DTC National Xpectives Health Summit Recap

Picture of conference room

Brand & Creative

By Sebastian McLinden, Strategist, Inizio Evoke

“People don’t think of themselves as patients”

Time and time again, we see campaigns speaking to patients as patients, not as people. It is easy to fall into this as so much of the data and information we are presented with as healthcare marketers focus on treatment protocols, diagnoses, and maintenance. HCPs succumb to the same pitfalls. 

Little attention is paid, however, to the person behind the condition. Unless someone is in dire straits, it is unlikely they will self-identify above all else as a patient. First, they are community members, friends, family, professionals, fans, athletes…. Not patients.

Unfortunately, both in the doctor’s office and in DTC advertising, the patient is targeted, identified, and treated largely by their clinical records, claims data, and demographics. If this makes up, let’s say, 30% of who this person is, the other 70% is related to the social determinants of health. While this 70% comprises so much of what makes them “them,” this information is not readily accessible and  consolidated for use by HCPs (or marketers). This info is found in disparate notes and in the EHR, to be pieced together only by the most proactive and engaged HCPs and connected marketers.

Here is what I learned from this year’s DTC National Conference at the Xpectives Health Summit on how to talk to patients like the people they are:

  • Nobody says, “I’m so happy I got my treatment” (Interacting with the Health Consumer)

    Be honest and genuine about people’s experiences. Like soda commercials where people are way too excited about drinking Sprite together, pharma is constantly depicting people over the moon about receiving treatment or a diagnosis. Instead of jumping for joy or celebrating with family, it would be more appropriate to show a renewed level of resolve, anxiety about treatment, and relief followed by new questions. These are the real-life scenarios that need more space in DTC.

  • People are thinking about their health for maybe 10% of the day, go for the other 90%. People with X or Y condition are, above all else, themselves. They are not sitting around all day thinking about their condition. They are not going around introducing themselves as “Hi, my name is Bill and I have Psoriasis.” If you approach your target customer as someone with Lupus and plan your messaging accordingly, you are missing the mark. People live their lives far more than they fixate on their conditions. Even a chronic condition is only one part of someone’s overall identity. Focus on connecting with them where they spend the majority of their time; just living their life. Connect with them as people and speak to them about their interests, priorities, and life circumstances.

    From an industry professional, who is a black woman with a chronic condition: “Why pick one dimension instead of the dimension that rules everything I do in life?” (about being a black woman in America)

    Advertisers (and HCPs) fixating only on disease states are missing the mark. There are pharma ads running on BET with only white actors. This can be more detrimental to a brand than not running any media at all. If being a black woman is America is a central part of your target customer’s identity, connect with them there.

  • There are multiple way to get from A to B for a patient (“pathing” 5-6 ways to get home.) Rigid patient journeys are not true to life. If I ask you how you get home from work, there is probably one route you usually take. However, depending on various sets of circumstances, there may be 5 to 6 different routes you can take home. These “alternative” routes have little room in most patient journey designs.

    More thoughtfulness needs to be put towards recreating genuine, true-to-life patient journeys. In the current “singular path” structure of many patient journey designs, these “alternative” paths are not represented, and there is no space for variability moving throughout the patient journey.

The bottom line: let’s stop seeing patients as their medical charts and demographic information and start seeing them as the lives they live, their interests, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Let’s bring more human centricity into our advertising.