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Is a social marketing revolution coming to dentistry in Pakistan‏

 

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KARACHI, Pakistan: Media has shown its impact on every aspect of human social fabric. This is evident with the boom in use of tools for connecting to the internet world. Any advancement in the area only further proves that humans are social beings. Finding new methods to communicate and experimenting on these is just an attempt to understand the communicative capacities of the human mind.

The same media established its foot when international brands started using them for promotional purposes. Largely successful, the impact on the revenues of the company is evident by the enormous amounts of budgets allocated annually to the company marketing departments.

While both product and service based industries demonstrated speed in adapting social media, healthcare remains slow.  Health care marketing in many respects remains slow due to the strong ethical concerns regarding medicines and medical procedures. Even so, different countries show different rates of acceptance of social media exhibiting medical content on website. This is probably why now social media websites are hiring medical professionals to add meaningful content in their health sections.

These effects have largely revolved around the need to increase awareness among consumers of the healthy lifestyles and healthy lifestyle choices they must make. The true evolution of marketing and branding of healthcare services remain. This is particularly true in case of Pakistan where healthcare marketing is a new fad.  A sweeping review of the social media websites on the Pakistani servers and internet will reveal that already many healthcare providers are working towards their marketing.

However, on many levels these marketing attempts remain immature. The reason being that marketing is either carried out by health care providers themselves. These healthcare providers may be extremely refined and skilled in their occupation, but do not have the necessary expertise to do real customer analysis through proper marketing research methods. On the other hand, the more ambitious service providers hire leading marketing gurus of the consumer brands. These consumer brands are unaware of the challenges of health care marketing, thereby creating a glitzy marketing copy but no real time effect.

In Pakistan’s perspective therefore, the question arises whether social media marketing is coming in dentistry. The answer is yes and no.  Yes being that there are already many methods being used to lure in customers. There are deals online, discussion forums, paid advertisements and other awareness drives in dentistry which hide the actual goal of marketing to the masses.

The reason why social media revolution is not coming to Pakistan is because there is no marketing data available in health sector. Let us exclude the pharmaceutical marketing sector here, which is a well established arena working well in its target market. But for healthcare service provisions, there is no market data or research carried out or done to understand the true dynamics of a market.

The market is composed of many elements, including demography, socioeconomic status,  development status of the country, educational perspectives, religious considerations, consumer market classification and behavior and who and what influences consumer market. Frankly, there is a lot of information but no concrete data. It is for this reason it is safe enough to say that social media is not bringing a revolution in the healthcare sector of Pakistan.

Dentistry may be showing a few degrees of maturity in this regard but it is hardly significant. There are many advertisements about dental clinics and treatment plans and packages, but from a marketing point of view, many elements are missing. Marketing campaigns are largely mass marketing efforts of poor type, requiring expensive renewals each time with no concept of brand formation. This leads to consumer confusion, dissatisfaction and ultimate loss to the service provider.

What is the solution? Stop jumping on the bandwagon. Hire a professional having both health and marketing background to create a customized healthcare marketing and brand solution. You cannot expect to create a market system without data collection. This process may be long and arduous, but if done little by little, can help create a picture more reflective of the Pakistani society. For now, let the fizzle run and the underlying impressions surface. The true health sector marketing will follow in the next phase.

August 15, 2013

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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