Schaefer Advertising Co.


Healthcare Marketing Perspectives From The Field

To paraphrase an old advertising slogan, neither rain, nor sleet, nor wind, nor snow would keep the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ASCRS) Annual Congress down.

ASCRS just ended in Boston and despite the cold weather, the meeting itself was as dynamic as ever. Schaefer was there in full-force to support the great relationships we’ve built and to make new connections.

As we walked the show floor, interacted with countless professionals and navigated the all-important ad hoc gatherings after hours, we did what we love to do. We observed, questioned, debated and thought about strategic direction and how it can help our clients succeed.

We wanted to share our top 10 takeaways from 2024 ASCRS for those of you in ophthalmology. (For our non-ophthalmology clients, we’ll suggest ways these observations may impact you):

Welcome to ASCRS

1. The anterior segment is getting crowded

From the cornea to the cataract, there continues to be an inspiring number of innovations in this space. That comes with a second edge: competition — especially in glaucoma — is more fierce than ever. 

If you’re not in eye care, are there areas in your market that are equally crowded? What is your vision for differentiation?

2. PCIOLs are seeking narrower slices of blue sky

Entering the IOL market as a challenger requires defining a thinner slice of uniqueness than ever before. That said, the adjustable lenses being launched are very distinct and it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the market going forward. 

3. Posterior segment energy

Where the anterior segment is approaching saturation, judging by the energy of innovation in Eyecelerator and other sidebar conversations, there seems to be a lot of momentum growing in the posterior segment. As the population ages and retinal procedures grow more prevalent, the industry is clearly positioned to deliver meaningful options.

You non-ophthalmology friends, where does your category present blue ocean possibilities? 

4. Corneal health concentration

It’s always been important for ophthalmology, but the attention paid to corneal health devices and products seemed greater in 2024. Osmolarity (looking at you trukera-medical), inflammation, dry eye and regenerative products are just scratching the surface (pardon the pun) of what Schaefer saw. 

5. Meeting momentum

A purely anecdotal observation, but the exhibit space seemed less extensive than in years past. That being said, the overall energy at ASCRS was extremely healthy! With less outward activity emanating from the show floor this year we can only imagine what was being discussed behind the curtain and in the sidebar meetings. The anticipation of what’s coming has us ready for a wave of innovation and launches in 2025.

6. Inclusion emphasis

With the evolution in the industry’s gender balance continuing to shift (one booth even celebrated “the women of ophthalmology”) and ASOA’s vital diversity workshop, ASCRS is making worthy strides. The journey is still long but the trend is moving in the right direction. 

How is your industry evolving if you’re not in ophthalmology? Where can it improve?

7. Goodbye sea of blue

We’re an advertising agency. We have to speak to the design trends we saw. After all, the battle to stand out is won and lost, in part, with good design. We definitely saw the rise of purple. And, there are a lot more companies using gradients in their designs. 

8. Surprises in small places

It’s always fascinating to see what the big exhibitors do, but often there is a gravitational pull with the smaller spaces, too. 

We’re biased, but our friends at ViaLase made a savvy decision to place their booth across from the conference “Tap Room.” The innovation they showcased and the arresting booth design (humble brag) kept that space hopping all weekend long. 

Beyond a self-serving ViaLase plug, we also saw inspiration in any number of small spaces like Nordic Pharmaceuticals’ booth the ASCRS 50th anniversary celebration via a booth replicating a practice from 1974 (thanks in part to our friends at Alcon) and the fascinating startup technologies in AI-driven practice management tools.

Are you not an eye-care company but still a challenger brand? How do you use small spaces to make a big impression?

9. Access is no longer an afterthought

Reimbursement is more important than ever. And it showed in both overt and covert ways. The most successful products and product managers will consider strategies around access and the value story in conjunction with all other components of their business plans.

This is undoubtedly true beyond the ophthalmic space. Where is your industry finding success with this vital healthcare commercialization need?

10. Visualization sophistication

If this ASCRS is any indication, the profession is in for some meaningful transformation in the next few years. The adage that you can’t treat what you can’t see may need to be updated. You can see more than ever, now what should you treat?

The thread running through all of this — both the experience of the meeting as well as the takeaways — is that connecting as humans is what matters. The ophthalmic industry is a collection of amazing thinkers making a meaningful difference in patients’ lives. But it doesn’t happen if we don’t connect. At Schaefer, we’re proudly not healthcare specialists, we’re human specialists. We know how to find an emotional resonance that connects people with people, and that’s what makes life better.

If you’d like to put that perspective to work for your brand, drop me a line!

It feels like just yesterday that the world shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While that initial panic is now three years behind us, we’re just beginning to understand some of the long-term impacts and implications for the healthcare marketplace.

As the dust settles, healthcare marketers are asking important questions:

  • What changes were temporary reactions to extraordinary events?
  • What are the key changes that will forever alter the landscape of healthcare and patient care?

While the jury is still out in many areas, one thing is clear: Patient expectations are radically different than they were 36 months ago, particularly in two key areas: access and reimbursement.

In this new environment, the most successful services, products and procedures are the ones that understand that access plays an increasingly critical role in driving adoption, adherence and outcomes. As a result, many companies are paying greater attention to a previously overlooked aspect of product launch — ensuring access and fair reimbursement.

There has never been a time where access hasn’t mattered. However, in the past, it was not ranked as high on many strategic imperative lists as it is in the current environment. Today, perspective around payors has become more top-of-mind for brand marketers.

U.S. surgeons are seeing reimbursements erode rapidly in many product categories. For example, cataract surgeries and minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) are just two procedure areas where RVUs are shifting and causing a downward adjustment for what used to be a more lucrative visit. And in markets outside the U.S., the path to a formulary is circuitous at best.

For many clients (both in and out of the ophthalmic space), we are seeing greater emphasis on proactively managing the access/reimbursement conversation. Although all medical professionals are focused first and foremost on patient outcomes, the business of delivering care must make sense economically for all parties. Developing a brand narrative that considers the access story is more crucial than ever.

In fact, in a recent MM+M survey, executive leadership notes that resource allocation toward communicating with the payor audience remains flat YoY. Yet, 54% also acknowledge that pressure from payor and managed care organizations keeps them up at night.

Unfortunately, more often than not, companies continue to struggle with finding ways to improve patient access. This is due to a combination of internal and external factors. There are certainly complex macroeconomic influences that govern this dynamic. However, in order to achieve the outcomes our drugs and devices are designed to provide, any solid omnichannel plan must consider the way we communicate value along all points of the continuum.

How can you adjust your marketing strategy to strengthen your access messaging? H.L. Mencken famously said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” So at the risk of falling into that trap, allow us to share some fundamental tips and insights around strengthening your access story:

  1. Re-examine the data. If you’re in the later stages of product development, or even in post-launch, take a fresh look at the data the brand has generated to date. The fundamentals of strong clinical evidence remain table stakes — not just for product approval and HCP messaging, but for supporting an access story, too. Create focused messaging that communicates the value your data represents for payors.
  2. Start with a holistic data plan. If launch is several years away, consider developing a pre-launch plan that delivers compliant, valid evidence for the entire value chain, rooted in a comprehensive patient outcomes story. In the post-Covid era, we have observed that a tighter alignment in this area can lead to better results for everyone.  
  3. Diversify the story across multiple audiences. Don’t rely on strength in numbers. A healthy mix of all stakeholders — including patients, providers and payers — is critical to lifting all efforts. Message delivery cannot be one-size-fits-all; proactively communicate with each audience in a way that may influence the others to act.

Ultimately, there is power in proving that your brand not only offers a great solution, but a great solution for that individual patient that also makes sense to all stakeholders. The future of healthcare relies on the inter-related dynamics of payor, provider and patient. In an age of confident and empowered patients, the companies that understand these motivations and take action on them will be the winners.

If you are looking for a partner that can help you harness your patient access strategy, talk to Schaefer Advertising. Our team of experienced professionals brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and creativity to the table. To discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for your company and its products, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

It’s as though we are all holding on, looking for the same lighthouse, but the waters are still raging.

Lately, the daily headlines have delivered more conundrums than clarity.  Interest rates and inflation are growing – but so is hiring. Economists warn of a pending global recession, and yet unemployment rates rest at 50-year lows.

When you zoom in and focus on our industry, the trends aren’t any more predictable. As a healthcare leader, you’re navigating the same Bermuda Triangle of conditions that many of our clients face:  A shortage in healthcare labor. Post-Covid staff burnout. Growing competition. Increased productivity expectations from leadership.

How can you calm the storm, and deliver more with less in this turbulent environment?

Schaefer knows the current labor paradox presents challenges. But it also presents pathways for long-term growth. Whether you are part of a large health system, a small independent practice, or a pharmaceutical / device manufacturer, success begins with re-framing today’s challenges, and seeing them from a new perspective. You can begin to do this by asking yourself five fundamental questions:

“How can my internal teams help me amplify our story to make messages more effective and attract more talent to the team?” 

Think inside out.  When it comes to communication, your people are one of your most important audiences. Double down on the mission of the organization and deploy an effective internal communications program to rally your most important asset: the people you have today. 

“What is our singular most important message and how do we reduce the other messages to ensure the most important ones are being heard?” 

Think small. Ensure you are communicating simply and clearly. Avoid vague or grandiose messages, and hone in on the concrete. Audit your brand strategy to ensure that it is precise and succinct. It may call for narrowing focus down to one or two very important things. Be sure you’re placing bets on the right programs/differentiators that will generate interest and carry the unique story of your brand. 

“How effectively is our content motivating internal and external audiences to take our desired action?” 

Think simple.  Focus on quality over quantity. Fight the urge to launch multiple initiatives, which will overwhelm or confuse your people. Instead, invest in one or two great programs that inspire, grab attention and motivate your audiences to action. 

“How well does my staff understand their role in moving us toward organizational goals? How can we make it even clearer?” 

Think again — Repetition is good: Tell your team what you’re doing. Do it. Tell them you did it. Internalizing a message and making it part of your culture begins with communicating what needs to happen and linking the action back to why it matters and what it means to them. 

“How do we leverage our existing partnerships to help us create strategic priorities and ensure they’re providing optimal value back to us?”

Think outside — Partner with your external agencies, consultants, service providers or contractors, and ask them to help you find ways to extract the greatest possible value out of your finite resources. 

By changing the way you think about the environment we’re in, you can position your organization to respond more effectively and weather whatever storms lie ahead. With these shifts in perspective, you can re-energize and re-engage your internal teams, while leveraging external relationships with improved efficiency and effectiveness.


Dealing with a labor shortage isn’t easy. But there are important steps you can take to shift your culture and compete more effectively. At Schaefer, we’re here to help your organization improve its performance, whatever the economic climate brings. We’re more than a healthcare specialist; we are a human specialist that knows how to get people to take action. For nearly 30 years, we’ve helped clients across a variety of industries achieve results through multiple economic cycles. We’ve done so the only way we know how: By relentlessly focusing on measurable strategies that drive business objectives and results.

Are you wrestling with an internal or external communications challenge?  If so, contact me today at to arrange a no-obligation consultation.


Every year, submitting and defending your marketing budget becomes a more time- and labor-intensive process. For many, it’s a significant strain. But with the right perspective and partnerships, you can successfully protect your budget and state your case.

Departmental priorities. Competitive pressures. Ever changing business goals. Field team relationships and supply chain issues. As a Brand Manager, you have multiple priorities to juggle. While it’s clear to you how important it is to invest in marketing, your key executive stakeholders with other priorities may think differently.

If you’re like most marketing professionals, you’re faced with a leadership team that expects direct accountability, tangible metrics, and a commitment to success before they approve or finalize a budget.  As they should. In this environment, how can you avoid fighting over limited resources, and position your budget as a vital, strategic investment in your company’s future?


It’s up to you to remind leadership that marketing is an investment rather than an expense — and to demonstrate the critical role your team plays in the organizational ecosystem.

The surest way to secure your budget is to clearly and unarguably demonstrate the ROI your marketing budget provides. The ability to tie your argument to the bottom line is imperative.  While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are definite steps every marketing team should take:

  • Demonstrate a clear journey: Re-outline business objectives and visually showcase how those translate to marketing objectives and, subsequently, your proposed budgets. In this area, the marketing funnel is your best friend.
  • Highlight the competition: Show how the competition is using marketing strategies to their advantage — and how your organization could benefit from adopting similar tactics. Present case studies of successful marketing initiatives from other healthcare organizations that have generated significant results.
  • Predict challenges: Anticipate potential pushback from stakeholders, and address them proactively. Be prepared to answer questions about budget allocation, and have data points and statistics on hand to show how investing in marketing can improve operational efficiency and market share.
  • Leverage your partnerships: Your agency partners and outside collaborators are your allies in advocating for marketing spend. Work with them to maximize your budgets, deliver strategic insights, and develop tangible goals that will bolster your pitch. There are very few arguments these partners haven’t heard; use their experience to strengthen your case. 
  • Circle back: Provide regular and meaningful updates on the success garnered from the budgets you already have approved. Be succinct but clear in how your team is supporting the organization’s goals. When possible, present your updates in person; by doing this, you maintain a constant and regular presence with your decision makers, so asking for future dollars becomes more seamless.

Above all, remember that numbers are your friend — and they usually don’t lie. Preparation towards an objective, data-driven pitch can help loosen the ever-tightening grip stakeholders have on budgets. A strong and well-thought out position, rooted in a financial rationale, instills confidence in leadership.

At Schaefer, we understand both the importance and the complexity of managing an effective omni-channel plan in the healthcare industry. It can be cumbersome if you are facing it alone. Our healthcare team brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. We are committed to delivering results and staying at the forefront of industry trends and technologies to help drive your business — and your marketing priorities — forward.