How Spirits Would Reinvent the Healthcare Industry

By Andy Smith (@andysmithpalio)

What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for, says an old Irish adage. While that might not track well with todays focus on healthier lifestyles, the health care industry, thankfully, offers a range of options for people to feel better whether thats improved living through pharmaceuticals, therapeutic approaches to pain management or a focused approach to diet and lifestyle.

Like the spirits industry, health care needs to explore new avenues for thriving in a struggling economy. How would spirits reinvent the health care industry?

Greater focus on experience Youd see a shift in marketing from solutions-based messaging to affinity-based and aspirational messaging. While theres always going to be a role for “if you have this medical condition, heres how this drug or device fixes it types of marketing, the spirits industry knows, perhaps better than any other sector, how to precisely research and target audience segments based on how they want to be perceived. It might sound silly to have a hot new drug marketed differently and even branded differently — to, say, Medicare recipients, middle-class consumers and affluent consumers, but the spirits industry has proven this path to increased sales and profitability. Of course, this isnt entirely new to health care. More than a decade ago Viagra found Bob Dole, and he gave voice to how the drug improved his sex life, capitalizing on the end-experience while treating the medical condition.

A blend of private and state-run dispensaries Rather than a privatized sale system, youd see state-by-state variations in where you could get your prescriptions, with some states allowing you to go to a private drug store and others requiring you to go to a state-run pharmacy. This would create a revenue-generating model for some states as well as provide more rigors around compliance.

Integrated marketing would be an imperative While sponsorship is de rigueur in the health care industry, youd likely see resources re-allocated among the sales and marketing departments, with some efforts currently used for sales being re-tasked to street-team and end-user marketing. This goes back to more focus on experience and enable consumers and patients to learn through experience, whether thats regulation-approved health product sampling or personalized education events. Social media will also play a greater role. Spirits marketers have placed great effort on engaging consumers in meaningful, pitch-perfect dialogue and enabling those individuals to have consumer-to-consumer dialogue, driving sales and creating brand ambassadors. Health care has begun doing this as patient and physician blogging gains momentum but if the spirits industry had a say, theyd make it part of the regular business approach.

Offer different value propositions to consumers One-size rarely fits all and that too is true for the health care industry. With so many brands and generic offerings, the health care industry needs to take a deeper-dive into consumer needs and explore options such as tiered pricing, more brands and different-sized packages with different value propositions for the customer. Taking a daily aspirin as part of a therapeutic regimen? Enable customers to make few trips to the store by selling larger packaging. Like the spirits industry, health care can offer almost anything anyone wants.

Combine operations for greater distribution reach Several years ago, SABMiller and Molson Coors combined their U.S. operations into a joint venture called MillerCoors. Joining forces gave the partners greater distribution reach and manufacturing capacity. It also gave them more ammunition to take on their top competitor, Anheuser-Busch. While merger and acquisition activity is no stranger to the pharma and health care industries, more companies would form partnerships that would retain brand integrity but accelerate sales.

Taking lessons from the spirits industry can help health care organizations rethink marketing methods and give organizations a reason to raise their proverbial glass. How are you celebrating your customer?

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One Response to How Spirits Would Reinvent the Healthcare Industry

  1. alan says:

    Similar to the spirits industry the cigarette industry years ago knew how to create “image” ads that appealed to consumers desire to be a part of a perceived social group. Players, Dunhill, Benson&Hedges, these Philip Morris brands cleverly sold sociability, world wise, and upscale sexiness respectively. I think the therapeutic benefits of a daily aspirin was a great idea, natural vitamin manufacturers sell their pills based on the idea of improving health through chemistry. And I agree that mergers and acquisitions are a very limited, and not very creative, approach to growth. Thanks.