What am I?

Healthcare or consumer product? That is not the question.

by Aleksandar Stojanovic

What am I?
What am I?

Healthcare or consumer product? That is not the question.

The healthcare megatrend calls cherished certainties into question. Alongside the washing powder and coffee, the shelves of supermarkets and household goods stores are groaning under the growing weight of healthcare goods. Yoghurts are marketed as promoting health, supported by all the tools of consumer marketing. On the conventional healthcare and medical technology markets too, providers are turning to measures normally used in mass marketing. The design of the complex products in the medical technology sector shows that on this market too, technical details alone are no longer enough. It’s looks that sell. The new insulin pump looks like an iPod and the extortionately expensive sonography unit is cuter than R2D2. Product design is a successful marketing instrument in the medical technology sector too.

So we’re on the right road then? No, because there is a wealth of untapped potential, and only a few people seem to have noticed it, maybe because, in the course of their development, a lot of companies and brands are still grappling with the issue of identity. Healthcare product, consumer product, or both? The answer is supposed to suddenly reveal the path that leads the way to all further activities. Does a chip fryer that fries a whole bag of chips with just one spoonful of oil still count as a household appliance, or is it a healthcare product? And what does this mean in terms of the most effective marketing? The discussions soon start, particularly on who is to handle the marketing and communication. In the past, things were at least simpler – though not always better – in the healthcare industry. Communication for pharmaceutical products, and often for medical technology products as well, belonged in the hands of special agencies. It was also clear that consumer products were the domain of the classic advertising agencies. This was because the one could do what the others supposedly could not, and vice versa, of course.

The current attempt to classify products in terms of healthcare, mass or consumer goods markets and use this as the basis for deciding which is the right type of communication and marketing does actually have consequences. Healthcare special agencies, which up till now have performed successfully, are suddenly being shunned because of the desire to urgently become more consumer-friendly. Equally, classic agencies are being passed over because it is thought they do not have the necessary skills to position a product with a healthcare angle on the market.

In this case, the interesting question "Who am I?" misses the point - the point being the consumers.

And shows that the described change to the healthcare market only serves to consolidate the tendency to think in boxes.

The solution for successful communication of healthcare themes today is not categorisation, but individualisation.

The question of consumer goods or healthcare is a side issue. Both can only be successful if they focus on the individual customer. Anyone who tries to reach the biggest possible target audience with a general message will end up with the lowest common denominator - which is by its very nature too small for major success. The key to success is the right message for the right person. And in the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps sooner than we might think: the right product for the right person!

Sounds like a big challenge. But there’s some very good news: digital communication has for a long time offered effective tools especially for this type of highly flexible, no-compromises orientation to the individual customer. These are highly concrete, efficient and measurable. Identification of wishes, interaction, targeted individual communication, organisation of distribution - other industries are already much further ahead with digital tools, even without such a strong driving force as the healthcare issue.
Let’s play our trump cards, leave the categories aside and start to think in terms of individual solutions!


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