Medical marketing needs mainstream Mad Men

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Medical marketing needs mainstream Mad Men
Medical marketing needs mainstream Mad Men

John Barker
President and chief idea officer, BARKER

Healthcare agencies are plentiful, and for any category B2B marketer, there are dozens of exceptional firms to choose from. So why are some marketers shifting toward “mainstream” agencies with little or no healthcare experience?

It's because the Affordable Care Act changed everything—even best practice in marketing.

While there's no substitute for clinical and customer knowledge, data, and regulatory compliance, some clients are taking these roles in-house and turning to Madison Avenue for out-of-the-box thinking around brands.

A few years ago, Product and Price drove most B2B contracts as providers looked to maximize fee-for-service revenue while treating patients at the lowest cost. But with the ACA, the promise of “Value” is eclipsing the standard of “Cost” as the biggest concern in the C-Suite.

That's why marketers as diverse as Siemens, PDI Healthcare and Burgess Group are selectively using mainstream expertise to align their brands with umbrella value propositions that are the key to financial performance for providers.

The most critical strategic questions revolve around healthcare economics and consultative services. No longer is the question simply “What will this product do and how much does it cost?” Now it's, “How will your brand partner with us to drive improved outcomes, patient satisfaction, reduced readmissions, and genuine value?”

And in answering that question, functional benefits such as efficacy and cost are insufficient to make the sale. Agencies must help clients shape authentic and trusting relationships with their customers, moving beyond traditional selling points to generate emotional resonance with the target audience, not unlike Apple, Pepsi or Nike.

That type of work often falls outside the expertise of many vertical agencies, and is an unwieldy challenge for in-house teams focused on sales support.  

So there's a growing need for mainstream agencies that previously didn't know the difference between the FDA and FDR. But they know branding. And as products become ever more commoditized, customers will choose the brand that reflects their values. Going forward, staying competitive in the ACA marketplace may mean asking more Mad Men to be Med Men.

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