Millennials Respond to Brand Transparency—for Health and Other Products - eMarketer
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Millennials Respond to Brand Transparency—for Health and Other Products

September 19, 2014



Erin Byrne
Executive Vice President, Managing Partner, Chief Engagement Officer
ghg Healxx Digital

Pharmaceutical and healthcare firms looking to build brand loyalty among millennials, a demographic of young, predominantly healthy consumers, must figure out how to capture the attention of a cohort on the verge of many new experiences and responsibilities, including making their own healthcare decisions. Erin Byrne, chief engagement officer at healthcare communications agency ghg (Grey Healthcare Group), spoke with eMarketer’s Christine Bittar about the nuances of messaging Gen Y.

eMarketer: What type of background information might you give clients that need to appeal to millennials?

Erin Byrne: This is an audience that is empowered by information. They’ve grown up having access to any type of information at any time. So it’s critical when marketing to millennials that opportunities are created for them to do their own research. They like to follow an information journey, so I wouldn’t advise anyone to assume that one or two sentences will be enough for this group.

What’s also interesting about this audience is that they’re completely multichannel, which in itself is obvious, but that means that brands really have to be everywhere to engage the millennial audience because their information journey is different from an older demographic. They may be on their phone, on their laptop, on their tablet or on their phone again and picking up a magazine, and it all needs to tie together.

Another thing to remember is they can’t be told what to do. Marketers need to provide all of the information and trust [millennials’] decision-making skills because they’re going to do their own research to make their own decision.

“We’re all using multiple screens, but millennials do so more often, and they’re better at it and faster. They also absolutely trust social sources.”

eMarketer: You said they conduct research differently than older demographics, but is that really the case today now that we’re all using multiple screens and accessing health records on our mobile phones?

Byrne: Yes, we’re all using multiple screens, but millennials do so more often, and they’re better at it and faster. They also absolutely trust social sources. They’re more comfortable discussing difficult topics and are used to a more open environment, while some of the older age groups have a little more skepticism, even though they’re accessing social media.

eMarketer: What about the actual ad messaging and the content put out by a drug maker? Do manufacturers need to alter what they say whether the message is delivered through sponsored content, Facebook or a website?

Byrne: In a way, yes, because what’s very interesting about millennials is that you can’t scare them into behavior. They actually really respect transparency, and a marketer who tries to use fear to engage this audience will probably be disappointed. ... The young adult audience is impressed by honesty and transparency.

eMarketer: Are younger people focused on wellness? Are they too young to really consider any longer-term repercussions of whether or not they’re taking care of themselves?

Byrne: They aren’t thinking about wellness so much as they’re thinking about living. As a generation, they are a focused, impressive group. They want to be successful and they have high goals for themselves, so when things are positioned as wellness per se, it’s not as powerful as talking about what health and feeling good will enable them to do. That message of something supporting their life’s journey is very powerful.

One generic example is with vitamins. You wouldn’t want to say, “Take vitamin C to stay well.” The millennial will respond, though, to taking vitamin C because a cold will knock you out for a week, and you’ll miss school or work. It’s really about the ultimate benefit of wellness and the motivation for staying healthy.

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