Ready or not, Amazon is Coming
We've been sitting and watching as the entertainment, transportation, hospitality, and retail industries have been radically disrupted by technology. We've been saying to ourselves, “That can't happen to us.”
Well, guess what? Now it's our turn.
Exhibit A: Amazon.
If recent reports are accurate, the e-giant is doing everything from starting secret labs and online pharmacies to redefining the hospital experience and democratizing health data. Amazon sees hundreds of billions of dollars there for the taking, not to mention an opportunity to reinvent an industry. That it's experimenting with ways to enter healthcare shouldn't come as a surprise.
What will its entry look like? Past history suggests it will radically change every part of the healthcare continuum, from marketing and promotion to access and reimbursement.
This looming change should unsettle the industry, but it also comes with cause for optimism and action. I believe Amazon will change the future and create opportunities for visionary marketers in three big ways.
Amazon forces everyone to up their game: Amazon is a marquee brand; it's the yardstick by which we measure every experience. At Wunderman, we recently conducted research that reinforced this point — brands need to operate within the context of the broader culture, not just their category. Per our research, 87% of Americans measure all brands against a select few including — you guessed it — Amazon.
With these marquee brands, each interaction feels personal; they provide an ease and convenience that we have grown to expect everywhere else. The gulf between brands that deliver Amazon-like experiences and those that don't will continue to widen.
Healthcare marketers, whether owing to fear or envy, must attempt to emulate Amazon. They must invest more heavily in data and technology, and leverage those assets to create more compelling, human-centric experiences.
Amazon forces everyone to make bolder decisions: Did you see the Whole Foods purchase coming? You're a liar if you said you did. Amazon clearly believes in its strategy and made a bold move to support it. It won't look back. Amazon may make executional mistakes with Whole Foods, but the company will iterate and refine its approach until it gets it right.
Contrast that with how most creative or tactical decisions are made in our industry. An idea may be built on a meaningful human truth, yet we'll test it to within an inch of its life and seek every reassurance that it will work, even knowing it still may flop. Now's our chance to believe in ourselves and our strategies a bit more, and commit to making our plans work harder and faster based on real-world feedback.
Amazon forces us to rethink our value propositions: Amazon has proven, especially with Prime, that people expect more for their money. Indeed, the company continues to find new ways to make subscribers feel as if the $99 is well spent and that the value of the Prime offering far outweighs the cost.
See also: Why Science Needs a Story
We have to stop believing that symptom relief – with a few side effects here and there – is all that people want or expect from their medicines, not to mention the companies behind them. We're doomed if we think functional claims and cost/benefit messaging are enough to build meaningful brands.
The day will come when Amazon – or someone currently toiling away in a Silicon Valley garage – offers private label or generic drugs for pennies on the dollar, delivered within an hour, on auto-refill. When it does, we better have an answer. Now is our chance to build brands through more compelling value propositions and do it in ways that are data-rich, insightful, and a lot more difficult to replicate by competitors.
William Martino is managing director of Wunderman Health New York.