As a commercialization of innovation (CoI) specialist, I’ve been to many digital health and connected health conferences, and spoken with many healthcare innovators who are working relentlessly to bring their innovation to market.
Naturally, some companies and products demonstrate more excitement and innovation than others. There is one thing that continues to baffle me though: why are so many groundbreaking companies taking such an outdated, plain, and downright boring path with their branding and marketing?
It seems as though these new companies are shy in the face of the overwhelming competition of today’s healthcare industry. While “playing it safe” seems like a reasonable approach, many brands are giving in to the inclination to mimic their competitors.
After all, they were successful, so this approach will work again… right?
Unfortunately for many, it’s too late when they discover that successful commercialization isn’t as linear as it might seem. The bottom line is that you need to know your audience intimately, and you need to position your products in their hearts and minds while standing out against your competitors — which might mean a bright, bold, and uncommon approach.
Dare to Be Different — Dare to Be Noticed
The healthcare IT market is poised to exceed $280 billion by 2021. Every day, there are more technological breakthroughs in the way we collect, explore, and exchange information, which in turn has a snowball effect on the rate of innovation and the way we interact with our health.
To claim your share of the market, it’s not just a recommendation that you overcome the inclination to mimic your competitors. It’s mission critical.
When developing a brand identity for your healthcare innovation, it might seem enticing to opt for the blue and gray logo. Calm, tame, and agreeable. Maybe in your marketing collateral or on your website, you’re leaning toward a stock photo of nurses, patients, or pharmacists smiling.
It’s almost as if these branding elements are the industry’s status quo. And, while this has been a successful strategy for some of the world’s most established and renowned brands, the market is just too saturated for you to be able to afford blending in.
Marketing’s Slice of the Innovation Pie
Regularly, marketing gets a disproportionately tiny slice of the innovation pie. How many times have you heard a brand make the promise that its new products or services are different and unique, yet their branding and campaigns are vague, indistinguishable, and average at best?
Many view it as safe branding: minimize financial and adoption risk by staying between the lines and under the radar. Companies and business leaders are hesitant or simply unwilling to invest the time or money in building a brand or campaign that equals the time and money they’ve invested in developing that product or service. Some are just afraid to be different.
This mindset is practically indoctrinated into the healthcare industry. The business landscape is riddled with outdated systems, stringent bureaucratic policy, and miles of red tape that spans the length of the Great Wall of China.
The roadblocks of the industry have dictated decades of delayed change and innovation, but we’ve entered a new age and a dramatic shift in the way we do business. We’re seeing incredible advances in technology, which facilitate — and demand — that companies re-examine the way they communicate with consumers.
No matter the cause of their marketing paralysis, it’s a widespread challenge that faces the healthcare industry. It’s time to address it.
The 21st Century Is Calling
“Safe” branding just doesn’t cut it anymore.
In today’s healthcare landscape, we’re competing against thousands of other brands whose goals — and products, services, and business models — may be exactly the same. In a lot of ways healthcare has become a commodity. Consumerism has changed, and advertising has exploded to cater to these changing markets.
Unlike the good old days, consumers are drowning in choices and bombarded with branding. So, we’re faced with an increasing urgency to really define our brand story, make sure we’re catching our consumers’ eye, and make a big impression, fast. If we look like everyone else, how will they know what makes us special?
It’s time to stop being boring. Boring marketing is invisible! The ingenuity and passion behind you and your company needs to match your brand and marketing appeal. Especially in sectors like digital health, telemedicine, mhealth, and wearables.
Say no to the confines of corporate blandness and me-too marketing. Adiós to being invisible. Say yes to smart marketing that expresses the unique characteristics that make up the DNA or your company, product, service, or business model.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2014 and has been revamped for relevance in the face of market changes.