Inspiration from 5 Incredible Health Marketing Campaigns

Big changes are happening in the healthy living, fitness, and nutrition space — the biggest being that there are new ‘healthy lifestyle’ consumers who are hungry for resources and information.

This trend comes from a recent study from global consulting firm Accenture, which analyzed the performance of 17 of the world’s largest healthcare, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle brands over a five-year period. In addition to developing a persona for the new ‘healthy lifestyle’ consumer, Accenture shared the following takeaways:

  • The consumer healthcare market is expected to grow to $737 billion by 2017.

  • By 2017, 1.7 billion smartphones and tablets will likely have a mobile health app installed.

  • The needs of health-oriented consumers are currently going unmet, and companies from other industries ranging from mobile telecommunications to electronics and high tech, are entering the space.

You may want to re-read those top two figures because they are staggering. As Accenture puts it, “the competition in this space has blown wide open — in part because traditional leaders from the life sciences and consumer goods sectors have tended to maintain a product and brand approach versus a customer outcome focus.”

Recognizing this market dynamic, there is a big opportunity for healthcare marketers to jump in and make a lasting impact among consumers. Top performers will succeed by providing value to their audiences, demonstrating a sense of empathy, and integrating engaging campaigns into their core business models. Here are 5 examples that we felt inspired by and wanted to share.

1. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) eCards for Health Campaign

BCBS recently launched a series of explainer videos under an ‘eCards for Health’ campaign. Positioned as ‘helpful hints for a healthier lifestyle’, these promotional videos are shareable, entertaining, educational — and most importantly, heartwarming. Created by Demo Duck, the videos and clips are designed to reach audiences across multiple channels as eCards, screensavers, and healthy tips — to make health a bigger priority in consumers’ lives. Here are two example ‘eCard’ videos that bring these campaign ideas to life. The first is a video about healthy lunch habits, and the second is a video about the importance of hugging.

As the video above points out — the CDC says that 69% of adults in America are overweight. And more than one-third (34.9%) of U.S. adults are obese.

The challenge that many Americans face is that they spend their lives in sedentary roles and are often stressed for time. Healthy eating and lifestyle habits take time and dedication. The process of getting started feels like climbing a mountain.

That’s why BCBS runs cross-channel campaigns around healthy living — to make the process of healthy eating a little less hard and a little more fun. The goal is to help consumers see that healthy diets are possible with a few subtle food choice adjustments. By citing specific examples of changes in its video (for instance, replacing mayo with yogurt and peanut butter with almond butter) and creating other web-based resources for healthier ‘lunching,’ BCBS helps audiences see that healthy diets are easy to accomplish and maintain.

The message is positive and uplifting. Even though it’s tangential to the company’s core business of selling health insurance, it’s an important brand-building investment that communicates to consumers that BCBS cares. The video below further builds upon this very important goal.

Stress, anxiety, depression, and frustration are serious but important topics. It’s scary to know that mental health conditions  are common in the United States — and that people are going undiagnosed.

This is a topic that’s hard to talk about, but it’s important for people to have open and honest conversations about how they’re feeling. That’s why BCBS produced this video: to help overcome the stigma of feeling sad (or more).

The video features a toe-tapping ballad sung by the lead singer of a band called Diamond Youth.  At face value, it’s a song about hugging. It’s fun, it’s uplifting, and it’s something that almost everyone can relate to.

Beneath the surface, however, it’s so much more.

It’s a plea to encourage people to reach out to their fellow humans — to confront what’s bogging them down and to take positive steps to regain their mental health. Take a look at the lyrics from the beginning of the song:

Feel like spending the whole day in bed

And the thought of meeting people fills you with dread

Been on the grind at a dead end job

And you’re stuck to the couch, feelin like a slob

Hug it out

Bring it in and hug it out

The song provides a reminder into the power of human contact — when you’re down, reach out to a family member or friend to pick yourself back up. It’s a creative marketing video that de-stigmatizes one of the toughest, most embarrassing, and extremely complicated human experiences today.

As exemplified by the two videos above, BCBS has taken big steps to discuss serious consumer health topics in fun ways. These entertaining and engaging ecards support the insurance carrier’s bottom line by reminding people to stay healthy. This marketing campaign is a reminder, however, of the importance of health beyond money.

2. The CDC’s Educational Hub

Health advocates and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have some of the most important jobs in the United States, as they’re responsible for educating the country about healthy life choices.

That’s why the CDC has published a series of educational wellness and prevention videos about topics like sexual health, teen health, and asthma. These videos are designed to help consumers make more informed life choices — they simplify complex topics into digestible and actionable information.

In addition to creating informational videos, the CDC also shares personal stories from the community. One video, for instance, shares a woman’s experience about living with HIV as a mom. Other videos talk about the importance of building a support system. Take a look at Dena’s story, as an example.

Equally important to the CDC’s content is the organization’s distribution strategy. These videos are designed for educators from community groups, nonprofits, advocates, and schools to incorporate into their own teaching materials. The CDC empowers other organizations to become their own resource hubs.

For an extensive collection of videos, take a look at the Center’s YouTube channel, which houses videos that generate anywhere from thousands to millions of views. Consumers can rely on this resource to learn about health topics like quitting smoking, emergency preparedness, and environmental health in depth.

The goal of these videos is widespread public health education — a reminder that the CDC is an important force in consumers’ lives. YouTube videos, which often rank highly in search, provide a point of introduction between information-hungry online audience and the CDC. Audiences can further engage with the CDC by reading articles, sharing news, and staying up to date with important public health trends. Nonprofits and professional organizations can further build upon the CDC’s mission by distributing the organization’s content. The end goal? Health education and healthier people.

3. The American Heart Association’s Lifestyle Channel

The American Heart Association describes its organization’s mission and vision to be a “celebration of life.” That’s why the organization has created in-depth content that targets a range of audiences, at multiple stages in their lives from childhood through late adulthood.

What makes the American Heart Association’s video marketing strategy compelling is the big vision to reach an extremely diverse audience. Heart health is a topic that needs to be explored from multiple perspectives to accommodate a range of lifestyles — but often, people don’t think about heart health until they’ve experienced a problem.

These videos are compelling because they target all stages of heart health by teaching consumers how to manage their health before and after an illness takes place. The videos speak to their the American Heart Association’s very diverse audiences on a deeply personal level — there’s information available for men, women, health professionals, and even kids at all life stages. For inspiration, take a look at the following video from the ‘Kidz Explain’ series, in which kids teach other kids why it’s important to each vegetables.

The videos are highly relatable and human. What’s even more important is that they’re comprehensive — touching on survivor stories, stroke symptoms, weight loss, CPR, and the dangers of salt (see below).

The videos make a scary topic much more digestible, accessible, and manageable.

4. Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital’s Uplifting Stories

No family should ever have to face with experience of a sick child — it’s one of the most terrifying life experiences that someone can face. Parents of a sick child will often conduct searches, across care centers, to identify opportunities for the best quality of care. In addition to seeking out doctors with strong track records, parents will want to make sure that their families are part of a close-knit and supportive community.

That’s why Arnold Palmer Hospital has launched a campaign around its most powerful success stories. On YouTube alone, these videos have generated 10M+ views and 2K subscribers since 2011 — bringing significant attention to the hospital’s quality of care.

Take a look at one example, Chloe’s story, below.

Doctors diagnosed a 4-year-old Chloe with a brain tumor on Christmas Eve. In this story, the doctor who treated her shares his story — and is asked by Chloe’s family to walk her down the aisle when her wedding day comes. His response was one of gratitude, emotion, and genuine surprise.

This one video generated more than 6M views.

What made this video successful was the down to earth human story and element of surprise. It’s an experience that inspires audiences to feel good and never give up hope. Take a look at some of the conversations and levels of engagement that the video inspired too.


What’s interesting to note is that Arnold Palmer Hospital’s YouTube channel is part of a comprehensive social media strategy that includes Facebook (36K+ likes),  Twitter (2K followers), Instagram (1K followers), and an educational blog that generates hundreds of shares per article. All of these channels, collectively, aim to inspire dialogue among Arnold Palmer Hospital’s patient and family member community. The goal is to make the hospital experience less scary and more human — which is why the hospital posts new videos and blog posts everyday.

5. Cigna’s rebranding campaign

For consumers, the process of navigating complex health insurance mazes can feel isolating and frustrating.  That’s why Cigna launched a cross-channel rebranding campaign under the theme “together, all the way.” The marketing initiative includes cable TV ads, a wellness website, and digital ads that launched in Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami.

The ads communicate themes of wellness and encourage consumers to rely on Cigna —the goal is to replace Cigna’s “go you” messaging, which the company has been using since 2011 to promote self-reliance.

The campaign was inspired by surveys that Cigna ran among its subscriber base. The key findings? People felt a lack of support from the insurance giant.

Using video, Cigna is targeting this sentiment head-on by showing a very human side to the brand. The website, for instance, uses language to convey a sense of partnership with its subscribe base. A series of videos reinforce the community that the brand aims to create.

Meanwhile, the Cigna’s minute-long video ad reinforces the company’s commitment to humanity and health.

What’s most important about this campaign is how the different marketing channels connect to form a cohesive strategy. Video is at the center of a large-scale re-branding effort — which is addressed through multiple layers of marketing.

Final thoughts

These 5 campaigns represent an extremely diverse collection of marketing strategies from some very different health organizations — big insurance companies, government agencies, nonprofits, and hospitals. All inspire very different takeaways and speak to a combination of needs and emotions.

What the videos share in common is that they make healthcare inspiring and personal. These are stories about consumers rather than brands. It’s these empathetic and human driven approaches that underscore each (very different) campaign’s strategy, marketing goals, and success.

Are there any health campaigns that you feel inspire you? There are so many popping up all across the globe that we can't wait to see what the next few years have in store.

Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is the co-founder at Storyhackers and a contributor to the Healthy Films blog. During her career as a marketer, she has worked on and led hundreds of successful storytelling campaigns for verticals ranging from healthcare to finance and SaaS. She's passionate about helping brands, particularly ones in heavily regulated areas, build stronger customer relationships.