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The future of marketing healthcare: Q & A with Create Health

Create Health is a creative and strategic healthcare marketing agency who work with European and global medical device companies, including  ConvaTec, Thermo Fisher and BD to name a few. As part of a two part series, our Head of Medical, Kerry Briggs, and CDO, Craig Wightman, sat down to talk to Managing Director, Ed Hudson, and Creative Director, Phil Blackmore, about healthcare marketing communication challenges and opportunities as we near 2021.

Kerry:  How has the pandemic changed the healthcare world and will it inspire lasting change?

Phil:  It’s definitely pushed healthcare brands to embrace digital. For example, with something like wound care, patients who rely on nurses to visit and dress their wounds have had to adapt, with brands now educating patients on how to do it themselves. They’ve made use of literature and tutorial animations. Nurses will still assess, but they don’t necessarily need to be there every week. It’s hugely encouraging as it will take more strain off healthcare systems.

Craig:  Clients want the best possible communications solution for their product – how should they brief you to get that?

Phil:  Typically, the testing, plus research and development has been done when we get a client brief – they’ve been on a journey themselves which can take up to 10 years.

When we’re briefed, we like to hear the complicated science story, the thing that got solved and as much information as possible behind the product – we can then drill down into the detail and work out the best way to communicate it.

Our challenge is to find the nugget, the single-minded idea that’s key for their audience.

We can give the most value if a clients’ departments are aligned internally, so they know what they can say and they’ve got all the evidence in place to back claims up, or at least have got trials in place.

Ed: We’re mindful that there’s increasingly more of a ‘B2B2C’ approach needed. Whereas before the healthcare professionals received the complicated scientific message and were able to simplify it for patients, there are fewer opportunities to do that, so there’s an awakening that the message can’t be overly complex. It needs to be simple enough for patients to access.

Craig:  Clients have often been on a journey with companies like Kinneir Dufort to create great, successful products – how should that then feed into communications?

Phil:  The biggest opportunity for clients is to give all of the information and story behind a product to the marketing department when the project is handed to them. This doesn’t always happen, so we sometimes sit in workshops where the marketing team are also hearing product information for the first time.

If brands could put the same amount of emphasis into their marketing and communications as they do with R&D, we’d get to even better solutions. Objectivity is important – it’s not about what we like but what’s right for the end user.

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Focus groups are good, but other techniques like neuro mapping and implicitly testing are much better ways of finding out whether or not an idea has connected with the seat of their emotions and whether it’s going to change behaviour. Remember, HCP’s are also consumers. We must never skip the emotional, awareness building in favour of diving straight into the features.

Kerry:  Can the regulations in healthcare be a challenge to good communications?

Phil:  There’s nowhere to hide in health, you can’t make things up and you have to be truthful, which the best marketing is. As advertising legend John Hegarty says; “Make it memorable, make it motivating and whatever you do, make it truthful”.

Regulations exist, it’s often the way they’re interpreted that becomes the challenge. Sometimes we work with progressive legal teams who understand how marketing plays its role in sales and therefore growth for the business. We can find there’s a lot more willing to help us to come up with compelling messaging if legal are involved in the marketing process from the start of the project.

Craig:  Creativity is something you return to – is creativity valued in healthcare communications?

Phil:  We firmly believe that ‘creativity is the cure’. Communications need to connect with people on an emotional level.

We love seeing that hallelujah moment with our clients, when they put their trust in us and we present them with a creative idea that resonates and goes on to meet all their objectives. That’s when the magic happens.

All clients are respectful of what we do but some clients push harder to have a stronger point of difference with their creative work. That’s when there’s a mutual understanding and excitement. We think that healthcare communication is poor in comparison to other sectors and actually it doesn’t need to be – it’s such an exciting sector to be in. It’s grounded in amazing stories – you don’t have to look hard to find them. Health touches us all.

Ed: We know it’s challenging for the decision-making committee with multiple stakeholders who tend to be rational thinkers. It can be uncomfortable and harder to sign off but we see time and again that it’s the creative ideas that are the most powerful.

Kerry:  The “ownership” of health is shifting with more of a focus on self-care – accelerated by the pandemic. Is this something to stay?

Ed: Yes – it’s a change that’s been happening for the last 4 – 5 years. The NHS in the UK can’t afford to cover the ground. We have an ageing population, an increase in issues around cardiology and diabetes and so on but the fact that we need more investment in the NHS is not a conversation we’re prepared to have as a country.

Hand holding a smart phone as they scan their skin

What Covid-19 has done is forced traditional medicine into the self-care space. It’s accelerated what’s already happening and we’ll see more as technology gets more sophisticated – your point of care has shifted from the hospital to your living room.

Craig:  This year has shown the power of business to business (B2B) brands, supporting the economy when business to consumer (B2C) brands have suffered. Is there enough investment put into developing B2B brands?

Phil:  It’s definitely becoming more about building a brand in the B2B world. People are actively asking ‘who do I really want to do business with?’, and factors like sustainability come into play.

B2B has been tremendously unloved across the board, but now people are starting to see the reliance on B2B businesses economically. Now we’re not just building businesses, we’re building brands. And that’s why creativity really must be the cure.

Thanks to Ed and Phil; a fascinating insight into healthcare marketing and communications and how good creativity is paramount.

In our corresponding piece on marketing and consumer healthcare, Craig explores the next era of consumer healthcare, and the importance of product and communication. Read it now here.

Find out more?

Get in touch with Craig Wightman, our CDO.