It’s natural to think of healthcare as a uniquely objective realm of marketing, with a product’s value always rooted in its efficacy and safety. Needless to say, scientific story is an essential part of any product’s positioning. But in a crowded landscape where one of your target customers, the HCP, is already struggling to take in all available information, the science and the data aren’t nearly enough. It’s your product’s emotional resonance—its ability to speak to people at the level of instinct—that will differentiate it. At Syneos Health Communications, we’ve built a framework, the Motivational Edge, for figuring out exactly how to motivate that basic part of your customer’s decision-making process.

The Motivational Edge zeroes in on four basic human truths:

  • We are emotional
  • We are shaped by context
  • We are driven to be validated
  • We lose motivation quickly


In this piece, the first of a four-part series, we will focus on emotion. Emotion is the catalyst for any action – even for physicians, who tend to make decisions at a gut or instinctual level, and then post-rationalize those decisions with data and other proof. How can we infuse a brand with the specific feeling of emotional or gut-level connection that its audiences need to feel to act?

Let’s take a look at how emotion manifests differently across some provider types and how that can inform marketing efforts. First, consider oncologists. Their therapeutic area has been characterized by established, evidence-driven behaviors, with providers offering tests and treatment largely based on guidelines, efficacy, and experience. In this way, and despite the intensity of their jobs, oncologists are likely to feel marked comfort navigating the complexity of this category. To speak compellingly and tap into the gut-level emotions here, it could be powerful for a brand to challenge category conventions in a way that reinforces this feeling of comfort. 

Now, consider surgeons, who are particularly well organized, decisive, and taught to perform their work with feelings of confidence and certainty. Emotionally, they’re motivated by the prospect of mastery, of performing their procedures with the greatest precision possible. How can a brand access this core emotional place of surgeons? It should probably steer clear of making their past work feel inadequate, and it might position itself as something that only enhances and expands their mastery and confidence.  

One more example: Studies show that cardiologists are uniquely susceptible to burnout, given the number of hours they must work and the difficulty of keeping up with all the latest scientific info in the field. So, they can reach a point of feeling overwhelmed rather quickly. One of the reasons this is so significant is that burnout sets the tone for communication with patients and has even been shown to affect outcomes. A brand can help keep that burnout manageable—keep it from spilling over into patient interactions—by facilitating the doctor-patient conversation. How might a brand make it easier for physicians to distill and convey key information, in a way that is empowering to both parties?

In each of these examples, the brand is helping its customer with an emotional drive that we all share. It’s the drive to live as our ideal selves. Moving someone to live as the ideal version of themselves is the most powerful promise a product can have. And accessing your customer at their emotional core is the first step. 

No matter the therapeutic area, category, or customer type, it’s a regular human being that we, as communicators, are trying to motivate. Therefore, a brand must meet its customer where they are, both physically and emotionally. This brand planning season, consider how delving into your customer’s emotional world can unlock the full potential of both your product and your customer.

About the Author:

Carolyn Stephenson is SVP of Strategy for Syneos Health Communications. Her unique healthcare perspective is complemented by nearly 20 years of strategy expertise across sectors as varied as retail, financial services and higher education. She has built nationally recognized branding, digital, content and commerce programs for brands like JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance, EXPRESS, as well as on the agency side with Ologie and SBC Advertising. Her work has been spotlighted in industry publications like Mobile Commerce Daily, Mobile Marketer, and even featured on an NBC reality television show (Fashion Star). But her passion for healthcare is palpable: she’s also a Certified Hormone Specialist and a Precision Nutrition Coach.