Gut-Grabbing Messages: What Makes an Impression?

Anna Webster, August 24, 2011

Here's the scenario – a parent has an injured child in need of care. The situation is emergent, emotional, and time-sensitive, like many healthcare situations.

 When the parents are deciding on where to take the child for care (a hospital, primary care doc, or a clinic), which marketing messages will they remember and act on – one that emphasizes the positive benefits of a particular provider (bright visuals and a welcoming message about pediatric specialists on-site around the clock), or one that emphasizes a more dramatic message (stark visuals accompanied by equally stark statistics on the consequences of not wearing a bicycle helmet)?

Healthcare is an industry that is heavily reliant on patient emotions. Major health decisions can be made based on whether a patient feels safe and happy or in danger. Marketers, in turn, can mirror these emotions in campaign messages to reach the core of an audience.

This week, I spoke with healthcare marketing leaders about whether they use the carrot or the stick technique in marketing messages.

Patients do not respond to fear or the loom and doom approach in marketing, says Tina Baiter, marketing director at HealthCare Express, a Texas-based group practice.

"Scare tactics are not memorable," Baiter says. "I feel like there is not enough truth in scare tactics anymore. Patients are educated and can see right through them, and are over-subjected to them in the media."

Anna Webster Questions? Comments? Story ideas? Anna Webster, Online Content Coordinator for HealthLeaders Media, can be reached at
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