American Marketing Association of Las Vegas

Data in Health Care: Are You Telling a Story or Spewing Facts?

A lot of health care marketing focuses on numbers, statistics, ratings and outcomes. The fact that your hospital has the best outcomes for heart surgery is a great statistic, but simply stating that fact in your marketing materials has the emotional impact of dry toast. Instead, it tells your target market, “You are just a number.” I trust that it’s not your goal to make people feel less significant.

The truth is, patients really want to know how their lives are going to be impacted by a particular disease process, surgery or treatment. A story serves as an example that helps people apply what they see and hear to their particular situation. The testimonial is a tried and true approach. But I’m going to move you outside that comfort zone to create something fresher.

Let’s say you want to promote your great outcomes. Or rather, you receive a directive from the top that you have to promote them externally.

We don’t want to advertise some third-party statistics you paid for. We don’t want to illustrate that concept with graphs and charts. We don’t want to add a data-driven headline and toss in a standard issue stock photo of a smiling couple on a beach. We want to incorporate a true human element.

Traditionally, a data-driven headline might read, “99% of our minimally invasive spine surgeries result in recovery times of a month or less.” Then, you’d insert a photo of your target market smiling. That ad is far from being a persuasive marketing message on any level. Who is average? What kind of data did you aggregate to get those numbers? With consumers in charge these days, this kind of ad just does not suffice.

However, if you show me a woman doing a backbend and the ad says, “Look what Julie is doing eight weeks after spine surgery,” I’m going to say “wow.” I’m going perk up and pay attention. I will be far more motivated to consider back surgery instead of limping around in pain because it looks like my quality of life will improve quickly. The copy can then point out your outcome statistic. But you have to engage your audience first, and to do that you need to tie it to a story.

So next time you have new outcomes, think about how you can push past the cliché. Think about adding some much needed humor. In the world of health care advertising, that would certainly stand out. So what stories does your hospital have to tell?

This was originally published in the September 2014 issue of Marketing Health Services e-newsletter.
About the author:
Anne Moss Rogers, a former copywriter with 14 years of health care marketing experience, is cofounder and creative director of Impression Marketing. You can find her @ImpressionM on Twitter and

Categories: Healthcare.