What the Goliaths can learn from the startups
Everywhere you turn, there is negativity about the healthcare industry — the dysfunction of the overall system, the lack of real change and the disappointment of healthcare.gov. But a different story was told at the Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit. The event brought together leaders in healthcare, retail, venture capital and consumer technology to discuss the healthcare marketplace of the future — “Health2.0.”
Most interesting were the stories shared by those not traditionally thought of as healthcare companies. Companies like health and fitness site Greatist strive to make healthy living “cool.” Another example is Jawbone, the company offering the wireless fitness tracking wristband, UP24TM, which is predicted to become “the Apple of wearables.” Both are delivering a new type of wellness experience — frictionless, magnetic, engaging and even fun. Their design process and culture is obsessively consumer-focused and built to have an emotional connection in the context of people’s daily lives.
Why should we take notice? In silos, these companies’stories are intriguing examples of innovation. But at a macro level, there is a groundswell of activity afoot that points to a broader societal and cultural shift towards wellness and healthy living. Take note healthcare goliaths of the world — here are a few lessons from Greatist and Jawbone.
1. Focus on the experience and engagement will follow
Most industries are quickly coming to terms with the fact that we are moving away from building brands through positioning and advertising alone. For Jawbone and Greatist, messaging, advertising and marketing are not main focuses. Instead, the priority is on creating a highly unique brand experience to make meaningful connections with consumers, and social media-powered word-of-mouth does the rest. Greatist was created to fill the void of not having a trusted healthcare media destination for people searching for ways to improve their health. By delivering quality health information in a relatable tone, Greatist creates deep connections with its users that excite them about being involved. The site provides personalized, friendly, yet scientifically vetted articles that are more in line with a friend offering advice, rather than a doctor. And people keep coming back. Fifty-five percent of Greatist users log in from their phone and even come back multiple times a day. Not too many healthcare companies can boast that they receive daily Instagrams of their users personalizing its mantra, “I’m agreatist,” in creative and inspiring ways. Mainstream healthcare companies should refocus their energies and budgets on creating meaningful customer experiences, which, in turn, will build organic brand advocates for their company.
2. Use social tools to build a culture and community
The ultimate brand connection happens when the organization becomes a cultural force; something its members belong to and badge themselves with. Jawbone has thrived due to the community it has built organically. As wearing a Jawbone bracelet that tracks your activity, sleep and diet has become more mainstream, consumers are giving permission for others to jump on the bandwagon — essentially driving a healthy cultural change. It has become part of the normal dialogue, even showing up as a “hot fashion accessory” in the New York Post’s “Page Six.” And the acceptance was entirely organic with consumers thinking about their health for the first time and then getting excited about it, wanting to talk about it with their friends and sharing their experiences on social networks.
Greatist has built its foundation entirely on social networks. People looking for guidance on their health, exercise and diets have been turning away from the search bar and relying more on their social networks to get advice instead of doctors and experts. The company researched what information people searched for and shared on social networks and then built on that content to make it high-quality data that is user-friendly and written in a fun and friendly manner. The end result is that users want to share their experiences on Greatist, ultimately building communities of people excited and motivated about healthy living.
3. Behavior change is the key to success
For companies like Jawbone, solving the global health epidemic depends on people taking control of their own health. Everyone wants a better version of themselves, but there is a large gap between intention and taking action and control. Jawbone has changed behavior by making the process passive and easy (wearing the product) and then getting people excited about the results they see. The end effect is that consumers are talking about their results and engaging others in a dialogue about healthy living. It’s the behavior change that ultimately is reflected in the brand promise so that consumers know exactly what the brand stands for.
As a new healthcare marketplace takes shape, it is clear we are only scratching the surface of what is possible with consumer activation leading to meaningful lifestyle changes and truly improved health. Consumer engagement has long been the holy grail of healthcare — possibly out of reach of the complex institutional incumbents — but clearly in frame for this new class of consumer-driven life-improvement companies.
This begs two fundamental questions. First, is it possible that the economics of “Health 2.0” will be driven by emotional connection, behavior change and the power to form real, human and motivating connections? And second, is this the rise of a new social/mobile consumer services market or planting the seeds for a health industry game changer? “Health2.0” is already taking shape, consumers are value starved and hungry for innovation, and the prize is the single largest value/growth market anywhere in the industry over the next decade. Is your organization ready for the new game?
Article originally published in Forbes on January 30, 2014.