This article originally appeared in MediaPost.
Healthcare brands and providers know it’s important to have a good bedside manner, but it can take a backseat to science and strong medical acumen. During COVID, however, everything changed. Providers were no longer just experts—they became patients, facing the same uncertainties as everyone else. In a way, the pandemic was democratizing.
Earlier this year, we surveyed 11 international CMOs and brand leaders in B2B and B2C healthcare not only about how the pandemic impacted the industry, but about which new strategies would stick now that the sector is no longer singularly focused on COVID.
Of all the lessons learned, perhaps the most important is that empathy, simplicity, and clarity are paramount to success.
More visible than ever, healthcare brands must lead with purpose
The uncertainty of the pandemic motivated the general population to become amateur medical experts. This meant that healthcare brands both big and small received unprecedented attention. “The pandemic has changed perception for the whole industry in a positive way, creating opportunities to connect on a deeper level with stakeholders,” says Maria Jobin, head of global corporate brand management at Novartis International AG. “Brand purpose has become more relevant than ever.”
“We observed a rapid acceleration and broader understanding of the work we do in biopharmaceuticals, the good work for the health and wellness of society,” said Pfizer’s Deborah Scarano, vice president, senior launch manager. And even though the well-known company has been around for 150 years, “It brought the general population closer into what we do every day, our purpose as a company, and how we can deliver for them.”
Elekta CMO Grégory Trausch also noted the necessity of incorporating purpose into messaging. “An important question for us has been, ‘Can we articulate better how we contribute to society?’ Of course, we’re running a business, and we generate revenues, but that’s the nature of any business. It’s not what matters here. What really matters is for people to understand why we’re here and what we do.”
Purpose or a good mission statement can’t be empty words written to fill empty space. Companies must live it to maintain credibility.
Embrace efficient, easier ecosystems
When social distancing policies were first imposed, healthcare brands needed to create digital solutions to meet patient and consumer needs. And while telehealth may not remain the default option for doctor appointments, companies will continue to use technology to increase efficiency, innovation, and the patient’s overall ease.
Furthermore, as patients take ownership of their health journeys, brands are creating more opportunities for the collection of user-generated data.
“The pandemic has accelerated the trend of people looking after their own health and well-being, whether it’s mental or physical well-being,” said Kerry O’Callaghan, GSK’s former vice president corporate, reputation and brand. “This is coupled with the use of big data and AI, and how you can look at trends and use that data to help accelerate drug or medicines discovery in the future with clinical trials.”
Keep the human component in mind
Although the pandemic isn’t over, the world has begun to open up again. People are paying more attention to healthcare options that are entirely unrelated to COVID. But that doesn’t mean they’ll no longer expect open sharing of information and end-to-end individualized healthcare processes. And if brands forget to lead with that human component and willingness to educate, they’ll be left behind.
Ben Osborne is Head of Insights, EMEA