The topic of health is like the hottest new restaurant: Everyone wants in. In the U.S., we are beginning to see a fundamental shift in consumer health as doctor visits continue to decrease, while self treatment is on the rise. In addition, everyone seems to be getting into the health and wellness game. You may ask yourself why this is happening? There are a few key trends that are making health en vogue.
First, drug manufacturers have lost control. Once upon a time, before the advent of DTC advertising and web properties like Medscape, HealthLine, and Physicians Online, there was one way for physicians and consumers to receive drug/treatment information. They had to get information directly from pharmaceutical companies via the sales force. When I was young and became ill, my mom immediately called the doctor; it was one of the only places she could go for healthcare information, besides calling a neighbor or leafing through an encyclopedia. Product manufacturers had the control, could monitor the message, and engage in a one-way dialog with physicians.
Today, the control is in the hand of our customers. Both healthcare providers and consumers have numerous places to obtain health and wellness information. The magnitude of information out there today is overwhelming. For example, there are over 12.7 million search results on Google for the phrase “sore throat” and over 11.3 million for the phrase “advanced breast cancer treatments.”
To say our customers are in control is a complete understatement. This places the emphasis on understanding where our customers (both consumer and HCP) get their information, how they digest that information, what voice do they want that information in as the number one priority. In years past, marketers started with developing their messages: what do we want to say to them. Today, we need to place media behavior and customer insights first. Meaning, where, when, how, and if they want to hear from us.
Secondly, we are moving from a culture of prognosis to progression. Historically we sat around and waited until we got sick or felt something wrong before we did anything about it. It was all about getting a diagnosis from the doctor and taking a pill, undergoing a therapy and praying for the best.
Today the movement is towards wellness, which is all about progression not a prognosis. On the good side, we are seeing marketers begin to combine selling the product along with services to help patients become well and stay well. On the flip side, we are seeing an influx of players into the health and wellness space. It is no longer solely about OTC and pharma brands; the automotive industry is getting healthy by developing ad campaigns supporting cancer. Technology companies are entering the quantified self business, helping us track our sleep, steps, calories, weight.
This should make you rethink your competition. Yes, you have traditional health brands with whom you are directly competing for market share. However, it is critical to understand who else you are competing with for attention, air time, and mind time with your desired customers.
Last, the need for a content cleanse is critical. Marketers and publishers have spent the past 15 years developing content that meets their needs. Most have focused on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment information. This is where we once thought the dollars and opportunity would be found. This is when we lived in an era of prognosis and prescriptions.
There have been amazing advances in medicine. An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, and patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis are living better lives. We need to develop new content that meets the needs of today’s customer. Sure, there is still a need for disease state 101 content. However, the critical need is around creating content for all the wonderful people that want to forget they are sick, and want to simply live.