Every generation has different wants and needs; effective healthcare messaging adapts to their expectations.

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Marketing is supposed to be the fun part, right? Surely, red tape was made for the legal and finance teams to sort out, not marketers? Sadly, those days are long past, if they ever existed at all. Today, every word and image on every piece of marketing collateral can be subject to intense scrutiny—especially in the healthcare industry.

Medical marketing is subject to a sometimes-bewildering array of ethical guidelines and legal regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Failure to comply can be costly. These rules take some marketing trends and innovations, such as personalization and hyper-targeting, completely off the table for healthcare. Or do they?

While regulations like HIPAA create challenges for medical marketing teams and agencies, they also create opportunities for new strategies—a chance to rethink your marketing and develop effective, compliant assets that engage target audiences positively. Although there are strict limits to how confidential patient information can be used, it’s still possible to develop abstract personas based on common threads in patient data—especially age.

Personas based on generational characteristics offer useful insights that inspire meaningful connections and drive engaging conversations.

Configuring healthcare marketing for different generations

On the whole, every generation has its own attitudes, preferences, and priorities. Failing to recognize prevailing tastes can cause your message to be dismissed or ignored—even if it’s something your audience truly needs to know. Breaking through the walls of indifference calls for a personal touch. You don’t need to trespass on patient privacy to make a personal connection, however. A few broad strokes can help optimize your message to reach audiences in each generation in terms they can relate to.

Keeping up with the Joneses: Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are coping with frequent and dramatic changes in their health, often related to age. Most of them are eligible for Medicare, or soon will be. They consume a majority of healthcare services and medications, which makes them an important audience for healthcare marketers.

  • Comprehension is key
    This audience appreciates language that is clear, well organized, and easy to understand. That means larger fonts, clear illustrations, and soothing color palettes. Marketers should be mindful of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and related regulations. Design choices that impede legibility can do more than impair the effectiveness of your marketing, they can lead to fines and other legal consequences.
  • Don’t rely too much on tech
    Boomers can be easily frustrated by online experiences. Age-targeted web experiences with relevant points of emphasis and a simplified layout can help reduce your bounce rate, and providing information that helps visitors perform common tasks on the phone or in person will boost customer satisfaction and build loyalty.
  • Monitor your ratings
    They may not be tech-savvy, but Boomers are the most likely to consider online ratings before choosing a healthcare provider. If your practice isn’t receiving favorable reviews—or isn’t set up for reviews at all—you could be losing potential patients.

The MTV audience: Generation X

Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen-Xers are tech-literate but skeptical of marketing. They have distinct preferences, and catering to them properly could capture a new generation of patients as they’re about to age into greater healthcare needs.

  • Rely on facts, not pressure
    Generation X doesn’t respond well to high-pressure marketing; they prefer to feel that they’re making their own choices. They research health issues, usually consulting multiple sources before making a purchase decision. If your marketing claims aren’t supported elsewhere, you risk alienating them entirely.
  • Keep things convenient
    Gen-Xers are the original multitaskers. They tend to favor healthcare organizations that can provide multiple services in one location, without repeat visits or long waits. Walk-in clinics, easy enrollment, and direct access are more appealing than elaborate presentations.
  • Speak to their stage in life
    It’s not against HIPAA rules to appeal to someone’s personal experiences. Generation X is aging into medical conditions that come naturally with time, and require new routine testing and procedures (e.g., eye exams, mammograms, colonoscopies). Prioritizing your message around these new health concerns can effectively capture attention and increase message retention.

The Internet generation: millennials

Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials like to challenge preconceptions and reinvent systems, and healthcare is no exception. They want to know things are being done the right way, not just the way it’s always been done. If you can show that you bring fresh perspectives to old problems, you can earn their confidence and loyalty.

  • Personalize your interactions
    HIPAA does not preclude one-on-one engagements on social media. Millennials are loyal to companies that respond to their questions with concise, relevant, accurate information.
  • Go digital
    Millennials appreciate the ability to research and act in their own time, on their own terms. Online portals, apps, and effective online correspondence carry a lot of weight in their healthcare decisions.
  • Speak to emotions
    More than any other generation, millennials value brands that afford them respect and emotional engagement. On the other hand, millennials can be more fickle than Boomers or Gen X, and will quickly switch brands after a negative experience, or if they feel that a brand doesn’t share their values.
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Finding common ground in healthcare marketing

Original assets and effective strategies that appeal to different generations are essential for healthcare providers and insurance companies, but they’re just the beginning. Every generation craves useful content, positive experiences, and consistent values from their healthcare brands, and quality is an absolute necessity in the heavily regulated healthcare market.

Industry rules and regulations may limit the options available to medical marketing, but understanding the broad generational differences in your target audiences can help you craft effective, ethical messaging with direct personal appeal.

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