June 18, 2020

Healthcare Marketing to Women of Color

women of color

Women (and all people) of color are not a monolith. The concept comprises a vast spectrum of racial and ethnic groups who have varying experiences in the way they interact with media, the way they search for information, the way they interact with the healthcare system, and the way that the healthcare system interacts with them.

It’s a good time to talk about this, in part because we’re currently witnessing a monumental shift in how people think, talk and act when it comes to issues of race and racial disparity. And also, because it’s ALWAYS a good time for a smart brand to talk about this … even if you ignore that inclusion and representation are always vital to progress. Women are 51% of the population, and people of color are an increasing proportion of the population (by 2044, the majority of Americans will be people of color).

Marketing is both a science and an art – and healthcare marketing is a particularly tricky branch of the field. But healthcare marketing that is able to adeptly understand and address the intersectionality of race, gender and ethnicity … that may be the highest form of the discipline we know.

Confront the Biases Behind Assumptions
Many of the “top tips” you’ll see on how to better market – to people of color, to women of color – boil down to this: All humans make assumptions, and everyone has biases based on their lived experiences. The only way to counter this is to seek diversity throughout the marketing structure from the top down – in the brand team, in the agency, in strategy, in creative, in planning, in media, in data collection, in data analysis … you get the idea.

The assumptions that you’ll need to consider may include, but are not limited to:

  • Who your target audience is — beyond their disease state, understand their cultural traits.
  • Who your experts are — is there representation of different genders, bodies, race or ethnicities?
  • Who the right sources are for paid media targeting, and whether they’re collecting information from resources used and trusted by your target audiences
  • What’s behind the data you’re using – for instance, before assuming that prevalence differences are due to genetic predispositions, consider whether they could be due to access to healthcare, cultural background, or other considerations.
  • Foster empathy that further humanizes and connects you to the experiences of your audience by thinking about:
    • The pain points your audience struggles with most
    • The experiences members of your audience are likely to have
    • The ways in which your audience interacts with media
    • The ways in which your audience interacts with healthcare
    • The cultural events important to your target audience
    • The motivations and treatment goals that matter to your target audience

Changes You May Need to Make
The changes you may need to make may include, but are not limited to:

  • Who’s in the room
  • What questions you ask
  • What data you gather
  • Your algorithms
  • How many focus groups you do
  • The media you choose
  • The messages you prioritize
  • The terms and phrasing you choose
  • The downstream marketing support (and whether it, too, is supportive of the improved marketing strategies)

Our industry relies on statistics and data to make many decisions, but biased assumptions still intrude. It’s vital to contextualize your marketing and see it through the eyes of the individuals who make up your target audiences. Whether they are patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, or the public, their experiences as women of color will affect how they perceive your brand.

Support Women of Color From the Inside of the Organization Out
The best creative, the most targeted media, and the smartest multichannel mix all mean nothing if the truth behind the messaging isn’t authentic. Diversity has to be fully ingrained in the company in order for its brands to begin to be authentic. If your company isn’t seeking out and magnifying the voices of women of color, ensuring its philanthropic efforts are doing the same, and developing internal leadership pipelines, no brand marketing – however clever or adroit – can make up the difference.

Our goal as healthcare marketers is to help more people receive the care that they need. When our target audiences see their lives and their concerns fully, and truthfully, reflected in a brand’s marketing, that brand is far more likely to be able to engage in a conversation that can help them.

Authors: Jazzie Bernabe, Art Director; Chanel Hemphill, Senior Marketing Strategist; Chrystal Lopez, Associate Creative Director; Shatika McCullough, Associate Art Director; Antonio Rivera, Associate Director, Inclusion & Diversity; Chastity Spencer, Associate Media Director; Sarah Morgan, Senior Copywriter.