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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Millennials’ impact on the evolution of healthcare advertising

Written by: | | Dated: Tuesday, August 1st, 2017


By Lindsey Martinangelo, a project coordinator at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.


Change is inevitable, and evolving and growing with it is the only way to move forward. That’s just a fact. Those in our industry who aren’t willing to embrace the constant changes we’re seeing in technology, trends, and now how we market health and wellness brands, are going to be left behind because journal ads, banner ads and TV commercials as exclusive mediums will likely not sufficiently reach a brand’s target audiences any longer. As a millennial, the largest generation on the planet, accounting for 75.4 million of our nation’s population, we grew up with everything at our fingertips, allowing us easy access to a plethora of media channels. I believe it’s because of this that millennials are more open to a variety of channels as compared to other generations. This opens up a significant challenge for healthcare marketers as they seek to find new ways to market products to this formidable generation. It will be extremely important for advertisers to find ways to have a presence on the most relevant media channels on millennials’ phones. Instagram in particular, as it is most commonly used and the content there is highly valued amongst this generation.

Millennials have different views on healthcare compared to other generations. The biggest difference: “Only 41 percent of millennials said they view a doctor as the best source of health information.” We are less likely to rely on a physician, and instead consult the internet and those closest to us for medical advice. As a millennial, I personally find this interesting as I have never considered using the web for medical advice. Instead, I turn to my family first and then will see a physician, if necessary. Meanwhile, the baby boomer generation considers their physician their primary source for medical advice though they may still research other options. Some might suggest that one reason millennials are less likely to go to their doctor is due to the fact that we crave that instant response. We can find a simple medical answer online and move onto the next thing instead of sitting in a waiting room for an hour to get five minutes of advice. I find that most millennials are only willing to go to the doctor when they have to as they don’t see a need to establish a relationship with a physician like baby boomers do.

Now the question is, how can we reach this generation and get them to engage more in their healthcare system? It’s important to acknowledge that millennials crave a connection and a community which we find within our social media networks. Healthcare advertisers will have to find ways to create or tap into these types of connections and communities in order to occupy millennials’ attention. As noted by Suman Bhattacharyya, a reporter at Tearsheet, “Marketers agree that an effective healthcare marketing strategy for millennials is one that fosters ongoing communication.” We need a constant flow of updated messages to keep us engaged and interested. Being a part of this generation, I’ve realized that gaining credibility and keeping our attention is much harder than it used to be. Going back to that idea of a community, we rely on others’ reviews of products or places to stay before buying into something. That goes for healthcare marketing as well now.

As recently stated by Lynn Vos, CEO of ghg – greyhealth group, part of WPP Health & Wellness, “Nearly 30 percent of millennials are now parents, and as they start becoming responsible for not only their own health, but also that of their children, their influence will grow exponentially.” It is now more important than ever to find new ways to advertise to this audience, as they will soon be influencing the generation to come. While we have tons of knowledge about healthcare and medical advice right at the touch of button, we often lack the confidence in our choices to truly know what may be wrong. It is because of this wealth of information that we find ourselves second-guessing our health choices. A possible solution? Marketers partnering with millennials to offer support and guidance in referring us to reliable sources while helping to provide shortcuts to the extensive health information we have available to us. A suggestion could be creating a one-stop shop website with links to reliable medical sources. It would be extremely beneficial to this generation to have a trusted online source to go to or to have that kind of guidance as to which sources are most reliable.

My generation has been and will continue to be an impactful generation. We are constantly changing our wants and needs, and, frankly, we expect the world to change with us. This will prove to be no different in terms of marketing healthcare brands to millennials. I’m in the minority that still goes to her doctor annually and considers him/her to be a trusted provider of medical information – it is because I’m in this minority that I understand the importance of healthcare marketers adjusting the way they reach my generation. It is time to dive into our phones and our most trusted apps and keep a constant flow of communication going with us. It isn’t about getting us to see a doctor for a case of the sniffles or a sore throat, but it’s about keeping the conversation going with us, creating that sense of community and providing us with reliable sources online to access credible health information. If marketers can effectively do this, they will have won the trust of my generation, which is a hard thing to acquire.

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