knowledge Opinions

Risk and Innovation in Healthcare Marketing

by Rob Mortimer, 13 February 2017

The healthcare sector is often considered behind the curve when it comes to marketing innovation and embracing new communication technologies. A couple of recent articles on innovation have, however, helped to prompt an evaluation of that reputation (a piece by Gareth Kay in Admap called, ‘Invent brand innovation’, and an article in by David Champagne, Amy Hung, and Olivier Leclerc entitled, ‘How pharma can win in a digital world’).

Marketing agencies have long had a strong focus on innovation, with a keen eye on being the first to utilise whatever new development is trending. But is this really the right way? Being first for the sake of being first is no guarantee of a successful campaign. Agencies are often, as Gareth says “…excellent at the wrong type of innovation, relentlessly pursuing and celebrating the latest ways of doing what we’ve done before, rather than looking for better ways to do new things.”

Here at Ward6 we certainly believe in using innovation in the right way, to help our clients do new and better things, rather than simply jumping to be first regardless of justification – and it was thinking about this approach that reminded me of how medical and pharmaceutical companies are often unfairly labelled as un-innovative.

After all, to create a new drug or medical treatment takes the kind of invention and dedication that few people outside of the healthcare profession ever dream of. Many millions, sometimes billions, of dollars are spent over a large number of years, developing complex new products, the majority of which will never even make it to market.

Yes, there is certainly room for healthcare marketers to take more risks, and embrace digital innovation more quickly – especially as technology starts to play a bigger role in patient treatment. However, with so many (sensible) legal precautions in place to ensure patients and healthcare professionals are correctly informed and not misled about treatments, it’s not surprising that healthcare companies are cautious about new approaches to marketing. Our job is to make sure our clients find the right balance, being cautious where required, but also making sure they are not left behind. Finding the best ways to do new and inventive things that really make a difference, both in terms of improving patient outcomes and maximising marketing effectiveness.

When you take a moment to consider the sheer scale of innovative brain power involved in planning and developing revolutionary medical treatments – utilising some of the smartest scientific and medical minds around - to save and change the lives of patients, it is perhaps marketers who could learn a thing or two about impactful innovation, rather than the other way around.


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