Empowering the customer: How to market health products and services


The line between information and persuasion is a difficult one for marketers to navigate at the best of times.

For those in the healthcare and pharmaceutical business, it’s not so much a line as a barbed-wire fence. And rightly so. The products and services that these businesses create need to back up promises they’re making. Because those promises – life, health and wellbeing – go out to some of the most vulnerable in society and can have serious, even fatal, consequences if they aren’t followed through.

What are the regulations?

Healthcare marketing protocol in Australia is governed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It has a set of principles which are applicable to all trading businesses, which concern areas like:

  • Intellectual property
  • Spamming
  • Warranties and Guaranties
  • Telemarketing
  • Privacy
  • Advertising

Healthcare businesses, of course, must adhere to the rules and conventions set out in these policies, but they are supplemented by guidelines set out by bodies such as the Medical Board of Australia. It states that marketing must adhere to the following value-statements:

  1. Advertising can be a useful way to communicate the services health practitioners offer to the public so that consumers can make informed choices.

  2. Advertising that contains false and misleading information may compromise healthcare choices and is not in the public interest.

  3. The unnecessary and indiscriminate use of regulated health services is not in the public interest and may lead to the public purchasing or undergoing a regulated health service that they do not need or require.

Education, not just persuasion

The highest purpose of a healthcare campaign, the board argues, isn’t merely to sell your product or service, but to impart the right information to those in need of care. By giving customers the relevant knowledge about your product, you are empowering them to make the most informed choices for their health and their family’s health. Below we look at organisations who have creatively, powerfully and responsibly got their message out to the public.


The month November hasn’t always struck dread into the Australian population. But as we hit the end of the year we know that men across the country are going to attempt to grow out that ‘stache; and the rest of us have to bravely put up with a population that looks like this:

Movember - Justin Bieber

Such is the power of Movember, an idea the founders had over a few beers in 2003 to raise awareness for prostate cancer (and to see how many mo’s they could convince people to grow out). From these humble beginnings Movember has blossomed into a movement that has:

  • Gone from 30 ‘Mo Bros’ in 2003 to over 5 million ‘Mo Bros’ and ‘Mo Sistas’ in 2015
  • Raised $AUD 770 million
  • Opened operations in 20 other countries
  • Expanded the cause to other afflictions affecting men including testicular cancer and mental health.

One of the reasons that Movember has been so successful is that it’s taking a topic that isn’t discussed and making it approachable. The Director of Movember in Canada Ryan Bombaci sums it up by saying, ‘we don’t take ourselves so seriously. There is some fun in growing a moustache, whether in the office, or with your friends, and that’s at the core of what makes Movember what it is.’

The organisation offers a variety of online forums and local social events where mo-growers can gather, compete and compare the fruits of their face labour. To date there are website forums for ‘Lame mo’ ‘Miss mo’ and ‘Friends of mo’, as well as prizes for the most money raised. The movement has also been boosted by viral YouTube clips populated by famous moustaches eager to help the cause:

That video got nearly two million hits.

Another part of the success is attributed to changing the message and expanding the mission. While the cause revolves around the moustache icon, the message changes every year, on different platforms. They don’t just send out uniform content to their 20 countries but have teams who work on campaigns that are targeted at their region. Each country also has its own website where you can check out community events, personal stories and the latest news.

Movember is the paragon of health awareness marketing because it demonstrates that you don’t need large investments. You can be very successful if you have a really fun, focal idea and access to a few social platforms.

Nivea – Give a doll sunscreen campaign

In Brazil, Nivea were faced with a problem: kids hate applying sunscreen. Their solution was fun, simple and very effective. They created a doll that starts to burn when faced with sun-rays. When the child rubs some lotion onto the doll, the burn starts to fade.

Creative VP at FCP Brazil Joanna Monteiro said it’s the emotional bond with the doll that allows the message to sink home: ‘Protecting and caring for something is a skill we learn from an early age. Through the magic of technology, children can see the sun’s effect on the skin of the doll.’ It got such a great reaction that people have started to ask where they can buy the doll for their kids (they’re not out as yet).

The ‘I touch myself’ project

Like Movember, the NSW Cancer Council also took a subject that needed to be discussed and brought it into the open. However, its treatment is very different, but no less powerful. The campaign came about when Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett lost her battle with breast cancer in 2013. She’s also someone who was passionate about early detection. Spearheaded by the Cancer Council, other members of the community, including businesses, artists, friends and survivors then came together to create the ‘I touch myself’ campaign. The campaign revolves around the song Amphlett was best known for and is performed in a powerful and raw way by leading Australian female artists.

The team behind ‘I touch myself’ also partnered with Berlei to create the ‘Chrissy bra’, a ‘rock n roll’ piece that was made especially for those who had undergone breast surgery, allowing them to feel comfortable and confident. All profits from the bra go back into the foundation. Women can also share their stories via Instagram and Facebook.

What makes this campaign so powerful and moving is how it’s opened a dialogue for women who have been affected so they can share their stories, and create awareness while doing so. To date the video has been viewed nearly 900,000 times.

The key to great health marketing

The common element in these three campaigns is that they want to create awareness for their cause and change people’s behaviour, rather than thinking of how they can profit. The goodwill and positive reviews that these campaigns have generated are evidence of that. The campaigns are inclusive, uplifting and empowering, urging their communities to take care of themselves and of each other.

We hope that these campaigns have inspired you to think creatively about your own marketing activity. If you’d like to know more about the latest in marketing, you should consider attending ADMA Techmix @ CeBIT.

CeBIT Australia Digital Marketing Report