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21st Century Woman and Healthcare: An Opportunity
By: Kelley Connors

Have you noticed who your Chief Health Officer is today?  Meet the 21st Century woman.  She’s an ever-evolving superconsumer, a health advocate with an insatiable appetite for health information.   She could be a doctor, a nurse practitioner or a caregiver.  More generally though, she’s one of the 40  million baby boomer women responsible for over 80% of all healthcare purchases.  And, today she’s looking for value in healthcare that comes neatly wrapped in a package called “wellness”.

Reaching this superconsumer sparked a new dialogue among healthcare marketers at the “Marketing to the New Healthcare Consumer” Conference on September 17th at the Chicago Hilton.   The focus of a day long microtrends meeting, “Empowering, Engaging and Embracing Women as Chief Health Officers” featured re-known marketing to women experts, multicultural thought leaders, and social marketing professionals.

“Marketing to women about healthcare, health or wellness is not a niche but a business imperative”, explains Kelley Connors, President of KC Healthcare Communications and co-chair of the Chicago meeting.  “Women have long been caregivers and the “go to” for family health matters,  however, with a focus on living well – not just living longer – women are looking for “healthcare” options that provide more value than is currently offered”.

In response to this, marketers who shift their marketing paradigm from a “sickness” model focused on the treatment, to a “wellness” model focused on the individual woman will succeed.  While marketing healthcare or wellness to women is profitable, relevance is paramount.  Two key microtrends securing relevance are lifestage and multicultural marketing.

Lifestage marketing is THE segmentation strategy and requires a deeper understanding of women than merely segmenting by age. Gaining insights about women’s lifestage, not age, are the best investment in marketing healthcare to women.  Forget about marketing to two 40-something women the same way.  Chances are one is a step mom with kids in their 20’s and the other is a first time mom at 40. One may have more in common with a 20-something mom, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a boomer.   “Age is indeed irrelevant. Most boomer women think of themselves about ten years younger”, says Connors.

Importantly, marketers who reach women through mass customization will win.  “There’s nothing more personal than healthcare and women detect inauthenticity quickly”, says Connors.   “Just take a  look at Facebook and you can realize the potential in healthcare for mass customization”.   Whether on-line media or traditional media, reaching women about wellness means connecting with them as individuals not as one large woman or one little man”.

Know the multicultural woman.  In the mid 21st Century, the demographic landscape will permanently change.  The fundamentals of change are already well underway in states like California, Texas, Florida and New York.

In the last ten years, the population of African American, Asian and Hispanic women grew five times faster than non-Hispanic whites. By 2008, an estimated 36 million multicultural women will wield $1 trillion of buying power.  And, this includes the purchasing power of African American women who are starting up businesses faster than their white sister counterparts.

While health disparities are pervasive in multicultural groups, a recent Guideline market research report of 1,000 multicultural women noted that 3 out of 4 women need help and advice on how to manage their health-care needs.   As an example, the HeartTruth Campaign, funded by the National Heart Lung & Blood Institute has delivered heart disease information to women in communities of color most affected by heart disease.    Breast cancer screenings and exams funded by organizations like Susan B. Komen also contribute to serving this population of women.  “Education and access is the key, especially for underserved women”, says Connors. 

Whether through lifestage marketing or multicultural marketing, understanding who your 21st Century woman is opportunity-rich for marketers.   From there, the pathway to wellness can help marketers serve the demands of the Chief Health Officer.

Kelley Connors, President of KC Healthcare, Communications LLC