Why do healthcare sites all look not only the same, but incredibly boring? You know what I’m taking about. Serious, scientific, boring stock imagery, and what looks like an industry sanctioned color palate that every brand seems to use. Worse yet, the messages all seem interchangeable.

  • “We are a discovery stage biopharmaceutical company focused on <insert disease>”.
  • ”Our mission is to bring hope and change to millions of patients suffering from <insert disease>”.
  • “We employ a novel therapeutic approach to <whatever>”.

The imagery suffers from the same symptoms.

  • An elderly couple walking hand in hand through a park while young grandchildren play nearby.
  • Or, an avatar character representing the condition that follows a decidedly annoyed person through their daily grind.

You get the point.

So back to the question: Why do healthcare sites all look the same? 
Herd mentality

We see it all the time in marketing — people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis. This is undoubtedly amplified in healthcare due to the significant risk and regulatory hurdles. The problem is, if you follow the herd, then it’s hard to differentiate your brand.

The “seriousness of what they do”

Take any great marketer, place them into a pharma company, and three months later they’re speaking fluent science. Medicine is serious business, lives are at stake. Science and the accuracy of it are critical. Besides most organizations started out as science, and those folks probably still run the show. The problem here is science is rational, it doesn’t move markets or anyone for that matter, unless its more scientists.

They’re not in tune with audiences

Most will tell you they understand and have great empathy for patients they serve. But how well do they really know them? Have they walked in their shoes? Sat with them at great length to understand their fears and desires? Probably not. Most companies leverage aggregated anecdotal information. The problem is, without fully understanding them, it’s hard to connect, yet alone change their behaviors.

So, what do you do?

Start by consciously breaking from the herd. Challenge the status quo. A great place to begin is with your own brand story, and your brand name if you’re new enough. It’s an area where you have more freedom to become creative without the risks that usually derail such efforts.

A couple of brands that were creative and inspiring in this regard include:

  1. Bluebird Bio – sure it’s a bird (which makes for a great logo), but it also means happiness and infers sunny clear skies.
  2. Sage Therapeutics – which means wise, scientist/researcher, an innovator who believes in truth and constantly seeks it.
  3. Juno Therapeutics – Juno was the Queen of the Heavens in Roman mythology.
Standing apart in a sea of same
  • Get to know your patients, better than you know your own science. The best brands have figured this out.
  • Speak with them directly or listen to them on social media.
  • Understand their language, not yours. Know their journeys and the value you can add to them.
  • Patients have a decidedly lopsided influence on prescribing behavior, educate them.
  • Most importantly get involved in their world. Vertex teamed with the CF community in wonderful ways to further the cause, rarely speaking directly to their therapies.
  • Lead with emotion then follow with the science. Science leads to conclusions, while emotion leads to action.
  • To the extent you can, showcase the patients and the miracles in their lives that come from what your brand was developed to do.
  • Let them tell their stories. Let them change behaviors.
  • As for science. Think about it, do most people even understand how aspirin works in the human body, yet alone CAR-T therapies? Patients need high level visuals, and that’s about it. As for the deeper science, place it further down in the discussion for those who seek it.
Conclusion

Each of us is bombarded with over 5,000 brand exposures a day. Medicine is something that should inspire. If you leverage our advice wisely, you’ll be the one or two in 5,000 messages that breaks through the noise.

David Hubbell is the Director of Strategy at emagine.