Social truths

Not too long ago, the Marlboro Man was a hero. Now he’s the ultimate symbol of unhealthy living.

Such a shift in cultural mindset is what we at InterbrandHealth refer to as a “social truth” – a sudden social revolution or, as the website states, “What a distinct group perceives to be so.”

The Marlboro Man epitomizes why brand managers and marketers have to respond quickly to societal changes. They have to anticipate shifts in group thinking in order to effectively meet consumer needs.

And if brands are managed exceptionally well, they might even be capable of driving a social truth for their own benefit. Look no further than Nike.

In the 1980s, marathons were reserved for the select few. Today, those of you reading this blog post can rattle off many family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues who have tackled the hills of San Francisco or Heartbreak Hill in Boston. This is because the Nike brand succeeded in empowering its consumer base – turning them all into athletes. A marathon, once thought of as impossible and reserved for supreme athletes, suddenly became an attainable goal for many. Nike helped spur that mindset shift and saw a great increase in revenue and market share as a result.

Those of us in healthcare often think we are so regulated and unique that we don’t need to pay attention to such things as shifts in societal thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Just as with other sectors, healthcare has its own unique social truth dynamics. From the rapid adoption of new technologies to a sharp increase in the number of men visiting dermatologists for cosmetic issues, there is no question that societal changes are directly influencing how we deal with healthcare.

One social truth that we feel may be developing within the sector is a transition from oral contraceptive products to insertable contraceptive products.

The change is taking shape first in the OB/GYN community, where more than 60 percent of female OB/GYNs use an insertable contraceptive product – a major shift in how OB/GYNs think and behave. And while these products are still new to patients, consumers’ calls for more transparency means that it won’t be long before female patients shift their mindset and try a product that their female doctors not only strongly advocate, but actually use.

It may seem farfetched now to think that the female population will shift from using pill contraceptives to insertable contraceptive products like NuvaRing, but suggesting that consumers would ditch their walkmans in favor of iPods or that Millennials would prefer texting over email probably seemed farfetched at one point in time too.

In staying ahead of social truths and responding to “what a distinct group perceives to be so,” healthcare manufacturers can adjust their brand promise, brand strategy and brand messaging in a highly strategic way. By listening to consumers and keeping a finger on the pulse of societal changes, these industry leaders have the unique opportunity to brand products and services to truly drive revenue.

There is no stopping social truths. They will continue to change the world and they will continue to change the way we interact with brands. There is only one question left for healthcare manufacturers to answer: How do we understand and influence such shifts in cultural thinking in a way that is both ethical and positively impacts our bottom line?

Unless we constantly look to the outside world, we will miss valuable trends and insights – trends and insights that can inform us as to how consumers think about their health and help us to understand the language they use. Such information can only help us to embed our brands into their lives in a more relevant and meaningful way.