For Impactful Cross-Cultural Marketing, Start with Audience Insights


For more effective marketing and better health outcomes, take the time to understand what your cross-cultural audience actually wants to see in health resources.

As co-hosts in a recent webinar, “Improving Health Equity Through Cross-Cultural Marketing: Pharma Thought Leaders Discuss,” we discussed how cross-cultural marketing starts with an insights-driven approach that is applied across disciplines. It is imperative to interrogate data and consider intersectionalities such as culture, ethnicity, and race, in order to truly understand the full picture of your audience. 

Given the need among pharma and healthcare marketers for research and insight in this area, we are sharing recent research results to help call attention to some of the biggest areas of opportunity we see with current health resources. 

In our proprietary study, Understanding the Content Needs of People of Color, we strove to better understand what it takes to create online health resources today. The study surveyed 270 African American or Hispanic/Latino respondents about their experiences with health content and information.

The Data Shows a Need for More Diverse Health Resources

One of our key research findings was that only 22% of respondents believe health resources understand their needs “very well.” At the same time, we found that 86% of people of color we surveyed value online health resources that understand their ethnic background. 

Taken together, these numbers suggest a need for further insights and action in this area. These respondents are being underserved — and at the same time, marketers may be missing an opportunity to bring their health solutions to broader audiences.

Survey Findings Suggest Health Marketing Best Practices 

Effective cross-cultural marketing needs to be responsive to actual needs, which means using data to help understand those needs in the first place and asking the right questions. Our survey identified a few areas of opportunity that marketers can glean to meet people where they are. 

  • Expand representation. People of color want to feel more represented and understood in health resources. Of those surveyed, 51% were interested in medical recommendations tailored for their ethnic background. And 42% of respondents wanted to know more about medical conditions they were susceptible to, due to ethnicity or lifestyle. These are clear gaps that health content needs to fill moving forward.

How We’re Using These Learnings

Based on this research, Healthline Media recognized the need for breaking down content by racial groups and subgroups. We have started testing to learn whether including a “Racial and Ethnic Differences” section in chronic conditions content resonates with audiences. At the same time, we also leave the door open for future data and insights that could help us more fully reflect and understand the role of human diversity in health.

  • Use narrative. Respondents were also interested in narratives that spoke to their identities, as 45% were looking for personal stories and experiences of people of their ethnic background. While facts are critical, stories can be a powerful way to help readers feel understood. 

  • Go beyond surface-level. Overall, respondents prioritized useful, informational resources over gestures that could be seen as surface-level. Only 15% looked for articles with a tone empathetic toward people of their ethnic background, while 13% were interested in pictures of people of their same ethnic background. An empathetic tone and relevant pictures are still important, but aren’t enough on their own. 

  • Ensure searchability. There’s also the simple fact that resources need to be easy to find — our study showed that people of color often have to visit multiple sites or read multiple articles to find ethnicity-specific information. Solutions could include taking a cross-cultural approach to SEO or building filtering functions for resource databases. 

Using Cross-Cultural Marketing Data to Do More

Given the gaps that currently exist in health resources, including health marketing content, this kind of conscious research and data analysis is foundational for anyone who aims to develop stronger offerings that resonate among more people. 

  • Take insights back to internal teams to dig in. Bring these opportunities and potential strategies back to your internal teams, whether marketing, DEI, research, or HR, so you can craft informed initiatives. 

  • Lean on your partners. If you’re not sure where to start with internal action, talk to your partners to learn about their current interest and actions around cross-cultural marketing, and how they can help you drive impact. 

  • Apply insights across disciplines. As you move forward, this data-driven approach can, and should, apply across your creative initiatives, media and brand planning, and more. 

To learn more about cross-cultural marketing, download our report, Improving Health Equity Through Cross-Cultural Marketing: A Thought Leader POV, or view the webinar that brought together experts from Healthline Media and our partners.

*Source: Healthline Media Content Evaluation Study conducted by QUESTER in October 2020 with 270 African American and Hispanic consumers.

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches more than 94MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, August 2021). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.