Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Modern Families Require New Thinking About Your Target Audiences

Since the mid-80's, when healthcare marketing first burst onto the scene, "women, 35-64" were considered the 'sweet spot' of consumer audiences for marketing communications programs.  She represented the heavy user, influencer, and the primary decision maker for the entire family.   However, in the last 30 years, with seismic shifts in lifestyles and household compositions, this traditional view of the "classic demographic" needs to be re-examined to take into account non-traditional family dynamics.  And this represents a great opportunity for healthcare marketers to capture these emerging households.

As Springbrand Brand and Creative Strategy (happy now SEO department) engages in more focus group panels across the U.S. on behalf of hospitals and health systems, one message is consistent:  people want to see themselves ("people like me") reflected in advertising and communications campaigns.  This should be welcoming news to marketers trying to represent their organizations in more transparent and genuine ways in support of the overall mission.

So who are these new households and what dynamics should be reflected in your marketing initiatives?  Take a look at some of the changes that have occurred during the last 30 years:
  • Mixed marriages have more than doubled
  • The divorce rate is nearly 50%
  • Over one-third of children are in single parent households
  • There are more working women and stay-at-home dads than ever before
  • Inter-faith marriages are up 50%
  • There's been tremendous growth in the number of same-sex households
  • People are living longer
All of these changes have tremendous implications on how marketers should look at their customer groups.  Certainly some U.S. markets reflect more of these shifts than others, but the traditional perspective of "women, 35-64" should be challenged and new target groups reached through many alternative media channels and social networks.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Re-examine your marketplace - Evaluate how these shifts might be impacting families in your region and how their compositions have changed.  If consumer's want to "see themselves" in your marketing messages, make sure you know who it is you're talking to and who comprises their family situations.
  • Align your customer service strategies -With satisfaction scores becoming a key metric to reimbursement and hospital ratings, now is a good time to also re-examine your customer service protocols and amenities.  For example, if your market has a higher incidence of male heads-of-households, what types of services might they need from your organization.
  • Evaluate research methodologies - Accurately reflect these new dynamics and demographics in your focus groups, telephone surveys, on-line surveys and other research studies.  Learn what's important to these segments and what you can do to win their business.
  • Push your service-line strategies - Determine if there are new opportunities to strengthen and enhance your service lines.  One of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy's clients in Maryland developed a new Senior's ER to meet the growth of seniors in its region.  Equipped with non-slip floors, warm robes, and large remote controls - to name a few of the amenities - this new service has been very well received and opened a new customer niche for the hospital.
  • Reflect the marketplace in your creative - Take an objective look at your creative materials; advertising, collateral, and on-line to determine if, in fact, it accurately reflects the real families in your marketplace.  Represent the diversity that exists; not every familial unit consists of a "mom, dad, two kids, and a dog!" 
  • Continue to explore new media channels and networks - New dynamics of audiences can be reached in so many different ways, with digital, traditional, social, and on-line strategies.  What a great opportunity to engage consumers in their environments to win market share and gain long-term advocacy.
Today's modern family is more than a hit TV show.  It's a new composition of your customer groups, and you have an opportunity to make a greater impact with your marketing and creative strategies.  If consumers want to see "people who look like me," accurately reflect them in your messaging and reach out in genuine and authentic ways.

Rob Rosenberg is President of  Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com