Hospital Marketing on TV Hinges on Emotion

This article was previously published on Forbes.

Marketing to women still has a long way to go, including for hospitals, with two-thirds of women stating that they feel misunderstood by healthcare marketers. With a global value of over $6.5 trillion, the healthcare market offers a bevy of opportunity to hospitals and other healthcare organizations that show they consider women’s perspectives and experiences important.

Here are some thoughts on how to leverage emotion to connect with your female audience and drive preference via broadcast spots.

Why Television?
TV remains a popular medium. In a recent study of over 1,000 U.S. consumers, the overwhelming majority (58 percent) said they prefer TV advertisements over those delivered via any other medium. The next highest was online (13 percent). Television is unique because, while broadcast reach has shrunk in the internet age, unlike with newspapers and magazines, the medium itself hasn’t changed much — and people still consume it en masse, especially when it comes to content categories like politics and sports.

What Do Women Want From TV Ads?
Women engage more with ads than men do, and they respond strongly to storytelling, emotion and portrayals of relationships. When women see their own behaviors in advertising, or when they see true stories about people going through what they’re experiencing, they can form a strong emotional bond with a brand very quickly. If you create stories that build emotional tension to deliver a powerful message about how your hospital can help a woman or her family, you’ve hit the sweet spot.

Marketing messages that feature employee or customer testimonials can do this work in a powerful way. Consider, for example, how you might use current or former cancer patients to tell their treatment stories, like the American Cancer Society did in last year’s brand campaign (registration required).

How to Portray Women in Your TV Advertising
Recently, the Association of National Advertisers formed a coalition of 1,000 brands and more than $40 billion in ad spending on U.S. TV to better represent women in ads and on TV programs. Dubbed #SeeHer, the initiative seeks to portray women positively and promote gender equality. When Madison Avenue speaks, especially with that much money on the table, all marketers should listen carefully.

That means marketers should take care to address gender bias in advertising, a goal that requires careful practice from concept to execution. If you’re casting for the role of a physician, have you considered what unconscious biases may have shaped your idea of what that character looks like? Portray women in positions of authority. Examine how much airtime they get in relation to men. Employ women on your marketing teams, and perform market research to make sure you’re getting it right.

What About Millennial Women?
The millennial generation includes the most diverse group of women in American history: 43 percent are not white, and the group as a whole has greater diversity in race, sexual orientation, cultural background and other aspects of identity than any generation before it. To reach these women, the actors, models and stock photos in your ads need to look like them. Prioritize diversity in your advertising, and your diverse audience will connect with you.

Which Brands Are Doing This Well?
Here are three great examples of empowering campaigns directed toward women.

1. The Always #LikeAGirl campaign challenges a harmful stereotype with poise and power.

2. The Dove #SpeakBeautiful campaign shows the damage of judgmental language on social media and posits an alternative.

3. Sport England’s This Girl Can delivers a punch right in the stereotype and shows women of all shapes and sizes engaging in physical activity without concern about how they look while doing it.

Why should we emulate these campaigns? When a woman likes how an ad portrays women, she’s highly likely to buy the product advertised. And when hospital marketers do our jobs right, the healthcare industry and women overall can only benefit.

Kathy Selker
I’m Kathy Selker. My work as CEO of Northlich, a Cincinnati-based healthcare marketing agency, has taught me a great deal about how hospitals and health systems can best connect with women to make the most positive impact in their lives.
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