WARNING: Graphic clinical images may harm your healthcare marketing

August 6, 2018

Managing Visual Healthcare Marketing

Here’s a free tip, courtesy of your helpful friends at COHN: Don’t walk the floor at a medical trade show right before lunch. Graphic, bloody, globular, irritated, pus-infected imagery just might accidentally spoil your appetite. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)

Then again, doctors and nurses are used to seeing these images, which begs the question:

Should your healthcare marketing include real-life, clinical photography?

I interviewed Chris Thomas, one of our creative directors, about graphic (and gross!) photography in healthcare marketing. Are graphic clinical images hazardous to your healthcare marketing?

Dr. Thomas gives his diagnosis in an interesting interview below.

Why do so many medical companies include those revolting clinical images in their marketing collateral?

Well, you have to understand that those doctors see that stuff every day, so for them, it’s not a big deal. For you and me, it’s gross, but for the doctors, it’s actually how they assess a need or treatment option. When the marketing strategy is coming from a doctor’s standpoint, like a B2B sell into a hospital or doctors, that audience would probably expect or want to see that imagery.

So, that type of approach actually works?

It just depends on your audience and marketing. I obviously wouldn’t advocate putting that type of photography on a 10×10 banner. But if it’s in a sales tool or VAC pack or clinical evidence pack, then, of course, you need to include it because they want to see it.

Does the approach change when you’re marketing to the consumer?

Yes. It’s very different from consumer to B2B. The only time I’d ever use one of those graphic, clinical images in a consumer piece is when it’s a shock or scare tactic, for instance, an anti-meth campaign. Otherwise, we never go to the negative. It turns people off and doesn’t work.

What I’m hearing you say: warm and fuzzy with the consumer, cold and scuzzy with doctors. Does that just about sum it up?

No—it does not! What I’m saying is that sometimes the opportunity and audience requires you to show the actual clinical outcome. It’s a proof point, like citing a study or report, but it’s visual and meaningful to certain audiences. Having said that, a physician is still a human being, too, and still wants his or her patient to get back to their life. So, the warm and fuzzy lifestyle images can also work with doctors, too.

What type of warm and fuzzy images would work with doctors?

We’re storytellers, so you have all the clinical information—which could include graphic images—but you also have the positive outcomes of medicine. So, rather than say, “We averted pulmonary embolism,” we try to instead say, “We helped Norman get healthy enough to fly and see his niece in Virginia.” That’s just our philosophy here at COHN. We’re trying to show you we can help you with a positive outcome. We try to focus on the positive, which is usually a healthy person because we’re trying to get you to actually feel that beneficial, healthful positivity in our marketing.

Anything else our readers should know about medical marketing?

Of course! We’ve been winning in the healthcare space for a long time, so I want you to tell readers that they should give us a call. We’ll find the right balance in photography, brand, and marketing strategies to get your medical products traction with doctors and hospitals.


What We Read This Week – January 12, 2018