Boston, Mass.—In many ways, our innovation practice is grounded in the concept of constant change. Customers’ expectations are incessantly being rewired and reset. Today, the sheer speed at which technology, media, marketing, and medicine are changing is bringing new hope, new opportunities and new possibilities to healthcare. For marketers (and their brands) to succeed, adaptation and anticipation are crucial. To that end, a firm understanding of the major shifts driving sea change is essential. And who better to turn to for insight than Harvard Business Review? According to a recent publication, four distinct Growth Eras have emerged across marketing over the past half-century. These include:

  • The Mass-Market Era in the 60s and 70s
  • The Segment Era in the 80s
  • The Customer Era in the 90s
  • The Loyalty Era in the 2010s


But this latest era is drawing to a close. The ROI from its focus on retaining customers through tailored incentives and brand relationship is waning as a new growth stage dawns. According to Kantar Retail research, 71 percent of consumers now deny that loyalty incentive programs actually make them brand loyal. Instead, they’re looking for brands that are relevant to their needs at a precise moment. In today’s world, digital is driving heightened competition in real-time and placing control firmly in the hands of consumers. Want proof? Accenture’s consumer research shows that in the U.S., companies are losing $1 trillion annually to their competitors due to lack of relevance. Cue the dawning of a new age: the Era of Relevance, where performance is measured by customer attraction and personalization paramount.

Five Ps are Better than Four

This shift demands that we expand our thinking beyond the traditional four Ps of marketing: product, price, placement and promotion. Instead, the authors suggest that Relevance demands incorporating five new Ps into our paradigm, based largely in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

  1. Purpose: Customers feel the company shares and advances their values
  2. Pride: Customers feel proud and inspired to use the company’s products and services
  3. Partnership: Customers feel the company relates to and works well with them
  4. Protection: Customers feel secure when doing business with the company 
  5. Personalization: customers feel their experiences with the company are continuously tailored to their needs and priorities

—Zealley, Wollan and Bellin

Why This Matters

In this new age of Relevance, brands are expected to meet or exceed customers’ needs and expectations in real-time – or else risk being ignored, brushed aside or deemed irrelevant. To keep pace, we must use innovation to accelerate our thinking and tactics and find new, more effective ways to engage each critical audience and customer on their terms. This new era will demand healthcare marketers to take leaps in their understanding and anticipation of customers’ needs and desires in the present. Establishing these new ways of working will require powerful tools, including human-centered design methods, predictive analytics, real-time feedback, and AI-powered interpolation. Effectively leveraging these tools to drive relevance will transform organizations into what the authors called living businesses, and these promise to become the market leaders of tomorrow.

About the Author:

Drew Beck brings more than a decade of broad healthcare experience to GSW in his role as the Director of Innovation. He has enjoyed working for big healthcare names including Eli Lilly & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline in Global Marketing and Pharmaceutical Sales roles, but his start came from hands-on work in patient care in Emergency Medicine. This foundation has given him a deep understanding of both patients and healthcare professionals. In his current role, he combines all he has learned from this background with insights into current market trends to help clients drive the future of their brands.