Image: © Kreg Holt for WOBI
According to strategy expert Rita Gunther McGrath, the competitive advantage is dead. Any edge your brand has over another will be trumped faster and more furiously than ever before. And in fact, most of the speakers at the WOBI on Innovation conference focused on these disrupters: brands that emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, and shake up a category so dramatically that all others in its category must hustle to stay relevant.
McGrath advises a new, nimble mindset as the best way to protect your brand from being edged out, including changing your thinking about innovation and also your business strategy. Incredible agility is now required when we consider our products, budgets, and even our own careers. Innovation should be incorporated fully into our company, not as an “extra,” but as another cost of doing business. Products and ideas should be championed for as long as they are effective and then relinquished for improved solutions. And, as employees, we have to consistently and proactively shape and nurture our career paths.
If the WOBI faculty is an indication of the future, then healthcare in particular must be alert to the patter of disrupters. Technology looming on the horizon could threaten many healthcare brands; however, getting educated about what’s happening at the leading-edge and being open to possibilities gives brands an opportunity to progress and position themselves as forward thinkers, whether that means partnering with “disruptive” consumer brands or refocusing their own R&D.
What does the future hold?
If we are to believe tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, our future is going to be super cool and very scary all at the same time. We’ll start with the (now) ordinary but end up with the extraordinary—and a number of questions about our privacy and consumerism in general, will be raised. What happens to the pharmaceutical industry when we can print our own medications? Or to doctors when robots perform all our surgeries? Our phones will track everything our bodies do, from fitness to heart monitoring, to medication absorption. Global data is growing at a rate of 59 percent per year, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Pills will come with sensors; medicine for conditions like cancer will be personalized. We’ll print hearts and lungs and bionic hands. Devices and tattoos on our skin will store our health records, credit cards, and IDs. Robots will continue to advance in medicine and beyond, replacing pharmacists, delivery vehicles, factory workers, and more.
How does a brand adapt?
So how does a healthcare brand stay agile during this tumultuous time? CEO Mark Bertolini offered some insight into the direction Aetna is taking that is inspiring for anyone in healthcare today. Perhaps most importantly, Bertolini has shifted the company’s perception of its customer, its marketplace, and its role:
“Healthcare is focused on curing disease, not creating highly functional human beings. Our goal should be highly functional humans because they are productive, economically viable, and therefore happy. That should be our definition of how a healthcare system works.”
Not only is this aspirational, it’s practical. Between the ACA, new technology, and concierge medicine, healthcare is more patient-centric than ever. Consumers now have the tools to understand, monitor, and take an active role in their health like never before. Bertolini goes so far as to say that if the healthcare system is structured properly and built around the individual, traditional insurance won’t even be necessary. He sees three main transformative principles for staying ahead:
- Move towards consumer-centric digital tools that empower customers to take control of their healthcare
- Partner with doctors and hospitals to share incentives and keep people healthy
- Exact concierge level service for chronic patients that is high touch and high tech
Bolster your brand
There are no guarantees against disrupters—and they’re also not always a genuine threat. For every Uber or AirBnB there’s a Pets.com or LaserDisc. However, taking the whole landscape in account, it’s very clear that we’re entering a brave new world for healthcare. Therefore, understanding the strength of your brand in the marketplace and developing future strategies around that can help you adapt to the industry’s turbulent new normal. What shifts should you make to foster innovation and keep employees engaged? How can you push new products forward and disengage from those that have run their course? Can you adopt new technologies to better serve your consumers? We don’t know where the next disrupter will come from, or when it will emerge, but by recognizing changes in our industry, employing forward-thinking techniques, and adapting to consumer marketplace trends, we can set our brands up for success and longevity.
Nicole Diamant is the Marketing Manager for InterbrandHealth. You can follow her on Twitter @NicoleDiamant.
Interested in future-proofing your brand? Connect with InterbrandHealth here.