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Total Market or Total Mess?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 2:35:00 PM

by Andy Bagnall

Andy Bagnall

In nearly 20 years in the multicultural health care space, my company has seen the industry use many different strategies – with varying degrees of success – to capture diverse patient populations and increase sales. The newest kid on the block these days is the idea of taking a total market approach. This approach considers all patients, including multicultural patients, when building brand strategies, developing creative and media plans, and allocating budgets.

In theory, taking a total market approach offers the potential of a single, fully integrated marketing plan that maximizes sales performance across all patient segments. In practice, your total market approach can be a total failure if it is not implemented properly. My company’s experience in “course correcting” botched first attempts at a total market approach has led to several recommendations. Here are top five recommendations for a successful total market plan, along with the reasons for the failure of initial attempts.

1. Make sure multicultural patients are fully represented from day one. Critical business decisions begin the minute you start building the foundation for your marketing efforts. And decades of multicultural marketing across categories have proved that these consumers have unique needs and preferences. Therefore, if the goal is to activate the total patient population, then all discussions and marketing plan designs should include all patient needs from the start.

Total Market: Multicultural patients are represented at the table along with general market consumers, payer/managed markets, pharmacy, field sales, and so on. They actively contribute to and influence business and strategic decisions from brand positioning and identity to launch.

Total Mess: Multicultural patients are not considered at all or, worse, only after a competitor enters into the multicultural space.

2. Utilize data, not habit or politics, to drive funding decisions. Today’s data sources are such that you can assign a dollar value across all patient segments to project potential revenue. The result is that your marketing dollars are going toward the greatest revenue opportunities. Also, once you are in market, hold your general and multicultural promotion to the same campaign performance standards – no one gets a free pass in today’s budget environment. If you’re asking about the ROI potential for the multicultural campaign, you should also be asking about the ROI potential for all the other investments you’re making.

Total Market: The business case for both general and multicultural consumers is built on hard data and informs budget allocation. All measurable plan activity is evaluated equally, tied to sales performance, and optimized accordingly.

Total Mess: Funding decisions are made because “it’s what we’ve always done” and the realization of total market sales is shortchanged because multicultural activities are caught in a unique and endless loop of justification.

3. Develop a unified strategy that allows for nuanced cultural pull-through. Strategies should be developed based on research that includes all patient types/segments, including multicultural as an identified segment. Research should uncover both the similarities and differences among segments. It’s in the similarities that a unified strategy is developed. It’s in the differences that relevance is built and the strategy is pulled through with diverse patient types.

Total Market: Cultural adaptation is a phrase of the past, as all patients will be included in the development and approval of marketing activity. It’s more about cultural expression through creative, tactics, and media – and this includes non-Hispanic whites. Does anyone deny that there is a baby boomer culture, for example, and this segment should be communicated with differently from millennials? (Have you also considered how the boomer experience differs, depending on your ethnic background?)

Total Mess: A multicultural campaign is developed off a general market strategy built on general market insights that do not relate to a multicultural audience.

4. Fund media and channels that best deliver each patient segment. That seems obvious, but there have been countless meetings where, on paper, plans deliver or even over-deliver against ethnic audiences. But the reality is that plans completely miss the boat on influence and the ability to connect with these audiences. And to go back to the data point, compare media revenue potential and performance side by side using cold, hard facts.

Total Market: Media plans are built and funded on an even playing field. Plans are optimized by patient segment to ensure that they not only reach, but also influence their intended audiences.

Total Mess: General and ethnic media decisions are made in total isolation. Duck Dynasty is delivering the lion’s share of your ethnic audience.

5. Select an agency partner that can best deliver multicultural business. You likely have the general market covered. So it’s critical that you select a partner that has knowledge and experience in multicultural health care and can troubleshoot and help you navigate the complexities of multicultural health behavior and marketing. Most important, the right partner will help you effectively integrate the multicultural opportunity with your overall brand plan. Remember, multicultural agencies by design are able to navigate both general and specialized audiences and can help you achieve a total market plan.

Total Market: The same high standards you use in selecting any agency partner are applied to multicultural segments. A partner well versed in both multicultural and health care is brought on board.

Total Mess: An inexperienced (“sure we can do multicultural”) or incompletely experienced (“we have some health care experience”) agency partner is selected to represent the voice of multicultural patients – rendering them without a voice and you without sales.

So, is taking a total market approach the right way for your brand or company? It depends. But if you do decide to jump on the total market bandwagon, take these five recommendations with you and you’ll be off to a good start.
Andy Bagnall is executive vice president of strategic direction at Prime Access, a full-service health and wellness marketing agency located in New York City. The company ( provides clients with solutions across the entire media landscape. Andy can be contacted at 212-868-6800.





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