Navigating Generational Differences in HCP Marketing

Published on: 

By tailoring messages, leveraging digital channels, creating personalized experiences, and fostering relationships, healthcare marketers can connect with HCPs across generations and build lasting partnerships.

As the pharmaceutical advertising industry has evolved, marketing techniques have advanced based on the needs, demands, and nature of the target audience. Constantly changing dynamics demand a marketer who is proactive, adaptive, and hands-on with the latest techniques available. It is especially important when marketing to healthcare professionals (HCPs). What was previously centered around in-person physician interactions has grown to include digital engagement with physicians in point-of-care platforms. This transition was accelerated, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transformation from in-person physician consultations to the use of telemedicine platforms opens new opportunities for pharma companies to market their drug and provide digital educational resources to physicians. The industry has typically lagged behind others in adopting change. However, the digital revolution has provided new ways for companies to create meaningful engagement with physicians who are prescribing their therapies.

Regardless of which consumer generation you are directing your marketing to, a personal touch tends to have a longer-lasting impact. However, generational diversity can pose a mounting challenge for pharma marketers and medical affairs professionals, particularly when taking into consideration the changes in behavior among HCPs. Digital marketing and audience segmentation can help provide a solution and ensure you are delivering content to HCPs based on what resonates most effectively with them as individuals.

When marketing to HCPs, it's important to understand the nuances around the different generations of HCPs to effectively target and communicate with them in meaningful ways.

Characteristics of HCP generations

The following are four generations of HCPs and the key characteristics of each that will impact marketing tactics.

Baby boomers (1946–1964). The name of this generation, which was born in an age of peace and economic prosperity, was inspired by the end of World War II and the demographic explosion in many countries. They are also called 'boomers.' This generation has had to adapt to new technologies. For that reason, they are considered digital immigrants. This generation of HCPs values experience and loyalty. They tend to be hard-working and dedicated, and they often have a "work hard, play hard" mentality. They may prefer traditional communication methods, such as phone calls and in-person meetings.

Generation X (1965–1980). This generation is considered to bridge the gap between boomers and millennials. While the people born during this era cannot be considered digital natives because the technology in those years was limited, they have adapted very easily to the arrival of the Internet and the subsequent technological development. Teamwork and fostering trusting working relationships are also some of their hallmarks. This generation of HCPs is known for their independence and entrepreneurial spirit. They may prefer flexible work arrangements and value work-life balance. They tend to be comfortable with technology and may prefer email or text communication.

Millennials (1981–1996). Often referred to as digital natives, millennials are the first truly global generation, as they share many of the same values even in different countries, which can be attributed to globalization and their connectivity to the Internet. This generation of HCPs is tech-savvy and values innovation. They often prefer communication through social media and other digital channels.

Generation Z (1997–2010). This generation is the youngest in the labor market, and their life is immersed in the ‘Internet Society.’1 They are flexible, multitaskers, innovative, and creative. This generation of HCPs is just beginning to enter the workforce, but they are already making an impact. They are the first truly digital-native generation, having grown up with smartphones and social media. They value authenticity and may prefer communication through social media and other digital channels.

Navigating generational differences in HCP marketing requires a deep understanding of each generation's unique characteristics, preferences, and communication styles.

How to navigate generational differences

Understand the generations


It is prudent for healthcare marketers to understand the characteristics of the different generations and what is meaningful to them. Each generation has distinct attitudes, values, and communication preferences that impact how they engage with healthcare content. Baby boomers are traditionally comfortable in meeting pharma sales reps at their offices in person, while millennials and Gen Z prefer online meetings and digital interactions. The type of content that they engage with varies from generation to generation as well. By leveraging data and historical engagement tendencies, you can create personas that extend across a generation. Being cognizant of the generational differences between the HCPs is a critical element of determining marketing strategies.

Tailored content

To effectively engage each generation, marketing messages need to resonate with individual values and priorities. For instance, baby boomers may value experience and trust, while millennials may be more receptive to technology-driven healthcare solutions. Tailoring content is a crucial aspect of marketing. In today’s environment, HCPs value educational content aimed at improving their ability to consult with patients.

When looking for clinical information, HCPs are increasingly turning to digital sources instead of in-office interaction with a salesperson. To provide value to the HCP and an effective mechanism of messaging for the brand, it’s important to tailor marketing to the individual HCP.

Create personalized experiences

By curating a personalized experience, marketers can establish deeper connections with each generation of physicians. From baby boomers to Gen Z, the essence of the personal touch is considered to be an essential part of marketing.

Technology has provided the ability to engage physicians by using personalized content across many channels. Marketing to HCPs today is driven by data, which is helping pharma companies personalize their communication to HCPs and provide relevant engagements. That data comes in the form of site engagement, claims data, syndicated data, and other privacy-compliant datasets. Targeting HCPs across digital platforms and forums is the new personalized marketing strategy, as technology makes it easier to understand an HCP's preferences and content requirements. In addition, digital solutions are more affordable than conventional marketing strategies and provide demonstrable ROI as well as a wider audience.

Segmenting your audience and leveraging technology that understands the way individual HCPs prefer to learn and digest information provides companies with the ability to create truly personalized experiences that can be delivered programmatically to the audience at the point of care. By layering varying data sources together, including historical behavioral preferences, it is possible to create experiences that resonate with the audience in ways that ensure you are providing them with an experience that is most closely aligned with their preferred way of learning.

To present precise and customized content that is tailored to the interests of their target group of HCPs, pharma companies are also developing specialized microsites. Marketers can present even more pertinent information once the HCP connects to the website, such as segmenting the specialty, demographics, and behavior of physicians. Additionally, by using cutting-edge platforms to communicate with HCPs in a personalized manner, marketers can use personalized HCP campaigns to raise HCP engagement with their brand.

Leverage digital channels

Younger generations are more likely to use digital channels to seek healthcare information while older generations may prefer in-person consultations. Marketers should use a mix of channels, such as social media, email, and websites to reach different age groups. A blend of channels based upon a physician’s preference should be taken into consideration, which is commonly known as phygital (physical+digital). For pharma marketers to achieve success, it requires a sophisticated understanding of the physician’s journey and reliable data to discern what tactics to deploy.

During the pandemic, the use of digital conferencing and peer-to-peer social interaction became more widespread to foster physician education. This has had a lasting impact on the way that HCPs have expected to communicate and engage with pharma companies and their sales teams. The combined use of digital engagement technology and in-person visits enables brand managers to ensure that there is a more symbiotic relationship between the marketing efforts and the sales team.

Highlight benefits and outcomes

HCPs of different generations may have different priorities when it comes to patient care. Some may prioritize the use of new technologies or evidence-based medicine, while others may prioritize a patient-centered approach. To appeal to all generations, marketers should highlight the benefits and outcomes of a drug that aligns with each generation's priorities.

By employing a content management solution combined with data that provides an understanding of what is important to individual physicians, brand managers can ensure that the way they are relating to physicians is managed based on what is meaningful to each HCP.

Foster relationships

While face-to-face interactions and building personal relationships with HCPs are important, an approach reliant primarily on sales reps is becoming outdated. There is a need to leverage data to aid sales teams to provide the right mix of engagement techniques to meet each HCP’s individual needs. Building relationship with HCPs takes time and effort. Invest in building long-term relationships with HCPs that involve trust, respect, and mutual benefit. For instance, a digital warning can be issued to the clinician whenever an HCP prescribes medication for a patient's condition, alerting them that the patient may be qualified for a co-pay card or another kind of financial assistance program to help with the cost of their treatment.

Utilize an omnichannel approach

Omni-channel marketing refers to the integration of different channels of communication, such as online platforms, social media, email, and mobile apps, to provide a seamless customer experience. For example, pharma companies can use social media platforms to educate physicians about their drugs and treatments as well as utilize email and mobile apps to communicate directly with HCPs to provide them with relevant information and resources—all while maintaining consistency of messaging. This can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates and increased physician loyalty and advocacy.

Omnichannel engagement can be a highly sophisticated, automated process that can seem overwhelming at times. However, a company can approach the process through a crawl-walk-run mentality and ensure that they are getting value from the process regardless of their level of marketing sophistication. Delivering in an omnichannel world requires truly personalized experiences that put the customer’s needs at the forefront. A physician dealing with a new patient will have very different needs than a physician trying to keep a patient on therapy. On top of that, each physician will have different ways they consume and retain information. There are endless combinations of channels for HCPs to engage with. The content and how it’s delivered must be tailored to that HCP to have the greatest impact.

Coordinating execution across moments of need and interaction channels (in a holistic way) requires a level of analytical and technical sophistication that has been more common in other industries like retail and financial services. Many pharma companies are only just beginning the journey. The good news is that a lot of the learnings from these other industries can be leveraged.

Bottom line

By understanding generational differences, using omnichannel marketing, personalizing messages, highlighting benefits and outcomes, keeping up with emerging trends, and leveraging social proof, you can overcome generational differences in HCP marketing and reach your target audience effectively. Human relationships are fostered on trust, and the foundation of the pharma industry's success is fostering trust among HCPs.

While it can sound like a daunting initiative, as long as you take a pragmatic approach and stay focused on ensuring you keep the end goal in sight, it’s possible to ensure you are making generational differences an advantage in your approach to engaging with HCPs.

Moving forward in stages helps teams establish some quick wins while also gaining early learnings to inform future stages. It also allows time to get ahead of issues and bottlenecks before biting off too much at once or overtaxing teams. When you incorporate personalized segmentation and generational analysis into your marketing approach, you are can identify key differences in the ways that HCPs learn and what is most important to them. This allows you to create meaningful engagements with each HCP that will result in long-term relationships.


  1. Wise, K. Gen Z Social Media Usage Statistics 2023: The Latest Trends, Facts & Data. Earthweb. 2023.

About the author

Harshit Jain is the founder and global CEO of Doceree.