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Health Care Providers Can Learn from Personal Care Product Marketing

Can eating vegetables and exercising become as commonplace as brushing teeth and washing hair?

Speaking at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference Wednesday in San Diego, Kathy Fish, head of R&D at Procter and Gamble, the corporate giant behind brands like Pantene, Gillette, Oral B, and Crest, thinks so. Just like remembering to floss, increasing “compliance rates” for a healthier life has a lot to do with routine, she said.

Only 10 people eat the fruits and vegetables they should, just 20% exercise as recommended, and only 50% of patients take their drugs as prescribed, Fish said. In contrast, 75% of Americans comply with an oral care regime, brushing twice daily.

Rather than simply focus on long-term outcomes, she suggests the health care sector stress short-term gains as an effective strategy to change behavior. It’s worked for the personal care products industry, which has achieved consumer commitment by highlighting the acute, short-term benefits (fresh breath and white teeth for example) as much as the long-term ones (keeping your teeth when you’re 60).

Technology can also be an effective force, she said. For example, young women have traditionally been disinterested in skin care products, but that’s changing with the help of artificial intelligence. P&G now uses A.I to show customers their “skin age” versus their real age, and pinpoint which products can help, Fish said.

Marketing through storytelling—particularly for reducing stigma around certain conditions—is also important, Fish said. This has helped P&G to draw consumers to personal care products they need but have been too embarrassed to buy.

That’s the case with women with incontinence, particularly after childbirth or weight gain. However, only one in nine were wearing disposable underwear and pantyliners to manage the condition, including those sold by P&G, the largest advertiser in the world. The company needed to connect with these people, Fish said. They redesigned products to make them less bulky and more attractive, and created ads to tell the stories of real women who suffer from incontinence. Now, Fish says, one in six such women with the condition use the products, including P&G’s.

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