Loyalty & Healthcare

How It Can Be Consumer-Centricity At It's Finest

Formalized health and wellness programs have grown to a $6 billion inudstry becuase employers believe they will reduce their healthcare costs and improve productivity by encouraging employees to take better care of their helath.1

Our doctors and other healthcare providers are onboard because they want to see us healthy and happy. Our health insurance companies promote this because it means less cost to the system. We buy in (sometimes) because we are financially motivated with rewards. But unlike many reward programs that are built to drive transactions and sales growth by rewarding increased frequency and spend of their consumer, and where brand loyalty is the ultimate goal, I would argue there is a fundamental difference when it comes to the health and wellness space. Consumer loyalty in healthcare is not to a brand—at least not in the beginning. Loyalty in the health and wellness space is to consumer themselves. The brand I need to be loyal to is me.

Healthcare is complicated. Behavior change is hard and it takes time. It’s a lot easier to maintain the status quo vs. doing something new. But if we, the consumers, don’t believe in and commit to putting our health first, no reward, marketing communication, doctor or employer is going to change our minds. This might explain why typically fewer than 20% of eligible employees participate in health and wellness interventions.2 It might also explain why 1 in 5 Americans owns a wearable health tracking device.3

So, instead of asking the question “how do we get consumers to engage with us and our brand?”, what if we considered what role we have in getting consumers to believe in and commit to their own health and wellness? And what are the steps an engagement marketer needs to take to demonstrate that they understand this role? At Olson, we advise our health and wellness clients to think about focusing their strategies on the consumers’ mindsets and their desired outcomes:

Get Me: Understand and respect my values and sense of worth. I know what I need to do, so don’t preach or scold. I will take action when I’m ready because I will do it for me—and for reasons that are personal to me.

Show What's Possible: Make it real. Introduce me to people who have taken the right steps to health and wellness and show me how it’s impacted them. It’s too easy to say “that’s not me, that won’t happen to me, I don’t have time.” I’m in denial until I realize there are people just like me saying the same thing.

Make It Easy: Help me see what I can do to get started. Show me ways to take action vs. putting things off until tomorrow or until something hurts. And when I’m ready to commit, make it easy to find a doctor, make an appointment, pay for it, or find a wearable device that puts me in control (of both my progress and my data).

Think of retailers that have been successful in growing sales. When a consumer wants to make a purchase, the best retailers have made it easy to find the product, order it, and get the service they deserve. The best restaurants are easily found when someone is in the area or looking for the right option to satisfy a craving. It’s about breaking down barriers and not getting in the way of a consumer’s desired action.

Be There: The goal of great coaching in sports is to guide, inspire and empower an athlete or team to achieve their full potential. Many wellness programs also have coaches who guide members. But a wellness program can go beyond guiding people—it can also be a guiding principle in all touchpoints. When was the last time you heard someone say their healthcare experience left them feeling inspired and empowered? Remember, it can come down to simply being knowledgeable, dependable and supportive. Give me help when I need it and answer my questions when I have them.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Loyalty implies a faithfulness that is steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert or betray.” Persuading consumers to feel this way about health and wellness companies is not easy, but companies stand a fighting chance when they realize and accept that the answer to this challenge comes with getting consumers to believe in and commit to their own health and wellness.

1 “Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work? Usually Not. NYTimes. 11 Sept. 2014. Web.
2 “Workplace Wellness Programs Study”. RAND Health. 2013. Web. https://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/workplacewellnessstudyfinal.pdf
3 “Spotlight on the Wearable Future”. PwC. 16 Oct. 2014. Web.

About the Author

Kim Perila-Schlink, Strategy Director, brings almost 20 years of marketing and consumer engagement experience to her current role as Strategy Director at Olson 1to1 where she supports clients’ loyalty and CRM programs. Prior to joining Olson, Kim worked in a combination of agency and client marketing roles where her passion for consumer insights, marketing strategy and problem-solving resulted in strong marketing campaigns and business results. Her experience has spanned various industries, with a strong focus in healthcare and financial services. Kim has a BA in International Business and an MBA in Marketing.