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Opportunity knocks!

For brand marketers in consumer-driven healthcare


Sheila Mott

Vice President, Head of U.S. Business Insights

Kantar Health




Delivering better health to people, alleviating suffering, and extending life have always been driving forces behind developing and bringing prescription healthcare brands to life. While successfully commercializing a product requires navigating government regulations and payer restrictions, marketers have also traditionally created and carefully controlled brand messages. However, healthcare brand marketing is in the middle of a sea change.


We can safely say goodbye to the era of prescriber-driven brand marketing. We now have a market environment dominated by payers and record-high direct-to-consumer advertising. This year’s BrandZ report also shows that technology is driving top brands. As a result, it's no surprise that technology and consumerism have become major influences in shaping health and wellness brands.


In this highly fluid healthcare environment, however, one thing hasn’t changed much. Marketing is still too often about patients, not with patients. This needs to change. More than ever, patients are empowered and focused on their wellness. An aging population is demanding more from healthcare companies and providers. And the digital revolution is not merely affecting health and wellness, it's also providing us with powerful platforms for interacting with and understanding our customers.


In children's health, for example, the pediatrician was once the authority. This is no longer the case. As Dr. Natasha Burgert says, “Today, it’s pretty common for millennial parents to view their providers as secondary—important, but a secondary source.” In this new era, consumer participation is essential to finding better outcomes. Brands must embrace collaboration and co-creation, and only those that know how to partner with healthcare consumers will create strong healthcare brands in the future.  



Fostering a healthy dialogue between pharma and its consumers starts with understanding the person behind the patient. At Kantar Health, we're delivering unique insights about the patient ecosystem: how a condition affects individuals, how socio-cultural factors shape their experience, and what role patient advocates and support groups play in their lives. This deep and personal understanding lays the groundwork for identifying touchpoints where brands can intersect with consumers, creating nudges, triggers, and interventions that can improve patient outcomes. This is also not a simple process of insight and outbound communication, but rather one of dialogue with patients that leads to the co-creation of value-driven healthcare solutions.


Authenticity and Transparency

Another way that pharma is collaborating with consumers is through patient advisory and clinical trial satisfaction research. The goal here is to make clinical trials more understandable and patient-friendly. The reason is that while clinical trials are expensive and time-consuming for healthcare companies, they are also arduous and emotionally challenging for patients. After all, patients are giving their time, hope, and sometimes their lives for the chance of a better outcome for themselves or someone in the future.

Patients in today’s clinical trials have voices and ideas that are paving the way for collaboration. Participants no longer tolerate being kept in the dark. They expect to be informed and active participants and decision makers in their own care. And brands are taking notice. For example, Janssen has taken steps to give patients access to their data during and after trials. “This is a first step toward more patient participation and empowerment” says Andreas Koester, MD, PhD, Global Head, R&D Operations Innovation, Janssen.


In addition, Bristol Meyers Squibb recently aired unique, direct-to-consumer advertisement for Opdivo®. As you might expect, it detailed the risks, data, indications, and brand promise. But it also thanked the patients and physicians who participated in the drug’s clinical trials, thus extending the relationship the brand had built with its patients.  


Personalized Precision Medicine

Precision medicine offers another opportunity for increased co-creation. Recent research conducted for the Harvard Business School (HBS) Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator shows that there are many gaps in information around the critical steps to "get right" immediately after diagnosis, to achieve the best outcomes. For example, as many as 40% of cancer patients don’t know their tumor sub-type, and over 80% aren’t familiar with genomic testing. The research also revealed many instances where patients’ conditions moved past important touchpoints that could have been critical to their outcomes. Armed with this information, HBS is working to get the right information to the right patients at the right time. By leveraging the patient ecosystem and truly understanding a patient's situation, this information can be shared in a relatable voice and help patients who are trying to navigate a complex system.


The path forward is clear. Healthcare companies that embrace collaboration and authenticity, and truly understand their consumers and how to talk with them will be co-creating the brands of a healthier future.