Do powerful new healthcare advertising strategies work across cultures?


As you might suspect from those informative but uninteresting medical brochures, and print ads with more fine print than appeal, the medical industry is a tough one to advertise for. In addition to preventing possible legal issues, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies know that most people don’t want to think about illnesses and injuries; they’d rather be browsing social media instead.  But lately, more and more companies are finding new ways to approach the general public and potential patients.

Take, for example, Philips’ award-winning “Breathless Choir” ad campaign, which resulted not only in accolades, but an increase in sales of the company’s oxygen devices.  The campaign follows a group of people with breathing-related illnesses, and how they’re able to ultimately sing in a choir. The overall concept isn’t unique: in a fascinating article on MM&M (Medical Marketing and Media)’s website, Jaimy Lee reports a general shift in healthcare marketing. Now, patients and their stories are the focus, not the drug or product.

Lee writes that drug pricing has become a controversial issue in countries around the world, forcing global brands to advertise in ways that emphasize the emotional, personal benefits of their products, instead of simply giving information and expecting potential clients to pay what they might now see as far too much money for them.

Many of the ads that Lee’s and other articles discuss are geared towards the US, UK, or Australian markets. But is this more personal approach effective across cultures?

In some ways, the answer seems to be yes. A number of these marketing campaigns are global, simply because they’re easy to find and even participate in (think, uploading a “Movember”-related selfie), via the web.

But what about older generations who tend to be more traditional-minded and less internet- and social media -savvy? Surprisingly, no major studies seem to have been done on this issue.  It may be because ultimately, the answer is the same as it is whenever it comes to cross-cultural advertising: You have to know your audience.

One very important place to start is even how the target group gets its information.  As this article reveals, in different American cultures alone, there are dramatic differences when it comes to how people are exposed to ads, and even what language they prefer them in.

Once a medical or pharmaceutical company has determined how to reach its audience, the next issue is how to convince people to choose their product or service. I’ve written before about how culture can affect a patient’s experience, including their decision to get help or treatment. One well-known example of this phenomenon is the way Western patients tend to see their health issues as mainly concerning themselves, while Asian patients often perceive health problems as collective, with decisions being made as a family unit or by the head of the family, not the individual.

Some cultural groups are strongly influenced by their beliefs, while others are guided by different criteria. For example, The Atlantic’s Amanda Machado explains that many Latinos put off going to the doctor or following through with treatment due to an inherent cultural sense of pride, independence and preference of less standardized medicine.

If you’re planning to market your healthcare product or service to another culture, the best strategy seems to be

– Understand the culture, especially the way your target demographic tends to think about healthcare and medicine.

– Learn how people in this culture tend to be most exposed to advertising, and their preferred language and media format (articles, videos, etc.)

One way to accomplish these strategies is by partner with a translation agency that’s not only familiar with the languages involved, but also the cultures.

With aging populations in the US and many countries around the world, it’s the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry’s time to shine. By understanding its target consumers, any health-related company can benefit from this boom – and bring the life-improving benefits of its product or service to patients across cultures.

by Alysa Salzberg

#translations #crossculturalmarketing #healthcareadvertising #heathcaremarketing #aiatranslations

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