Vicky Ortega – Millennial Codes and Their Impact on Healthcare

“Listen. Don’t judge. Choices. Let it be my decision.”

Published on May 24, 2018

AMONG THE VITAL HEALTHCARE Marketing Conference’s key objectives was to figure out how to tackle the challenge of marketing to the rising Millennial generation. Millennials think differently, communicate in different ways, and are highly technologically savvy in ways that prove to be problematic for more traditional healthcare marketers and medical professionals.

To provide insight into how Millennials think and how the industry can adapt to their needs, the conference brought in Vicky Ortega, Planning Consultant at Havas Anthropology. Ortega’s talk revolved around the Asian Millennial Codes, an anthropological framework that represents the culmination of a two-year study featuring 1,430 informants across 11 cities in 8 countries around Asia. The Millennial Codes are identified as seven particular influences that direct the way Millennials think, feel, and act.

For Ortega, a major concern for healthcare marketers is that it is hard for doctors to justify their value to Millennials, who are more inclined to self-diagnose than visit a professional. This is the result of specific Codes that influence how Millennials approach healthcare.

According to Ortega, Millennials to be the best versions of themselves they can be, and therefore are of the belief that “being sick is being vulnerable to judgement,” as they refuse to show their peers any sign of illness that would hamper their inherent spontaneity. The Codes also describe how Millennials balance their own personal happiness with the expectations of authority figures, which ultimately culminates in a Millennial dream of living one’s life freely without such figures telling them what to do. This creates a mantra of “Healing on my own terms,” a crucial consideration for healthcare marketers.

Ortega also said that Millennials have a propensity for “Gaming the system,” or find more efficient ways of getting what they need. In healthcare, this means life hacks such as asking for help from doctor friends and batchmates, trying to catch a specialist in a hospital ER, or clever ways of bypassing the steps in HMOs. Ortega also took note of Millennials’ preference for reviews and testimonials from peers, giving credence to these over professional reviews.

Finally and perhaps most crucially, Millennials have forged a powerful relationship with the Internet and the cloud, which allows them to quickly research their symptoms when sick. They won’t put blind trust in the wisdom of their elders, and won’t be so quick to believe even trained medical professionals when so much information is accessible at their fingertips, open to cross-referencing and verification.

Ortega said that the solution for brands is to actually sit down and listen to Millennials when it comes to treatment, and not dismiss or denigrate their opinions and decisions. She summarized the Millennial plea as “Listen. Don’t judge. Choices. Let it be my decision.” When Millennials go for health advice, they don’t want to be on the receiving end of prejudice or criticism of their lifestyles, they just want to know how they can get better, a call for respect that is certainly not just limited to the Millennial generation.


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