Once again, the Consumer Electronics Show has gathered together another bumper crop of high-tech wizardry. With over 4,000 registered exhibitors, the competition to get noticed over the three days of the show was intense. One big standout was the Oculus Rift headset that raised the experience of reality in Virtual Reality by several notches. Also turning heads, literally, was Samsung’s 105” bendable TV that stretched screen technology into new areas. For more physically active tech aficionados there was Cambridge Consultants’ Xelfex fitness shirt with optical fibers woven into the fabric, making it possible to model the wearer’s movements on a computer screen – ideal for sports training.
A lot of the innovation at the 2015 CES straddled the boundary between fitness and health care, which is becoming a dark horse category at the show. It even has its own summit. In the fitness/health space, wearables garnered much of the attention. Alongside a whole raft of wrist-worn kit – although not the Apple Watch, which wasn’t there – were wearables for other parts of the body, such as Intel’s Smart Earbuds that track health metrics without needing a battery. In the growing category of stickables was the Ampstrip from Fitlinxx with a heart rate and heart rate variability sensor, skin temperature sensor, step tracker and sleep tracker all packed into a sticker the size and shape of a Band-Aid.
In a very practical sense, the tech industry has proved to be ahead of medicine as it applies its experience gained in fitness tracking devices to health tracking technology. After all, fitness is a key element in preventive and rehabilitative health care. The same sort of metrics that fire up the motivation of fitness fans (e.g., steps taken per day, step cadence, heart rate) can also help health care professionals monitor the condition of their patients — and detect problems before they become medical emergencies. And just as wearable fitness devices are increasingly being taken up by consumers at large (a year-on-year increase of 61% is forecast for 2015), so it seems people are keen on using wearables for serious health tracking too: according to a poll conducted by Harris, 56% of Americans want to have some key health metrics monitored automatically and sent to their doctor.
Looking beyond wearables, developments in 3D printing offered scope for everything from printing medical devices to artificial organs and prosthetics. The CES 2015 Digital Health Summit participants tipped nanotechnology for precision-targeted pharmaceuticals and cancer-detection. And as wearables generate ever-growing quantities of data, smart visualization was seen as essential for turning the numbers into meaningful patterns that patients can understand.
Each of the products and technologies on show has its own need for marketing as it’s normally conceived, in the grand tradition of Madison Avenue. But taken together, all these technology developments also present limitless opportunities for the emerging new branch of health care marketing.
Beyond the technology to the service experience
For our purposes the sort of technologies showcased at CES represent a cross between a tool kit and a parts store. Any of them could represent potential building blocks for the new platforms that we are creating for our clients and their end users.
Broadly speaking, tech companies create health care value by developing technology rooted in the fields where they have their expertise: materials, data analysis, signals processing, motion tracking, imaging or whatever it may be. They create products that can carry out specific functions then figure out how to apply the products to something that consumers or health care end users might need.
Smart marketers start with the other end of the equation. We create value by focusing on the experience of end users – patients and health care providers. In traditional marketing this involved seeking ways to tell end users about clients’ products. Increasingly, end users don’t want to be told anything unless they ask for it, and who can blame them?
They are constantly bombarded with messaging, to the extent where they ignore the vast majority of it. Instead we bring health brands to life by creating valuable experiences for end users. We integrate the brands them into personal product and service platforms that enhance end users’ lives. This approach offers vastly more scope for us to create health care value rather than annoyance. And with each passing CES the scope grows bigger. Here’s to CES 2016.