Here’s to Our Health:

Healthcare Needs and Drivers of Multicultural Consumers

fBy Gabi Reynolds, Account Planner

When is a total market approach appropriate? Can there ever be a total market approach to health care, i.e, a “one size fits all” that succeeds in helping a variety of ethnic groups?


Recently, at the annual macro trends conference, Iconosphere, one of the most notable presentations focused on how advertisers and marketers can close the cultural health gap. It involves messaging to a multicultural consumer population that accounts for a whopping $1.3 trillion in [healthcare] spending. Access to essential yet affordable healthcare coverage has been an overwhelming challenge for the vast majority of Americans. Thus, the lingering question is how can we make access to health care less of a headache for consumers?


The overall finding of Iconoculture’s recent qualitative research focuses on a common tension held by all multicultural consumers—Hispanic, African American and Asian—that each and every group feels unseen and unheard by their health care providers. As a result, they are earnestly seeking more than compassionate validation of their problems. They want tangible, effective answers and solutions. In order to begin to provide solutions, it is important to clearly understand that each group has different drivers and motivators. A one-size-fits-all approach is too broad to satisfy the needs of all multicultural consumers.

Each multicultural group is ranked on a scale in order to assess the three tension points of attitude, access and approach towards healthcare. Source: Gartner/Iconoculture


For example, relationships are the main driver for Hispanics. They value the closeness of the existing bonds that they have with their family, friends and community and want to relate to and feel the same kind of connection with their service providers. They are also eager to make the efforts necessary to stay healthy and active with their community. So, reaching them can best be achieved by employing efforts that target them at the community level. Much like when looking for new products, word-of-mouth is extremely powerful in the Hispanic community when it comes to finding a new provider when someone becomes sick.


Iconoculture strategists offered the example of Susan G. Komen’s Nueva Vida, which stresses its mission to inform, support and empower Latinas whose lives are affected by cancer and to advocate for and facilitate the timely access to state-of-the-art cancer care. Essentially, this means “meeting” people where they are and linking them to the best community resources available.


Agency is the main driver for African Americans. Born into a community with a history of racism and bias, many lack trust in the healthcare system and don’t believe it is designed to help everyone equally. As a result, many approach healthcare with an individualistic attitude and feel that they themselves can find the best alternatives for treatment, rather than going to the ones that they are given. Iconosphere strategists provided the example of “Find Your Words” by Kaiser Permanente. Their approach is targeting African American youth, messaging the normalcy of depression in the community by using the words of acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar who has admittedly suffered from depression, and say that it’s okay to seek out professional help. For African Americans, it’s important to acknowledge the systemic challenges they have faced as a segment and provide them with actionable information and support.


Lastly, the key driver for Asian Americans is certainty. Many Asian Americans are consistent with their personal care routines and feel their health can be measured in absolutes. They believe that doctors are qualified to care for them and in comparison to cultural home remedies, they regard conventional medicine as the most effective. The best example put forward is the digital program Meru Health. Meru Health is an online medical clinic that treats depression and burnout in the preferred measurable and precise manner. It is an 8-week digital therapeutic program combining psychological treatment, patient data, and a licensed therapist.


So what can we do? For all multicultural groups, the direction seems clear. It goes back to the idea of building relationships and forming stronger bonds with each ethnic group. While each has different needs and concerns, they are equally hesitant because their past experiences haven’t been satisfying and truly helpful. As advertisers and marketers we must make an effort to address all of them individually and directly, and above all else, make them feel comfortable to seek out help.



Dieste Inc