Posts Tagged ‘trends’
There used to be trends — in art, music, fashion, and even business communications. I’m talking about real trends. Trends with lasting power — not some style du jour. But today, many styles or philosophies seem to co-exist. Instead of a meal with an entree of filet mignon or pan seared salmon, it’s more like a stir fry. A lot of different vegetables with no one flavor dominating over another.
Need proof? Watch a movie from about ten years ago that was set in the time it was made. Does anything leap out at you as dated? Car designs or some reference to an event would. But not much else. Not clothing. Not hairstyles. Sometimes, not even the music. (A little side note here: recently, I was watching a movie from 1995. Nothing stood out as dated. However, at one point in the film, the main character used a Newton. It was an obvious predecessor to the iPhone and iPad. What struck me was how contemporary it looked, right down to the monochromatic Apple logo. It was a testament to the Apple — one of the true trendsetters around today.)
Why is it so different today?
In the past, trends were like wildfires, starting in one place and then spreading, so that even as a trend waned in one place, it continued to ignite and burn in other areas. Today, it’s more like a flash fire. It explodes on the scene and is quickly gone. One of the reasons for this is that since the world is so interconnected, we are constantly exposed to so many choices from so many people and places. When a trend starts in one place, we — and the whole rest of the world — learn about it in almost no time. We get momentarily excited until the next great thing from somewhere else soon reaches us and “poof”, the first trend is quickly forgotten. This pattern continues in a never-ending succession of microtrends.
In the absence of a lasting trend, and in an effort not to produce materials that will look out-of-date in short order, the answer for many companies has been to create safe, vanilla marketing materials, the idea being that it’s better to not make much of a statement than to make the wrong statement.
This approach has its costs. For one, by creating safer and blander look, companies run the risk of creating an emotional schism between themselves and their customers. As much as we want to think that business decisions are based solely on careful research and careful, logical thinking, emotions also play a role. After all, we need to be both mentally and emotionally committed to making a purchase since we’re buying than a product or service. We’re also buying trust, confidence, security, safety and comfort.
Another problem with this approach is that marketing materials have become increasingly similar to each other. Or to put it another way, their brands don’t offer enough to distinguish themselves from each other.
Fortunately, a backlash to this “no trend” look seems to be developing. Companies are beginning to realize that they need to do more than simply present content. They need to do more to build their brand, tell more of a story, and engage people more in both mind and spirit.
When you’ve been in the design field as long as we have, you see certain patterns emerge. Our business resides in a part of the country dominated by technology and life science industries. We’ve noticed that certain trends and developments that originated with high technology companies have now found their way into medical and life science companies. It only makes sense that successful business practices and applications developed by one industry eventually find their way into others. We’ve seen this before. Technologies and practices developed specifically for NASA and the military eventually found their way into other industries, including the medical industry. How can we learn from this?
Technology companies have been at the forefront of developing new applications and ways of working that build efficiencies, reduce errors, and improve productivity. And with healthcare costs continuing to rise dramatically, it’s easy to understand why healthcare organizations have been eager to adopt these best practices and applications. High tech companies offered enterprise-wide networking solutions to large corporations long before they were deployed in the healthcare market. The same is true for remote access. If you’ve ever had to have a CAT scan read in the last few years, you know that depending on the time of day, there was a likelihood it was read by a doctor halfway around the world. Remote access was used successfully in other industries well before it found use in healthcare facilities.
On the business front, the medical device industry is beginning to experience what technology companies experienced ten to fifteen years ago: a consolidation of the playing field. From a proliferation of entrepreneur-driven start-ups that either went bust or were gobbled up by increasingly larger companies — to a mature market dominated by mid- to large-size companies.
Are these patterns true for marketing practices as well? There is one factor that makes it harder to draw parallels between what happened with technology companies and what might happen within the life sciences market. The Web as we now know it, and social media, didn’t exist fifteen, ten or even five years ago, and it has had a profound effect on the marketing environment. In fact, we’re still in the midst of this change, waiting for things to shake out. But some patterns have emerged.
Let’s take a look. Smart technology companies long ago stopped focusing on selling technology products and began reaching customers by explaining the benefits these products would have on their life. Recently we’ve seen medical-related companies following the same strategy. In some cases, companies have even bypassed the traditional route of marketing to doctors (the prescribers), aiming instead at patients and empowering them to influence their doctor’s treatment decisions. Trade shows for the high tech industry have faded considerably from their heyday, replaced in part by virtual trade shows and webinars. Physical trade shows in the medical device market are still big, but virtual trade shows are beginning to gain traction. There is now a much greater online distribution of marketing communications materials in the medical device market, echoing what has been happening the high technology market for some time. The trend toward more online and interactive communication between seller and buyer will only increase as younger generation of doctors, already tech-savvy, gain more influence in the decision making.
No company or industry grows in a vacuum. Companies in the medical industry have wisely modeled solutions learned in other industries, and will continue to do so. Therefore, we’ll continue to monitor marketing trends in order to advise our clients on best practices.