Recently, while conducting a persona workshop, one of the participants asked, “Why are we even including a man? Don’t we know that 80% of women make household healthcare decisions?”

Having heard (and quoted) that statistic, I paused and asked myself, “Is that really true? It seems awfully high.”

Guess what?

Let’s Look at the Facts

In April 2011, The Wall Street Journal asked a similar question about general household spending. The paper concluded that attributing 80% of spending influence to women is too high when you factor in all the research.

“There is never any sourcing of the number,” says Ira Mayer, publisher of the newsletter Marketing to Women, which in 2009 tried and failed to find the statistic’s origin. “It’s become accepted folklore.”

This 2013 government fact sheet from the Department of Labor quotes the healthcare statistic, but provides no source.

So, how did we come up with that stat for women and healthcare decisions? I think it’s one of those numbers that sounded good and just kept being perpetuated. But it’s time to stop. Especially when you consider this report by CNBC that shows “men, specifically fathers 25 to 40, are spending more time as consumers around the household.”

I’ll tell you one stat that’s 100% true: In any given population, 50% of members are female and 50% are male.

None of us can afford to ignore 50% of a possible target audience. So why are we holding on to women-only marketing?

What Should You Do?

  1. Definitely include men in your personas: Classic gender roles are changing. Men make decisions, do research and influence family spending. Make sure your marketing teams understand that men play a role in healthcare decisions. Brands who ignore men do so at their own peril.
  2. Consider doing some direct-to-men marketing: There aren’t a lot of blogs focused on men and their health, and those that exist tend to limit their coverage to prostate cancer, sexual health and heart health. You might be surprised, but publications like Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and GQ are able to carve out a target audience by digging deeper. Why can’t your healthcare publication?
  3. Challenge the status quo in your marketing efforts: Have you really examined what the men in your target audiences want, need and desire? Consider focus groups, surveys and creating some content geared toward men to see how it performs. You’ll never know till you try.

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