Due to liability and risk concerns, marketers in healthcare and life sciences have been largely sheltered from many of the trends shaking other industries to the core. However, this extra lead time is only increasing the pressure for change—with a superconvergence of powerful forces in science, business and technology pushing healthcare and life sciences marketing to the brink of disruption.
On the science front, innovations such as genetic mapping are enabling breakthrough medical techniques and treatments—including treatments personalized at the genotype level.
On the business and regulatory front, healthcare reform is constantly ratcheting up the focus on costs, reimbursements and patient outcomes. Real-world evidence is increasingly being leveraged to demonstrate value to payers and patients, improve differentiation and develop better therapies more quickly.
On the technology front, innovations such as embedded sensors and tracking/monitoring, big data, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and cloud-based health data—just to name a few—are starting to have the same kind of fundamental impact in healthcare and life sciences that digital is having in every other aspect of our lives. These innovations literally change how we live and work, creating new behaviors and expectations in a virtuous cycle that is both self-reinforcing and constantly rising.
The age of disruption
With this massive convergence, the days are gone when marketers in this sector could safely focus on mass media direct-to-consumer ad campaigns, marketing materials for healthcare providers and revenue maximization. Today, with the possibility of ubiquitous interconnectivity between patients and providers, marketing's new role is to create an effective, enduring and personalized health narrative that speaks directly to each customer's unique needs—delivered fluidly and seamlessly across a multiscreen, multidevice world.
This new role fundamentally changes the nature of healthcare and life sciences brands, giving rise to a new kind of marketing that is more value-based, data-driven and customer-centric than ever before.
- Value-based: In the coming years, companies are likely to succeed or fail based on how much they improve patient outcomes, not on how much they sell. Success will likely require major shifts in strategy, execution and measurement—including a focus on value that goes beyond the specific products and services a company offers. Marketers should figure out how to communicate their brand's value story to doctors and patients, instead of continuing the traditional approach of simply listing claims, benefits and risks.
- Data-driven: Many marketers are now saying that "data is the new creative"—meaning that data has become their main focus, just as big advertising campaigns used to be. With the rise of health sensing and other digital innovations, the exponential growth in data is sure to continue. Marketing can use sophisticated techniques such as patient analytics and predictive modeling to extract valuable insights from this vast and growing pool of data. It can also combine real-world data with economic outcomes and other factors to create measurable evidence that demonstrates a brand's value proposition to customers and payers.
- Customer experience-centric: Digital disruption is blurring the lines between business elements that used to be separate and distinct: Advertising and marketing. Sales. Products and services. Information systems. Customer service and support. All of these now comprise a single end-to-end entity known collectively as the "customer experience." From a marketing perspective, every point in the customer experience—whether learning about a product, thinking about the product or using the product—is a marketing moment that influences a customer's relationship with the brand. Because of this, all marketing activities need to be designed and built around the customer experience, using new engagement models and advanced segmentation to deliver treatments and marketing that are truly personalized.
Five essential capabilities for the future
Achieving this new vision for marketing will require a new set of capabilities, including:
1. Agility. Develop the ability to quickly build campaigns and other marketing deliverables through a series of sprints, measuring results on-the-fly and then immediately adapting and learning from the resulting insights. Marketing activities need to happen in a timeframe of days and weeks, not months and years.
2. Data intelligence. Harness advanced cognitive technologies and analytics to turn structured and unstructured data into valuable insights and meaningful results. As technology improves, collection and analysis of customer, media and campaign data will be increasingly algorithmic and automated.
3. Creative and applied design. Carefully and creatively design every aspect of the customer experience to maximize brand value and customer impact. The most powerful innovations occur at the intersection of what people want, what is technologically possible and what is viable from a business perspective.
4. Experience innovation. Use exponential technologies to deliver a compelling and differentiated customer experience. Embedded sensors, real-time diagnostics and pervasive health profiles enable patients and providers to see the world with unprecedented depth and clarity, while immersive displays and augmented/virtual reality enable experiences that stretch the imagination.
5. Superior ecosystem. Encourage new ways of collaborating with partners, including new methods of sharing data, to create unique and compelling solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts. Companies today don't compete individually but as part of an ecosystem of vendors, customers, suppliers, partners and service providers—all working together to innovate and co-design a high-quality customer experience.
Ready or not, here it comes
Given the powerful forces and trends that are converging in healthcare and life sciences, disruption seems inevitable. And when it ultimately hits, the impact will likely be so massive and swift that there won't be time to catch up. If a company, its brands and its ecosystem aren't near the front of the pack, they will likely be left behind. Are you ready?
About the Author
Larry Mickelberg leads agency and marketing innovation for life sciences and healthcare at Deloitte Digital, where he helps clients tackle marketing and communications transformation for health and medicine. Follow him on Twitter: @mickelberg