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Accounting for Gender Disparity in Healthcare Marketing


Woman and man standing back to backWhen crafting your healthcare marketing strategy, it is important take into account the different ways various segments of the population will respond to your message. Age, gender, socioeconomic factors, race or ethnicity, education level, geographic location, faith and political leanings all influence individual consumers’ health behaviors and healthcare choices.

Even within those stratifications, we can further classify our audience and predict behaviors according to psychographic segments, or (loosely) “personality types.”

In our 2013 Consumer Diagnostic, we sought to define segments within the population of American consumers and cross-reference their attitudes toward a range of healthcare-related questions.

Here are a few of the insights we gleaned, as they pertain to gender.

News Flash!  Men and Women are Different.

Among our five identified psychographic segments, three of the most reactive personality types skewed male

  • Willful Endurers are characterized by unwillingness to change, self-reliance and tendency to live day-to-day.
  • Priority Jugglers who focus on others’ needs at the expense of their own.
  • Direction Takers are characterized by a reluctance to change, but a willingness to seek authority figures’ guidance when making decisions.

By contrast, the two more forward-thinking segments skewed female.

  • Self Achievers are proactive and prevention-oriented; they plan tasks and are motivated by the prospect of accomplishment. 
  • Balance Seekers measure success by their own defined parameters, rather than the opinions of others, but are likewise proactive about wellness.

It’s not just a stereotype: men neglect health more often than women.

 “He just won’t take care of himself!” exasperated mothers and partners across the nation say.

And it turns out that they’re right.  Men, we found, are less likely overall to be proactive about maintaining their health. They are more likely to ignore a problem or to dismiss symptoms until a disease condition becomes undeniable. They were also more likely to be unwilling to give up enjoyable habits they know to be unhealthy.

Though 73% of female respondents stated that they “actively take steps to prevent illness,” only 66% of males agreed, corresponding closely with the relative prevalence of Balance Seekers and Self Achievers among women.

The male-female divide is further underscored by responses to the statement, “I make lists of things I need to accomplish throughout the day,” with which women were a whopping 18 percentage points more likely to agree than men.

Where do men and women look for healthcare messaging?

Direction Takers and Priority Jugglers are influenced by relationship-based communication.

Respondents identified as belonging to these segments were most likely to report getting health information from their current healthcare provider, family members, close friends, or health plans. Compared to other psychographic segments, they were less receptive to traditional media like TV, magazines and websites (although with respect to the other reactive segments, Priority Jugglers scored websites fairly high as potential healthcare information sources).

Conversely, Balance Seekers were about twice as likely as male-skewing Willful Endurers, Priority Jugglers, or Direction Takers to list magazines as a resource consulted for healthcare information. They were also nearly twice as likely as Willful Endurers or Direction Takers to be influenced by websites.

Although Self Achievers, the other female-skewing segment, were less likely than Balance Seekers to consult websites for healthcare, they were significantly more likely than Willful Endurers or Direction Takers to look online for healthcare information.

So how do I craft my messaging?

While many healthcare organizations offer informational brochures geared toward a particular gender, these educational pieces, as well as all other provider/patient engagements, need to leverage segment-specific messaging to be effective.

Because each segment is motivated by different things and responds differently to communications, leveraging the correct “words to use and lose” specific to each segment is critical for success.

Let’s think for a moment about application.

Say that you are marketing a Prostate Health Month screening initiative. You’re already facing uphill battles: not only are men less likely to be wellness-proactive, they’re also less likely to be influenced by a traditional awareness campaign.

Getting a response is going to take more than putting an idea out there— producing TV spots, posters and tchotchkes—then opening the office doors. You know he is less likely to seek information on his own, so you’ll need to seek him out.

You might take advantage of his female partner’s tendency toward proactive behavior. Place ads that speak to women, advising them of the consequences of their mate’s reluctance to be screened.

If you can break through to her, she can light a fire under him. 

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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