Leading Healthcare Brands Must Adapt to Remain Competitive

Affluent consumers have recovered from the recession, but their willingness to spend is reserved, according to a new report from Unity Marketing. For concierge physicians seeking to attract member subscribers to their programs, this message couldn’t be more timely or important.

The new attitude towards wealth and spending seen from affluents will affect the way that leading healthcare brands market. Their consumers are no longer looking for just the top doctors or hospitals, but also for ways for them to be “smart shoppers.”

Bragging rights have changed from the designer to the bargain, and affluent consumers who pay their copays, deductibles and no-covered elective services are not necessarily looking for the best brand or provider, but what they can receive for their money. Leading healthcare providers have (and their marketing advisers) have failed miserably in most cases when it comes to marketing their products and services and meeting the market demand for perceived value.

This change in attitude often spearheads from the younger generations that are growing up into the target consumers for many healthcare brands, therefore a notion that holds high importance for many healthcare marketers.

Millennials are changing buying trends across the board, not just in healthcare. they won’t be buying concierge medical practice memberships just for the prestige of it all. They will look for comparable service without the membership price tag.

Attitude adjustment

The new attitude towards wealth and spending seen from affluents will affect the way that leading healthcare brands market. Their consumers are no longer looking for just the top doctors or hospitals, but also for ways for them to be “smart shoppers.”

Millennials are slowly emerging in the healthcare market and are pushing the boundaries of the expectations and experiences expected from leading healthcare brands. So many “leading healthcare brands” are in for a rude awakening because while they perceive of themselves as such, the Millennials don’t. That disconnect is actually hurdle number one.

The notion of prestige of a leading brand in healthcare demonstrates the way in which notions of value, prestige and the consumer are evolving.

Leading healthcare brands need to design a new story that informs the consumer about the brand and the details behind the products, services and the story.

Ratings of leading healthcare brands

When Unity marketing polled 327 individuals with a minimum net worth of $800,000, they found that brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes and Prada were thought to be overrated. Do they feel this way about leading healthcare brands such as Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, MD Anderson and others? Probably! But if this is the case, what will they articulate as their perception of the unbranded, generic concierge medicine physician?

Brands that have been employing the same marketing (think “selling”) strategies for years are often overlooked by consumers. Healthcare consumers buy. They are not “sold”. Healthcare brands with new, innovative ways that are looked to by affluents. Unknowns with no established brand story, awareness, prestige, or unquantifiable value face a different consumer reality.

Leading healthcare brands need new strategies

The ultra affluents seem to be buying more like the younger, high-earners-not-rich-yet population. Their concept of luxury and prestige is evolving.

Leading healthcare brands are faced with the challenge of evolving with the concept and the consumer. To be successul will take humility, a market research budget, and the right questions posed to the right responders. Leading healthcare brands must develop and refine their brand messages, promises, deliverable, and value proposition in a way that resonates with buyers – regardless if they are individual patients, insurers, employers, or government payers. They may need a different messaging strategy for all four.

Change is good

Looking into the trends, habits and beliefs of the top-tier market can help leading healthcare brands reimagine themselves for sustainability and to appeal to future generations. Otherwise, they may become the Edsels of healthcare.

For instance, most affluents tend to shop for healthcare in their local neighborhood, but one-fourth of these consumers consider online a better option. The state of most hospital, physician medical practice, and ASC websites is absolutely deplorable!

Leading healthcare brands must peel back layers of old thinking to learn the details behind the motivation, manners and thoughts of affluent consumers and their consumption habits. Brands and providers with this knowledge will be able to look at their top consumers in a different light and adjust their marketing strategies to benefit their brand positions going forward.

Adjusting to the new consumer is important for leading healthcare brands to survive economically

The affluents pay their copays and deductibles in a timely manner and spend personal discretionary income on valued amenities. They are defining how they purchase health services in new and different ways which means leading healthcare brands will have to tell new stories. This may include creating new categories so that the leading healthcare brand can focus more narrowly on being the leader in a smaller, niche playing field. The brand won’t look to expand, but instead it will seek to expand the market for its services.

What is happening now is that Millennials are more adventuresome and willing to try different brands that offer seemingly unique advantages.

Healthcare buyers are also burned out on the quality message

Quality is a concept that is overplayed. The way to build a leading healthcare brand is not by building a better-quality product. Building a healthcare brand on quality is like building a house on soft sand. Leading healthcare brands build quality into their products and services, but quality or the perception thereof, resides in the mind of the buyer. Leading healthcare brands that build a powerful perception of quality will win revenue, referrals and purchases.

Advertising about quality is a waste of time, money and effort. Conventional marketing practices in healthcare, especially in the international medical tourism market often include marketing a high-quality product at a comparable price. A better strategy in a sea of similar products with similar prices is to deliberately start with a higher price. Then ask what you can add to the product to justify the higher price.

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