What Your Audience's Decision-Journey and a Hero's Journey Have in Common

Thanks to a unique combination of disaggregated audiences, regulation and a mixed online/offline experience, today’s pharma and healthcare marketers have to tame a wild, multi-headed monster to drive results. It makes the communication landscape in the pharma and healthcare markets immensely complex.

So how can a marketer weave in smart storytelling, and create an intimate setting that their audience can journey down?

By understanding journey maps, how audiences make decisions and storytelling, we’ve synthesized three models to create a universal framework  for the healthcare and pharma industries to influence their audiences’ decisions in a natural, positive manner..


A customer’s journey is a culmination of all the experiences that they’ll have when they interact with your organization. Thanks to a proliferating digital ecosystem paired with an offline experience, as well, these touchpoints are quickly multiplying - today, your audience has a wealth of options to interact with your organization, well beyond your marketing efforts and campaigns.

That’s why simply understanding a customer’s journey can be a huge advantage to any organization. It can help with experience design, operational efficiency and in developing customer and patient satisfaction. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes as they journey through your organization, marketers — and anyone else at your organization — can get an intimate glimpse of your audience’s experience. This information is especially useful for improving:

  • User experience design

  • Operational efficiency

  • Marketing and sales effectiveness

  • Customer satisfaction


Patient’s Journey

To focus specifically on a patient’s experience, we have created a fundamental, universal patient journey.

For patients, their journey usually begins as a typical day up until an incident leads to a diagnosis and a treatment plan. All this usually ends in some kind of change to the patient’s life and then they begin a new, “reformed” life. This path can usually be designated to any type of condition or incident, whether it be a sore throat, Alzheimer’s disease or a sprained ankle.

Marketers can leverage this model and ask questions like: What are the decision points along this experience?  What are the emotions that the patient is feeling? What energy is being spent in time and effort? What are patients feeling and what are the barriers that they have to overcome?


User Journey models are observational, happen chronologically and are tactical by nature. Because of this, they don’t always lend strategic insights to marketers that would help in delivering exceptional strategies and plans. As we all know, life doesn’t happen in a nice, neat order. Our journeys tend to be cyclical.


At Linus, understanding how people make decisions is a top priority in our work — whether it’s decisions in science, decisions in research, decisions by doctors or decisions by patients. By understanding this, we’ve been able to uncover decision drivers and create models for positively influencing them. At its essence, we define a decision as someone taking action. In order for someone to act, they need an internal change that satisfies them intellectually, emotionally and also satisfies their ego. By mapping a decision journey, rather than a user-journey , we can away from that linear, tactical modality we discussed in the prior section and can actually aid in developing marketing strategies and constructing our marketing funnel as we drive people toward making a change and a decision.

Our audience is really who’s driving their own decisions — as much as we want to, we can’t make them behave in a certain way. But we do have the power to create the right kind of content that we can optimize and develop a journey map that meets them at their decision making phases.


Patient-Buyer’s Journey

A patient-buyer’s journey begins when something interrupts the status quo — something disrupts their reality and a decision has to be made. So they collect information and evaluate what they’re going to do about the decision they need to make. This next phase is important: it’s the commitment of moving forward with that decision. This is a critical moment a patient takes an action — everything up until this point was simply leading to this moment. And from here, they reinforce their entire experience

It’s no surprise that there is actually a fairly high correlation between the patient journey that I shared with you and this decision journey.

So where do marketers come into this picture to drive  pivotal moment of change and commitment. And a specific form of storytelling is best suited for influencing audiences toward action.


Stories are the most powerful way to make change happen. That’s because stories are the most ancient technology we have to communicate with one another. And today, with an attention span that grows smaller in a  world where information is in overload, stories are the easiest way to communicate with your audience.

We consume stories for many reasons: entertainment, finding meaning in life., feeling connected to humanity, making a decision. But just like us, not all stories are created the same — and not all of them drive action. And if you really want your stories to galvanize a movement within your audience and inspire them to action, there’s one construct that is really best created to lead to that change.


Hero’s Journey

A story’s secret weapon? The hero’s journey. There are many resources to understand the semantics of the hero’s journey, but the idea is this: There is universal template for how the story is told about a hero: First, it begins with a setting and background to paint a picture of a world the viewer can connect with. Once the audience is grounded into this world, there’s a call to adventure that the hero is compelled to heed. As is every journey, the hero is met with a series of obstacles and challenges, forcing them to find a new path — often a life or death experience, requiring them to find a new path oran elixir. At this new path, the hero makes a decision and forms a change. Then they return to back to life, but in a new reality.

Not all heroes go through this journey alone - often there are mentors or helpers to guide them through decisions, provide information or heed advice.

If our audience is the hero, then brands have the opportunity to be a helper or a mentor or an elixir in our audience’s journey - aiding them, making them think differently or nudging them in a direction that could alter their life toward a new reality.


An aligned Patient, Patient-Decision and Hero’s Journey

The parallels between the hero’s journey and your audience’s decision-journey are immense and relevant. Just like the hero, your audience is going down a path that will lead to a disruption in their lives that calls for a need for more information that will eventually lead into a change that results in a new life. Your role as a brand can really impact the path your audience chooses. That’s exactly why the hero’s journey works so beautifully when it comes to aiding change and prompting action.

At the end of the day, understanding the intricacies of a journey, your audience’s decision-making and storytelling — and the way it all comes together can make all the difference in your marketing efforts. it's also important to remember, just like in life, nothing in your audience’s journey is linear. As you develop this, remember that it’s not chronological — it’s a state of being. Think of it as an evolution as a metamorphosis and allow your audiences and heroes to go through it at their own that is not linear.

That’s another topic for another day.