What the COVID-19 Vaccine Means for the Future of Healthcare Marketing

DeepIntent CEO Chris Paquette discusses what the COVID-19 vaccine means for healthcare marketing, how vaccine marketing can boost adherence, and why empathy is a must.

In the two months since Queens ICU nurse Sandra Lindsay became the first American to receive Pfizer’s long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, more than 12% of people in the U.S. have gotten at least their first dose. Few things make me more hopeful — both for the end of the pandemic and the future of healthcare marketing.

Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally reached healthcare providers through sales reps. The pandemic made that impossible as doctors offices and hospitals limited entry to staff and patients. Spending far more time at home, people have also increased their streaming, giving marketers the opportunity to reach patients in a more addressable, privacy-safe way than ever before. Put these together and pharma marketers have had no choice but to embrace digital this past year, spending $9.53 billion on digital advertising in 2020.

That number represents a 14.2% increase over the previous year, the largest jump of any industry with the exception of consumer electronics. That growth isn’t slowing down, either. eMarketer projects pharma and healthcare marketers’ digital ad spend will increase by 18% this year. I’ve outlined three reasons why this growth is particularly important as the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out across the country.

1. The Ability to Battle Misinformation

There’s been a lot of misinformation around the vaccine, which I’ve been following closely from the beginning. While it’s great to see responsible platforms like Twitter step up to label and remove misinformation, that isn’t enough. With digital tools, pharma marketers are able to reach patients with information that’s both accurate and relevant to them.

The COVID-19 vaccination represents an unprecedented exercise in our nation’s ability to mobilize a war-like response to an invisible enemy. Adults have a historically low vaccination rate; only 45% of American adults typically get the flu vaccine. People’s reservations vary, whether they’re concerned with the vaccine’s effectiveness, or complications or adverse reactions. Others may not be comfortable with it for political reasons or overall distrust of vaccination efforts. We’re already seeing an increase in vaccine marketing and similarly, a turnaround in COVID-19 vaccine confidence. A September report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 39% of people planned to get vaccinated. By late January, that number jumped to 66% according to a CNN poll.

With DeepIntent’s unique HIPAA-compliant data and targeting capabilities across every device, we’re able to identify specific pockets of the American population segmented by their willingness to be vaccinated and reach them with precise accuracy. We are exceptionally well-positioned to aid public health efforts by delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. This helps overcome perceptual barriers, change behavior, and elevate vaccination rate. And just to be clear, we don’t market to “Chris Paquette” on an individual level; we use lookalike modeling to reach similar patients and build audiences accordingly.

2. Vaccine Marketing Boosts Adherence

All three COVID-19 vaccines require multiple doses. Some people may forget to get the second dose while others may not do so in a timely manner. These are both distinct possibilities. The good news is, we already know that when patients are exposed to messaging throughout the course of their treatment, it can help fulfillment and adherence by double. What’s more, that vaccine data will be available for marketers to build lookalike models of patients who have already taken their first dose.

There’s a halo effect. Being top of mind yields higher results. With relevant creative and targeted messaging based on where the patient is along their path to treatment adherence, marketers can remind people that they need another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

3. Looking to the Future

I hope we never experience a pandemic like this again, but the unfortunate reality is that we may, given factors like overpopulation and climate change. However, in the event of a future pandemic, we are armed with health data down to a ZIP code level, which will help us see where outbreaks are happening in real time. That real-world evidence will enable us to shift budgets and creative messaging dynamically to preempt spikes.

As the healthcare marketing space evolves, I see messaging increasingly becoming more adaptive, prescriptive and most importantly, empathetic. Whether vaccine marketing targets patients by their particular opinion about a vaccine or their proximity to a hot zone, empathy is the most effective method for getting the right information out to people.

DeepIntent is looking forward to partnering with healthcare marketers to fight misinformation and participate in this unprecedented vaccination drive. Luckily, we’re at the cusp of an evolution in healthcare where AI, machine learning and digital advertising can be used as tools to fight disease. Only the DeepIntent Health Advertising Platform can empower marketers with unique healthcare data to model precise patient audiences, insights to craft targeted messages across all screens, flexibility and agility in terms of how the media is placed. Together, that gives marketers the ability to measure and optimize live campaigns toward business outcomes with real-world clinical data refreshed on a weekly basis.

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