On the forefront of human health

By Matthew Howes, president of Greater Than One.

Like any reacting species in the natural world, organizations need a minimum level of activation energy to undergo change. For healthcare companies on the forefront of digital transformation, the pandemic gave it to them.

The evidence? Expectations—the true metric for tracking progress—have changed. And when expectations change, more innovation follows.

With new expectations of workers and workplaces, greater expectations of value add and value creation, and bold expectations of competencies and capabilities, the co-dependent relationships healthcare marketers have with their agency partners are ripe for intervention.

For the last decade, agencies have fumbled over each other at the front desk as they welcome guests to their fully refurbished, design-forward, all-suite accommodations. “See how we’ve changed?” they beg. “Look at all our modern amenities!” they cry.

But their enthusiasm is not shared. Enduring long lines to check in, clients clamor for more marketing automation and rooms with a view of the data lake. They get bolder in their demands as the complimentary, promise-spiked Kool-Aid goes to their heads. Soon exclamations that all you need is the right algorithm are coming from the senior most marketers.

The relationship between host and guest has grown increasingly unhealthy by a surprising influence.

Technology—the very thing that connects us—has the unintended side effect of making us feel disconnected. There is almost no human interaction that is not intermediated by technology today. The customer is now a channel unto themselves, and the resulting vanity supersedes influence of any celebrity or brand. We are obsessed with curated identities and addicted to validating our own.

Now more than ever, we need space for humanity. Remove the filters, the memes, the metrics, the metadata. Stop the spam, boot the bots, punt the profiles. There is broad demand for experiences that empower the individual and embrace the collective, for stories that celebrate diversity and richness of experience, and for businesses that make meaning by connecting personal purpose with a brand’s impact in the world.

Authenticity is the new black. But the emperor has none. Big pharma, blockbuster brands, and biopharma darlings may well say “yes, Virginia, there is an authentic brand.” But they aren’t talking about one of their own. Those stories are written for themselves, not for their paying audience. And their agencies are too afraid to tell them because they are the ones that wrote them.

The only way to create authenticity is for marketers to stop fixating on their own story and learn how to fall in love with their customer’s. For decades, positioning choices have been focused on standing apart, when they should have been kneeling before. Dominated by differentiation, we have created a generation of marketers obsessed with their competitors.

That’s a huge disadvantage in a digitally transformed world where a self-centered customer is easily repulsed by a narcissistic brand. Customer relationships need some help in the romance department. And marketers would do well to hire an agency to help them stage behavior-changing marketing interventions.

Matthew Howes

The best chance brands have to influence behavior is by creating great customer experiences. And three components make up every great experience the world has ever known: Context, Content, and Connections. Yes, content is king, but what’s a king without its kingdom? The vast domains of digital media are the context through which customers experience content. And what’s a kingdom without connection to its constituents? Digital technology provides the interfaces that connect customers with content has an impact.

If you’re a healthcare marketer who’s embraced digital transformation but are unsure if you and your agency partners are on the forefront, use the following four questions as your touchstone.

1. Do you have a shared business philosophy that combines customer-first strategies with digital-first execution for clearer agency direction, improved interaction amongst teams, and better outcomes for all?

2. Are you holding on to the promise of integration, or are you converging best-in-class capabilities in media, content, and technology at the right times, around the right customers, to create great experiences that drive outcomes?

3. Do you have a data loop that bridges the data science of media tools with performance analytics of digital assets and real-time insights of marketing automation tools to identify patterns, assess correlations, and progressively learn?

4. Are you and your agency partners investing in leadership development to keep state-of-the-art capabilities fresh by leveraging internal experience and a culture of innovation?