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Brand Experience and Digital Technology: How Healthcare Marketers and Associations Stack Up

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Steve Coldiron
Steve Coldiron

Healthcare Strategy Director


Where are they hitting the mark — and where are they missing out?

A version of this article was originally published by HCEA. 

Marketing in the healthcare industry is not for the faint of heart. With often changing compliance requirements, evolving patient demographics, and the specter of new legislation changing all the rules, finding and reaching the right audiences can be tough.

One of the most effective tools to rise above these challenges? 

Brand experience. 

Tapping into the potential of digital engagement

“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.”

— Chinese proverb

In today’s digital world, interactivity is king, and consumers seek immersive, customized experiences. New data shows that healthcare marketers and associations recognize this potential of digitally powered face-to-face engagement. We learned through our joint study with the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association (HCEA) that more than half of respondents ranked events in their top three marketing priorities, and most ranked events first. 

Here are more relevant takeaways from the study: 

  • Across the board, the marketers we interviewed are using brand experience to engage customers and facilitate sales.
  • They also highly value the immediate, unvarnished feedback face-to-face engagements generate.
  • What’s more, healthcare marketers are also leveraging events to launch new products – including using sponsorships to drive awareness and booth space for live demos and audience education.
  • A wide range of digital technologies are being embraced, particularly touch screens, monitoring devices, and interactive displays.

These findings mirror larger trends across industries. In our 2017 global brand experience research, more than 90 percent of marketers agreed that brand experience delivers strong face-to-face interaction and more compelling brand engagement. And more than one in three CMOs will allocate a whopping 21 to 50 percent of their budgets for brand experience.

Surprisingly, though, only 25 percent of companies are harnessing all five senses in their brand experiences.

Sophisticated programs are seen by many healthcare marketers and associations as too expensive or too difficult to implement, while silos between sales and marketing teams may inhibit the cross-company coordination needed to fully integrate digital applications across all audience touchpoints.

One of the biggest missed digital opportunities for healthcare events is around metrics. The use of some basic attendee tracking methods (RFID, for example) would provide show organizers with much better data on actual attendee patterns, show floor traffic, networking, and educational track attendees. The resulting metrics can help validate the value of investing in an exhibit booth or sponsorship, especially in an environment where these audiences are more and more focused on ROI. 

Another big miss is social media, which in healthcare is used far less often than other industries. Although legal and regulatory restrictions are often to blame, many in healthcare also mistakenly believe physicians do not have time for social media activities — even though one in four physicians uses social media daily or even multiple times a day. 

Surprisingly, only 25 percent of companies are harnessing all five senses in their brand experiences.

Bringing it together: maximizing brand experience in the digital age

Despite these obstacles, digital technology will continue to play a starring role in healthcare-related brand experiences.

To get the most from this investment, organizational goals and hard data should drive planning. It’s also increasingly imperative to listen closely to what audiences want, so organizations can identify opportunities to deliver more.

A solid engagement strategy can serve as an organization’s North Star in times of change. As healthcare marketers and medical associations more fully embrace new approaches to breathe fresh life into their brands, they’ll reap the benefits of truly cross-platform, immersive experiences that build lasting, profitable relationships. 

Download our white paper: Brand Experience and the Healthcare Marketplace

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