Healthcare Is Human—Healthcare Marketing Should Be, Too

More than ever, healthcare companies want to make strong connections with patients. Easier said than done. Oscar Health did it by injecting humor and humanity into a stereotypically stodgy industry.

Let’s play a quick game of free association: When I say health insurance, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you don’t exactly get the warm and fuzzies. Whether comparing difficult-to-understand health plans or trying to make sense of indecipherable billing statements, at one time or another most of us have wanted to tear our hair out when dealing with health insurance companies. 

In 2014, Oscar Health Insurance showed up to change that status quo. Their mission was simple: to make healthcare easy. With a seamless mobile experience, no-nonsense pricing, and more personalized service, they offered a refreshingly 21st century alternative available to people fed up with the old way.

Similar to startups like Casper or Oatly, it was Oscar’s brand—the look, feel, and voice of its communications—that really made a splash. A much talked-about campaign in the early days put the company on the map as a formidable industry disruptor, and they’ve been riding that wave ever since.

Now, in 2020, Oscar continues to make great strides, having reached 400,000 members and in the midst of their largest expansion yet. In a fiercely competitive industry like health insurance, how did Oscar cut through the noise, make headlines, and build a loyal following that’s growing to this day? Let’s dive in.

Finding the humor in healthcare

A refreshing sense of humor bleeds through all of Oscar’s brand communications, redefining a stereotypically stodgy industry. Playful ads push the envelope, putting a healthy dose of humor in healthcare. The message couldn’t be clearer: Healthcare should be human:

Granted, some may say it’s risky to go for a laugh when you’re talking about something as serious as health. But as another Oscar once said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” The copywriters behind Oscar understood the power of this insight. By bringing levity to its communications, Oscar demonstrates empathy for its audience, setting a warm, human tone that invites us to engage—keeping clarity front and center. 

Developing a voice that scales

If you’re going to take on the health insurance industry, you’re going to need a way to consistently drive your message home at scale. Fortunately for Oscar, they found that consistency by developing a brand voice that worked across mediums:

Oscar injects humor into a stereotypically stodgy industry.

How can you tell if a voice is distinct enough to scale? Let’s say you were comparing an Oscar ad against ads from UnitedHealth, Anthem, and Aetna, the three biggest healthcare brands in the United States. If you took away the visuals, logo, and company name from their ads, do you think you could still tell an Oscar ad from one of their competitor’s? I bet you could. That’s the power of a strong voice.

Taking a stand for humanity

Oscar’s sense of humor and distinct voice are key elements of its brand. But what exactly is the brand? It’s more than those elements isolated. The brand is the filter through that shapes everything Oscar communicates to the world. It’s what matters to them, and Oscar’s website makes that clear from the get-go:

Oscar injects humor into a stereotypically stodgy industry.

This sentiment is where Oscar derives its power. And it’s more fundamental to the brand than a color palette or even a tone of voice. It’s all about what Oscar stands for, which is overturning byzantine healthcare norms for a simpler, more patient-centric experience. 

MarketSmiths Healthcare Case Study: Advent Health

A $4 billion healthcare firm was undergoing a major rebrand—aimed at expelling medical jargon and connecting with patients on a personal level. But in a company including over a dozen hospitals, each with its own brand vocabulary, it was tough to develop a unified brand tone. By crafting a comprehensive 13-page style guide, we quickly got everyone onboard, even across 2,200+ pages and 35+ websites. In the end, we helped Advent Health publish thousands of words of incisive, human copy—distinguishing them in a crowded field and getting patients comfortable on their healthcare journeys. 

Read the full study >

Making healthcare more human

Since Oscar landed on the scene, many more healthcare companies have followed their lead—bringing a welcome dose of clarity, simplicity, and humanity to their marketing communications. Ultimately, effective healthcare content and copywriting boils down to something we talk about all the time at MarketSmiths, which is empathy

If you’d like to inject more humanity into your healthcare communications, we’re here to help. Get in touch with MarketSmiths today.

Paul Rosevear

Paul Rosevear

What do you get when you combine the soul of a musician with the mind of a writer? Copy that sings. And for the last decade, that’s precisely what Paul has delivered for global brands, bootstrap startups, and everything in between. When he’s not hard at work crafting top-notch communications, you can find Paul hanging with his wife and two young daughters, singing and playing guitar for The Vice Rags, or roaming the streets in search of the nearest slice of pizza.

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