Microsoft, Nintendo make push for healthcare market through digital interactivity

Direct to consumer advertising has undergone dramatic changes in the last several years, primarily due to the emergence of social media and other digital platforms. It is rare to find a consumer who does not spend a significant amount of time plugged in to a smartphone, laptop or tablet, and the constant stream of information has reshaped the role patients expect to play in healthcare marketing. 

Forbes BrandVoice explained that, while consumers may have been content to be passively sold to in the past, they now engage more with brands that foster an active relationship between both parties. Certain marketing channels like television, radio and print ads typically only allow communication from the company to the consumer, but the emergence of interconnected devices as ubiquitous facets of daily life has opened up a whole new front for digital direct to consumer marketing.

In one of the strongest endorsements that direct to consumer advertising in healthcare has taken a firm foothold in the digital sphere, tech giant Microsoft and video game console developer Nintendo have announced plans to release wearable devices that will track various aspects of users' health, Wall Street observer site The Street reported. While the designs of the respective products differ, Microsoft's and Nintendo's push into the healthcare market proves that patients now expect their medical advertising to operate on a new, more integrated level.

As fun as a video game
At first glance, it's no surprise why Microsoft and Nintendo have set their sights on the wearable medical device market. According to Statista.com, technology like Google Glass and Apple's iWatch will push the overall market value for these products above $12 billion by 2018 in the U.S. alone. However, no single device has been able to capture significant market share yet, which makes Microsoft's and Nintendo's recent announcements an intriguing prospect for healthcare advertising.

The Street explained that Microsoft's Band device, which went on sale Oct. 30, is essentially a small wristband that users can slip on and off with ease. In a frame that weighs less than 2 ounces, Microsoft has managed to pack inside sensors that track users' heart rates, skin temperature and galvanic response and the amount of ambient natural and ultraviolet light. The device can also link up to smartphones running Microsoft applications to share data across multiple platforms.

"Microsoft's Band is more of a souped-up fitness tracker than a smart watch," Ed Maguire, analyst for brokerage firm CLSA, told The Street after receiving an advance review version of the Band. "The Band is, at its heart, a fitness tracking appliance with alerting capabilities."

While not a wearable device, Nintendo's unnamed product will function as a sleep tracker, the source explained. In a late-October announcement, chief executive officer Satoru Iwata explained that users will be able to place a small device next to their beds and track the duration and quality of their sleep through the night. The device will then be able to offer suggestions on behaviors throughout the day to achieve a better night's sleep.

An opportunity for digital advertising
Microsoft's Band and Nintendo's unnamed device may not be platforms that healthcare marketing can leverage in and of themselves, but when viewed as a link in an integrated chain that connects consumers to brands by collecting user information, their self-worth as marketing tools becomes clearer.

According to mHealthNews, brands that communicate with users through interactive apps are entering into a relationship with consumers that is much more likely to result in a long and lucrative experience. If a user goes for a run while wearing the Band and is alerted that his or her heart rate is consistently too high, a well-timed link or pop-up message that directs the user toward a medication or device can pay dividends. 

Healthcare marketing professionals cannot be timid about aggressively seeking patients. DTC Perspectives explained that, while the doctor's office may have functioned as the only point of care in an antiquated medical world, consumers are now researching and making decisions on their bodies every second of the day. Asserting a brand effectively requires applying constant pressure on consumers through engaging education with around-the-clock connectivity.

Managing the consumer-brand relationship
Though mobile devices might give healthcare marketing an open avenue to its consumers, it is critical that companies stay mindful of the new nature of the consumer-brand relationship. DTC Perspectives explained that any campaign that does not focus on their customers' individual conditions and preferences is bound to fail.

Instead, consumers in the digitally-enhanced healthcare marketing world demand personalized yet highly informative content. As click-through rates grow smaller and smaller in the ever-increasing deluge of information on the Internet, it takes a marketing agency that is both in-tune with consumers and talented enough to craft advertising materials intricately targeted toward converting these individuals.

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