brand is only as strong as your most loyal customer. A personalized welcome or thank you letter (or email), a note upon purchase, or a piece of company swag can go a long way and “turn those customers into brand ambassadors.” Whatever your choice, make it authentic to your brand and make your customers feel heard and appreciated. In this same vein, make sure your customer service department is top-notch and memorable. Remember, they are literally the human face (or voice) or a medical office or brand.
Apologize when you need to
Human brands make human mistakes. That’s okay as long as you own up to them in a timely, authentic way. Whether you shared an inappropriate meme or were tone-deaf with a recent ad, your brand should “acknowledge its failings.”
Showcase your relatability
Sure, you can do this with a well-placed social ad, but don’t forget about the people in your organization. The team page on your website is a great place to show the “relatable, funny, intelligent individuals who are there to help.” This page is one of many where you can add in relatability and humanity to what could otherwise be a complicated message.
Personality and Personalization
There are countless ways brands can add in more personality and personalization. You can achieve personality through humor, blog posts, or social media messaging. Your tone, word choice, humor, and emotion are all necessary ingredients when concocting a brand. In medical marketing, personality can fall to the wayside, but don’t let it happen. Personalization simply takes your brand tone and speaks to individual users. Maybe that’s with your welcome letters, automated marketing, or your eNews.
A simple rule of thumb when trying to be human is to be true to your brand. Be mindful of the type of company and product you have and who is in your target audience. But also know that your consumers “can tell when you’re trying too hard to sound smart, and they’re not interested in your fancy jargon.”
Top pieces of medical marketing
Keeping your brand human with the above elements is not an exact science, but it does create synergy when done right. Our favorite pieces of medical marketing keep their brands human by connecting with consumers on a deeper level.
Kaiser Permanente’s Thrive
There’s a reason Kaier’s Thrive campaign is often used as a case study for medical marketing done right. It’s impactful, human, raw, and inspiring. Using research that showed people “didn’t care much for health care, they cared a whole lot about health,” they began speaking to the patient’s emotions, life goals, happiness, and total wellness. Their “rallying cry,” Thrive, carried forward the campaign and reinvented the health care language. Suddenly, it was about living well and thriving, making sure people felt cared for, and empowered. They flipped the industry on its head with one little word with a big impact.
Dignity Health’s Humankindness
Dignity Health began as Catholic Healthcare West before rebranding to be more inclusive in the early 2010s. Their Hello Humankindness campaign focused on patient care and happiness as a way to speed up healing and create total wellness. The campaign put it this way: “For all the negativity, disease, and toxicity in our lives, we have a very real and very powerful tool against it. We call it humankindness.” Like Kaiser, Dignity took basic healthcare a step further, and their medical marketing goal was to empower their patients and spread kindness.
United Healthcare’s We Dare You
United Healthcare’s interactive campaign focused on healthier habits. Their promoted dares, quizzes, and prizes “worked on encouraging their followers to make one small healthy change per month and document it on social media.” Not only did the campaign create awareness, but it also promoted a healthier lifestyle in a fun, on-brand way.
Lumosity’s brain-teasing ads
Lumosity creates games that train your brain for healthier habits and better memory. The company added 10-minute games onto their Facebook ads as “an effective tool to engage with their followers” and as a literal brain break from the scrolling. The successful campaign helped to further the app’s mission of engaging and challenging people.
Your medical marketing may look different than the above, or be very similar. But whether you are working in-house or through an agency for a company in the health and medical field, it should be your main goal to create an emotionally relevant, human brand. When you utilize emotions, tell stories, connect with your users, and go beyond the statistics, you can create meaningful work with a lasting impact.