By Dan Chichester, Chief Experience Officer, Ogilvy Health


I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou


My grandfather was an engineer. He started with a slide rule and evolved with the industry to work with computers, where he became fascinated with the concept of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. In our industry, this translates to garbage code or data put into a system results in a trashy outcome. In the pharma ecosphere, as we advance from singular brand projects to more comprehensive customer engagements, I think there’s a similarity in the idea of EIEO: Experience In, Experience Out. In today’s world, it’s now incumbent on marketers to aim toward creating a holistic, delightful brand experience that involves, informs, and even entertains. In turn, your brand can earn increased loyalty and a customer advocate who is motivated to do more business with you.

Dan Chichester

In healthcare, we are fortunate to have access to code that analyzes data and provides us with customer insights. As marketers, we can now understand these individual customers better than ever before. We know what we need and want to do when it comes to reaching them. But what does all that power and possibility do for them?

Reality check: Customers do not wake up thinking about our brands. They all wake up thinking about themselves. Don’t we all? The driving question is always, “What’s in it for me?” This is not necessarily selfish behavior, so much as it is self-awareness.

When it comes to customer experience, I’ve thought about the trends that could be used to illustrate this point. But when it comes to what’s next, I’m with Nick Cannon, who said, ”Nobody can predict the future. You just have to give your all to the relationship you’re in…caring for your significant other through good times and bad.” I can’t think of anyone more significant to us as healthcare marketers than those who are struggling with their health – they are the ones who need our help.

My colleague, Brandie Linfante, senior VP, digital engagement strategist, notes, “Advanced brand building should look to include experiential opportunities where they apply. It should solve for patients’ unmet needs and provide a solution or allow healthcare professionals to experience a moment in the life of a patient and build empathy. Use technology for a purpose, not just for the sake of showcasing tech.”

For that reason, my vision for tomorrow is focused on Purposeful Intent: what drives the digital interaction – the two-way exchange between an individual and your brand. That intent should be threefold:

Logical: Unearth data-driven insights that inform content ideation, storytelling arcs, and distribution strategies.

Emotional: Create programs that make customers feel good and people want to use.

Personal: Deliver timely, relevant, useful value and information that is easy for the customer to find and engage with in a way that works for them. So what can we do with this Purposeful Intent? Let’s think about these five Interactive Intentions of Experience: Storytelling, Conversation, Memories, Value, and You.


Interactive storytelling

Digital is at its best when it creates a world that humans can easily understand and navigate. In the visual world of the “experience age,” static encounters do little to stir the imagination. Make your customers active participants. That’s the potential of choose-your-own-adventure and branching videos, immersive virtual reality (VR), augmented reality’s overlays on the real world, and role-playing games and simulations. Explore a product launch, data, or conference coverage. Choose a scene or scenario, enter into it, and make the story yours by fully engaging with it (then expand upon that with networking for shared story experiences).

Building out varied paths creates added value when individuals are given the ability to control the flow of that experience. With that comes a better understanding of a procedure, or a disease state, and therefore, a direct influence on behavior change.


Interactive conversation

Voice is our most natural form of communication, so there’s no surprise that talking to our machines – via smart speakers, voice interfaces, and chatbots – can present a truly great experience. There’s a naturally collaborative essence to these dialogues, with a low barrier of entry for experimentation and a high potential for emotional and therapeutic benefits. From patient care plans, discharge instructions, behavior change support, to sales rep training, and even sales rep/doctor role-playing – these voice agents can answer common questions and address needs with scientific rigor, but still remain human and approachable. Adding to the higher-level experience, bots and skills can be taught to identify situations where professional medical intervention should be alerted and engaged.

Conversational experience will require new thinking from marketers. How often is your brand talking? How does the voice “feel like” your brand? Will you use Alexa’s voice? Or will you incorporate recorded narration with a brand-tailored voice?

Typical web and mobile communications are not designed around direct human interaction. Voice interaction offers a meaningful opportunity to engage in personal and connective ways, as related by increasingly common patient experiences, along the lines of, “If the day is getting late and I haven’t achieved my goals, I would think that I have to get my exercise in or answer to Alexa in the morning.”


Interactive memories

Beautiful experiences leave deep, long-lasting traces in memory. For this reason, an experience needs to be more than transactional to be a success, it needs to go that much further and address customers’ feelings (especially in health care, where emotions can be heightened). Think about how a certain piece of music can trigger a memory and bring that moment rushing back. That said, “your song” is probably not going to be “my song.” The key is in tailoring the customer experience to the individual, with choices that align to their personal tastes, preferences, or habits.

Digital defaults to the eyes and ears, but what about those other senses that can form memories and create lasting bonds? Capitalizing on smell and touch, even taste, to heighten experience can evoke an emotional response. Multisensory engagement can provide immersive enrichment, a form of physical interaction with a brand, that people will remember richly, deeply, and over time.


Interactive value

Marketers ask, “What is the overall economic value that these efforts will bring to the brand’s business?” Remember that reality check mentioned above? Patients, caregivers, health practitioners ask, “What’s in it for me?”

An enriching experience can answer this by giving them something useful: not a sales pitch, not an in-their-face marketing message. What does the patient need? A truly utilitarian site, program, or app that answers that query becomes something that a person can’t live without. And that will stay with them. The goal is to develop an encounter that marries awareness and function. Use the experience to say something that evokes action and creates meaningful engagement with and for the customer.


Interactive you

Likes, dislikes, hopes, and fears. What you know about patients and doctors is not only a key to who they are and what content will resonate with them, it is essential to building a great experience that delivers the most personalized and meaningful content.

Everyone wants to feel that they are heard. So it’s incumbent on us to learn from data in order to interact with customers via an experience that’s unique to each person. As individuals, we go to the trouble to create our own detailed personas. But as marketers, do we service the specific personas of “Stalwart Susan” or “Anxious Andy”? Consider the relevance of what you are creating, find out what matters to each customer, and develop a personalized interface. In the end, this makes the person feel even more special and connected to the brand.

If a patient’s journey is lacking a singular element of personalization, the experience may not feel like it is helping, even when it is. If that “you” factor is there, however, there’s an instant bond between the patient and the tool, which invariably results in loyalty and affinity toward a brand.


Exercising Purposeful Intent

The brand experience isn’t one moment, or a stand-alone tactic. It’s a holistic vision for the transformation of the brand over time. Look at the patient journey as a mapping experience. What makes them joyful or anxious? What do they do in those instances? And what could they do in those scenarios? What will they notice, and what will they remember? Making a point to continually keep the broader view of a customer’s issues and activities at the forefront has the potential to address unmet needs, fuel differentiation, and get people talking about your brand.

That said, you can’t just ask patients what they want, because it won’t be “a good experience.” All they think they want is simply to get better, or at the very least, to get back to their status quo.

Back to Brandie, “It is incumbent on us to make brands more relevant and relatable, socially conscious and aware, and offer personal experiences and emotional connections. Great brand building makes a product a problem solver and creates an environment that begets customer loyalty.”

Tech is only a tool. Customer Experience is the differentiator. It should give people a clearer picture of their world, so they can make the best health decisions for themselves.

Viewing experiences as tangible things helps marketers better understand the relationships that are established between patients and brands. From websites to simulations, to programs that include mental and emotional support, we must always ask – how does it make a patient, a caregiver, or a healthcare provider feel?

Person, patient, caregiver, provider – we are all the heroes of our own stories. Provide a great experience, and that is a story everyone can benefit from, as ROI and ROE (Return on Experience) are inextricably linked.

Jaron Lanier, considered the father of VR, said, “I’ve always felt that the human-centered approach to computer science leads to more interesting…and more heroic adventures…” Can there be any more heroic adventure than helping people get the health care they need and deserve? That’s a future worth investing in.

Here’s to engineering great experiences.