The New Era of Experiential in Healthcare

Jack Health Blog

March 7th, 2022 By Jimmy Doucette

Five Trends That Will Drive Innovation in Healthcare Brand Experiences in 2022 

experiential healthcare marketing

Over the past two years, the pandemic has thrust the healthcare industry into the spotlight and fundamentally changed the way we do business, the way marketers help build connections with stakeholders, and the expectations those stakeholders have of your brand. As we forge ahead in 2022, healthcare marketers should pause to reflect on key learnings from the pandemic, as well as the opportunities created.

For healthcare brands to continue to drive growth, they must ensure that patients, healthcare professionals (HCPs), and their own employees feel informed and supported. The FDA approved 61 new products in 2021, and the experiences that are delivered to those audiences in 2022 – both virtual and hybrid – will be an essential element of their success.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies like Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and Regeneron have become household names for the first time, affording them the opportunity to define their brand in the consumer world, while also forcing them to battle widespread misinformation.

Healthcare companies continue to embrace social channels, with the uptick accelerated by the need for brands to reach their core HCP audience – and address their growing consumer audience – when conferences and live events were on hold.

So, what can we expect to see from the world of healthcare brand experience marketing to address these needs in 2022? Agencies and brands alike have been emboldened by the agile work and innovative thinking born out of the pandemic and are ready to redefine the way people think about healthcare – here’s how:

  1. Humanity at the helm

The pandemic did not initiate the humanization of healthcare, but it has accelerated it. It is a new era for healthcare, and the human side of healthcare is in the driver’s seat. Everybody has a story of pandemic impact. And this, coupled with more connected and empathetic younger generations making more health decisions, has created an intensified focus on prevention, education, caretakers, and the impact each have. Against this backdrop, patients, HCPs, and employees crave real, human connection more than ever.

Traditional healthcare marketing is simply no longer enough to cut though the noise when HCPs are even more time crunched, and patients and caregivers are increasingly turning to unreliable channels for health information. To make human connections that move patients and HCPs from inertia to action, brands need to lean into the experience channel because it gives audiences a chance to see what a brand can do vs what they can say. The content that used to make up an ad, for example, can now live as an interactive installation, driving the audience to engage and share. As marketers, we must amplify personal, emotional, and shareable experiences that consumers can use as part of their own stories.

  1. The responsibility of public spotlight

The public spotlight is shining on healthcare brands like never before. Appetite for and access to health information is at its peak. Whether it’s data collected by a wearable device or a coronavirus mechanism of action on the Today Show, health information has taken center stage. But while appetite and access have increased, the ability for the public to understand the information has not. This has only amplified the consumer knowledge gap issue that has plagued healthcare for years.

In 2022, we must consciously create the post-pandemic innovation moments we’ve been waiting for. Innovative healthcare brands are going to start showing up in new public spaces and fundamentally change the way we (as consumers) think about healthcare brand experiences. The key to entering these new spaces will be ensuring that content is both accessible and understandable to the new audiences healthcare brands want to reach. Expect large-scale, experience-focused efforts that will explain how recent advances in healthcare and health tech can be used to make profound impact.

  1. Health tech is the new high tech

Massive investment in mental health, behavioral sciences, and connected health tech will continue in 2022 and beyond, as healthcare continues to become both more personalized (to the individual) and connected (to HCPs and health institutions). That investment in mental health and health tech are directly linked to the past two pandemic years with a lot of people wanting to take better care of themselves. They’re eager to use technology to help in doing that.

To drive further uptake in consumer health tech, digital therapeutics, and innovate medicine delivery, health companies must act more like technology companies. The tone and tenor of healthcare marketing will need to change in 2022. Health-tech may be the new high-tech, but winning brands must strike the right balance between technology, science, health literacy, and empathy to meaningfully connect with their key audiences.

  1. Changing channels

Compliance teams, while still rigorous, have seen how digital, virtual, social and on-demand channels can be used compliantly, and have evolved guidance frameworks to allow them. Last year, Merck partnered with social gaming platform Twitch to promote multiple sclerosis awareness through an eight-hour live-streamed gaming event, bringing MS experts, with backgrounds in medical science, patient support and lived experience, together with a hand-picked selection of Twitch’s top pro-gamers on World MS Day. In the same vein, over the past two years, Pfizer has launched not one, but five different podcasts to educate patients and the public.

Now’s the time – when compliance teams are open to new ideas and thinking and our HCP audiences are craving new things – to push the envelope. Expect to see braver, more innovative, and more inspired external work being deployed by healthcare companies across both new and existing channels.

  1. Content for younger demographics

The way we consume content has changed in our everyday lives. Across all audiences, people now prefer bite-sized, experiential, and passive content, for example TED talks and podcasts from industry experts. This is especially true of younger generations, who will need to join the healthcare workforce in droves to meet demand as the existing workforce ages out.

The HCP work force is about to see a major shift in demographics with a significant number of HCPs approaching retirement age. More than 40% of active physicians in the United States will be 65 or older within the next decade. The median age of registered nurses was 52 years in 2020, with nurses aged 65 years or older accounting for 19.0% of the RN workforce, comprising the largest age category in the profession. Making matters worse, more than 20% of all nurses plan to retire by 2025.

Healthcare influencers have generated content as seen on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. And while that type of content can be really hard to pull through to external healthcare engagements, like conferences because headlines quickly become pages of really dense compliance, safety, and sourced information, HCPs are human, too, and as older generations retire and larger, younger generations take the reins, they’re going to want to consume content like they do everywhere else.

This year, healthcare brands will see our old ways of living mixed with the new. It will be important for healthcare marketers to sustain innovation and not revert to old habits. Now is the time to engage your partners in innovation to reimagine how you connect with your most important audiences. Proactively exploring new ideas will let healthcare brands compete in a new world of changing expectations and win the hearts and minds of people and businesses as they map their new stories.

Brands that embrace the importance of innovating experiences will lead growth in the new era of experiential healthcare marketing.

Note: An abridged version of this article previously appeared on TheDrum.com

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