I’d like to start this piece by saying: this is my opinion. Many of you reading this in agencies or healthcare clients might disagree – and that’s cool.

But it’s an opinion based on many years of specialising in healthcare marketing.

Over the past seven years I’ve had the privilege of listening to and working with many mega minds. Scientists and engineers who have created amazing solutions in response to an unmet need, or simply found a more effective way of doing things. Either way, they’ve often blown my mind wide open and demonstrated that there is no shortage of creative or collaborative thinking from R&D departments.

So if there’s plenty of creativity behind the solutions developed by healthcare brands, why doesn’t their marketing reflect this?

To answer this, I need to take a step back.

You see, the root cause lies in the fact that economic theory – which is the grounding of marketing theory ­­– has led us to believe that the conscious mind is the driver of our actions. And so it’s perfectly logical to assume that people, especially those in science and medicine, think rationally and act accordingly.

But here’s the shocker. They don’t. None of us do.

As the likes of Danial Kahneman evidenced some 20 years ago, it’s actually the non-conscious processor that drives most of our decision-making and actions. Need more reassurance? I urge you to read:

  • How Customers Think – Gerald Zaltman
  • Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis

The much misunderstood mind

The unconscious processor very much dominates our behaviour. In fact, it’s suggested that at least 95% of thinking happens beneath our own level of awareness (the non-conscious mind).1

Its processing abilities are lightening-quick and effortless – because it’s a highly associative, pattern-recognition system. It exists to make sense of the unbelievable amounts of information that we’re constantly absorbing from the world around us: 11 million bits of data per second.2

Described as the seat of our emotional lives, it’s home to our long-term memories, biases and associations that we’ve made over the years. And unknown to many, it’s these that primarily inform our decisions. Not facts, stats, or logic.

The importance of stories and creativity

Knowing that we ALL primarily make decisions based on feeling means we need to communicate differently, and in a way that appeals to the subconscious mind. We need to trigger emotions; trigger memories and nostalgia; appeal to inbuilt biases.

Lighting these areas of the mind up takes more than pictures of glossy white innovative boxes, smiling patients, or the latest trial data.

It takes empathy, emotive stories and creativity.

If we think about the work healthcare professionals (HCPs) do, it’s hyper-emotional. They deal with pain, joy, anxiety, unhappiness, hope, loss, and anger on a daily basis. They’re also only human, and so come to work with their own emotional states and traits that influence their responses to the work they do, situations they face, the patients and colleagues they’re surrounded by.3

So, if we want to create meaningful connections, hold their attention and drive some kind of response – which I know we all do, agency and client alike – we must start with empathy to generate compelling stories that HCPs can relate to. We must use creativity in our ideas and executions to dramatise not trivialise the science and impact of your company’s creation.

Once you’ve captured their eyes and lit their mind up, then you can back up your stories with claims and clinical data. And as for features and benefits, they useful too – just try to limit the number you use and ensure they have a point of difference.

An incredible time to be working in healthcare

As I said at the beginning, I’ve been lucky enough to work with many amazing people in health and there’s no shortage of creative thinking client-side.

But if we truly want to help everyone live healthier, happier lives, we have to work hard to create communications that are contagious. Ideas that are rooted in truth, made to motivate and simple in thought – no matter how complex the science.

That’s what we do every day at Create Health.

If you share our belief that healthcare marketing needs to get better:

Creativity is the cure™.

PS. If you don’t have time to read the books above, please get in touch via [email protected] and I’ll happily share the core findings.


  1. Dr Emmanuel Donchin, Director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Psychophysiology at the University of Illinois
  2. Anne Thistleton, The Untapped Science of Communicating with your Customers
  3. Heyhoe, Jane and Birks, Yvonne Frances orcid.org/0000-0002-4235-5307 (2016) The role of emotion in patient safety: Are we brave enough to scratch beneath the surface? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. pp. 52-58. ISSN 1758-1095.