NHS: marketing strategies learned from Apple

NHS: marketing strategies learned from Apple 2500 1478 JFConsult Group

Marketing strategies. Branding. Value proposition. Health. 

The latter seems at odds with traditional marketing vernacular yet effective health marketing could be an innovative solution to improving customer (in this case, patient) experience and health outcomes. It, therefore, follows to ask, how should health be marketed?

Taking a leaf from key market players that have succeeded in marketing their brand(s) would seem like a natural place to start. However, in a society where

the nationalisation of healthcare almost follows a natural monopoly, successful and innovative branding strategies may need to be sourced from completely different sectors. For example, Apple have often been Forbes-listed as the World’s most valuable brand. Once near-bankruptcy, healthcare stakeholders have much to learn from this now multi-billion company’s transformational brand strategy.

1. Simplicity

Stripped down often to just the product on a white background with the model name, Apple advertisements are notably minimalistic. One would be forgiven in assuming that such audacious simplicity would result in miscommunication of key product information yet quite the contrary! Apple manages to subliminally convey ‘more important’ and attention-grabbing messages through methods that always seem to speak to our souls. They succeed in keeping the language simple because they’ve kept their product(s) simple to operate (at least, that is the perception we have of them). Far from that case, medication compliance frequently fails because patients don’t understand how to take their medication or how said medication works. The annual fiscal cost of pharmaceutical waste within the NHS approximates to £300million. By learning from Apple’s simplicity-focused marketing communication techniques, health professionals (especially within the NHS) may find ways to improve the simplicity of communication to their target markets.

2. Mainstream

Prior to 1977, the concept of personal computers (PCs) as a mass-market consumer device had not been realised. Computers were still outsized, enigmatic devices found in resource-intensive establishments such as banks or universities. Apple were able to recognise two key barriers that prevented the computer from becoming ‘personal’; Affordability & Usability. The Apple II model was released; an affordable PC with minimal setting-up operations for the consumer. This ‘ready-to- use’ PC widened the computer market to the Average Joe. Gone was the need for an extensive computing background or indeed sizeable savings.

Yet, well-documented barriers to health still persist in the UK. It is known that in England those living in the least deprived regions experience 20 years more of good health than those in the most deprived. It is paramount that key stakeholders in the public health sector strive to make health an accessible reality for everyone. More must be done to remove systemic and individual barriers to healthcare access.

3. Emotions

The Harvard Business Review conducted research that boldly concluded that, an emotional connection to a brand is more important than customer satisfaction. Leveraging consumer emotions into optimal consumer engagement is an emotional branding strategy employed by Apple. The cult-like following and hysteria after a new product is released is testament to this. But why is this important you may ask?

Emotional branding is the cornerstone for brands that want to maintain a loyal, almost evangelistic, customer base. Though admittedly peculiar to parallel the NHS in such a manner, Conservative politician Nigel Lawson described the NHS as ‘the closest thing Britain has to religion’. For health professionals in the NHS the idea of ‘emotional branding’ can translate to creating holistic patient care pathways. Health workers must see beyond the immediate isolated pathology and assess how it interacts with their social relationships, occupation and wellbeing.

Using these marketing strategies, amongst others, Apple have become a strong national presence with 76% of surveyed Brits owning at least one Apple device.

An ancient philosopher was said to have advised that there are three methods in which wisdom is attained. The best being reflection, followed by imitation and lastly and most bitter of all experience. The NHS has experienced increasing pressure on resources and whilst we cannot imitate the work done at Apple, key reflections ought to be drawn. Lessons in simplicity, challenging barriers that create health inequalities and holistic care could prove useful in the sustainability of our national heirloom-the NHS.

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