What do millennials and boomers have in common? Healthcare consumer behaviors, it turns out

When it comes to how consumers seek and consume healthcare information, the generational divide between Generation Z, millennials and boomers may not be as wide as you’d think.
That’s according to CMI Media Group’s latest Media Vitals annual report, which bucks some of the conventional wisdom about how to market healthcare products to different age groups. The report, based on an online survey of 2,000 consumers, examined what healthcare consumers want and need from life science manufacturers.
The upshot for pharma marketers? Don’t rely on outdated assumptions, Brian Wagner, CMI’s vice president for product development, said in an interview.
“I’m not saying a senior boomer is going to be just like a Gen Z and vice versa,” he said. “But we’re seeing that generational gap getting smaller.”

RELATED: For pharma marketers, mobile devices reign supreme. But for how long?

For example, one common stereotype is that seniors aren’t digitally savvy. But Wagner said the pandemic pushed many older adults to quickly learn new technology, like how to stream a movie on Netflix or navigate a telehealth visit with their doctor.
So, instead of discounting digital platforms as a way to reach them, pharma marketers should try to understand their individual preferences, Wagner said.
“As a 55-year-old GenXer, you’re not going to find me anytime soon sitting on my couch watching a movie on this,” he said, holding up his smartphone. “But the fact that I can use Alexa to access my Pandora app to get good dinner music, that’s something else.”  

Consumers, regardless of age, are putting more trust in health websites like WebMD than they have in the past, the report found. Of particular note to pharma companies, branded websites saw the biggest trust gains across all age groups, and especially among millennials, nearly half of whom cited brand sites as a “trusted source.”

Wagner credited the pandemic for raising the profile of the industry and health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA. “They’re part of our normal dinner table conversation,” he said.

RELATED: Pharma outreach to LGBTQ community lacking, reveals untapped market beyond HIV and PreP: survey

The doctor’s office, nonetheless, remains the go-to source for health information across all age groups. It was cited by 42% of millennials (ages 25-40) and 50% of baby boomers (ages 57-75). Email is the second choice for both groups, at 28% and 37%, respectively.

The difference, though, is that older consumers are more likely to say they follow their doctors’ orders (69% for people over 75 versus 33% of 18- to 24-year-olds). Younger patients are more likely to supplement information they get from HCPs with their own research.

While the report found only 3% of boomers want to get their healthcare information from social media (compared to 28% of Gen Z and and 21% of millennials), it suggests drugmakers shouldn’t ignore places like Twitter and Facebook when targeting older consumers.

Given the sheer size of that age group, that can still be a lot of eyes on ads, the report points out.