Three healthcare brands – Voltaren, Fenistil and P/S toothpaste – used technology to address consumer pain points and add value to their lives.

When you think about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in healthcare, examples like the development of the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 or modelling of outbreak spread patterns come to mind immediately.

The use of AI, machine learning and augmented reality (AR) by a topical pain relief cream – or an itch relief cream, or a toothpaste brand, for that matter – might be the last thing you would think of. Yet, the recent 2020 WARC Media Awards for Best Use of Tech had three winners – Voltaren, Fenistil and P/S toothpaste – which did exactly this, using technology solve a real consumer issue and, as a result, growing brand penetration, sales and market share.

Identify a genuine consumer pain point, need or barrier to use

Though this sounds clichéd, identifying the true reason why consumers don’t use your product or – more importantly for a market leader – the category, is fundamental to unlocking growth in the consumer healthcare space.

Many categories have the same fundamental issue of under-diagnosis of an ailment or lack of knowledge or awareness of how to treat or prevent it. If a market leader can help consumers diagnose what they are suffering from, then they can truly unlock significant value.

For example, Voltaren identified a major issue in Russia. Though osteoarthritis was the most common chronic ailment among its target audience, a significant shortage of doctors meant that most people were not correctly diagnosed. They were experiencing the symptoms but didn’t know what the issue was or and how to treat it.

Similarly, Fenistil found that most consumers could not identify what skin issues they had and hence how to treat them. Meanwhile, Unilever’s toothpaste brand P/S (market leader in the toothpaste category in Vietnam) discovered that parents struggle to get their kids to brush their teeth twice daily, thus limiting category consumption.

Use appropriate technology (along with the right scientific rigour) to resolve the pain point

Voltaren developed a consumer-friendly technology, partnering with the Medical Research Centre of Moscow University to develop ‘Osteoscan’. This used AI and ML to analyse X-ray scans and diagnose osteoarthritis.

In a similar vein, Fenistil, working with a healthcare start-up, created a neural network that could recognize six major skin diseases with 90% accuracy. Lastly, P/S built an AI-powered AR experience to make brushing fun by teaching kids how to brush along with animal cartoon characters, holding their attention for two minutes.

Make it really easy for the consumer to use and genuinely add value

Voltaren and Fenistil made it simple for consumers to access their technology – they just had to upload a picture of their knee x-rays or affected skin and they received a diagnosis. The tools helped them identify the best treatment, and Fenistil also offered the option of having a video call with a specialist dermatologist (who, in turn, would be highly likely to recommend Fenistil).

P/S toothpaste had the issue of kids finding brushing their teeth boring and hence forgetting to brush in the evening. It personalized the technology offering for each child, reminding them to brush at a chosen time and also used the child’s favourite character superimposed on their faces through AR while they were brushing to make it more fun for kids.

The approaches above demonstrate the need for marketing and insight teams to closely involve and immerse the tech and medical teams into understanding the consumer needs and pain points. This enables them to develop the right technology solutions with the right rigour and an easy-to-use interface.

If done well, these technologies will truly unlock brand potential by genuinely addressing consumer pain points and adding value to their lives.