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Marketing clinical trials to millennial parents.

Based on when you were born, you are assigned a list of stereotypical characteristics that pre-identify who you are. But to a certain degree that’s exactly what they are – stereotypes. The truth is, what each of us experiences throughout our lifetime shapes us for years to come and affects how we approach day-to-day situations. That said, generational personality differences are continuously studied and reported on in news articles and blogs alike.

For the first time in history, five generations are working side by side today, ranging from the traditionalists (born before 1945) to Generation Z (born 1996–2012). As suspected, the variance in lifetime experiences is more drastic than ever, which ultimately makes relating to all these audiences at once, from a marketing perspective on a personal level, that much more challenging. We’ve compiled a short summary of characteristics for the three most prominent adult generations that make up our population today. Have a read and see if you are in line.

Baby boomers (Born 1946–1964)

  • Live to work and define their self-worth through their work ethic
  • Competitive and goal-centric; self-assured
  • Process oriented; focused and disciplined
  • Want to make a difference
  • Typically raised in a structured household, where children were “seen and not heard”
  • Expect to stay in a career for their lifetime, versus jumping around

Generation X (Born 1965–1980)

  • Work to live; value freedom and responsibility in the workplace
  • Successful in independence, self-sufficiency, and resourcefulness
  • Focused on results
  • Adapt to change, and thrive on flexibility
  • Eager to learn, and see education as a necessary means to succeed
  • Identified as “latchkey kids” or as having “middle child” personalities

Generation Y/millennials (Born 1981–1995)

  • Fully transparent, share everything with everyone on the internet
  • Thrive with detailed instructions
  • Desire to make an impact and do work that has a purpose
  • Value and are accustomed to diversity
  • Have grown up with technology in everyday life and use it to find solutions
  • Education is a very expensive necessity
  • Do not perform at their best in a traditional (rigid) work environment
  • With the exception of family, millennials value health the most


By way of example, we’d like to take a closer look at millennials, how their upbringing affects their parenting, and what it could mean for clinical trials hoping to enroll their children.

As the youngest of the generational parenting scheme, millennial parents represent those with today’s younger children – parents who are more likely to be making decisions on behalf of their littles. As such, it is important to keep millennial characteristics in mind when planning a clinical trial, because even simple things, such as their preferred method of communication, can compromise a successful participant experience.

Computers have been part of millennials’ lives as far back as elementary school. Tablets, smartphones, laptops, and interactive TVs are an everyday necessity for most. They are communicating with their friends, family, coworkers, community – everyone – via a technology-based source. It’s only natural that parenting has become interwoven into this world, whether it’s entertainment for the children or a means of socialization for exhausted, overtired new parents.

Working parents (versus singular) is a trend that was started before millennials, and for them, it’s more common than not. Although it’s approached differently now. Millennial parents are navigating their way through the recent concept of “work-life integration” (versus work-life balance). Technology is the main driver of this because we’re accessible 24/7, at home and at work. On the rise are stay-at-home dads, proving that millennials are willing to entertain any scenario in the effort of what’s best for their household.

The world of social media holds an overwhelmingly strong influence on millennials and their parenting personas. Social groups provide peer-to-peer discussions to share experiences and insights, articles and blogs are seen as a primary source of fact-based information, and the feed is a place to display a parent’s carefully selected view into the family’s everyday life.

Given all this, there are some low-hanging-fruit approaches to consider when developing your next clinical trial involving millennial parents and their children.


1. Make it easy, without added guilt.

Juggling a career, family, school days, sports and clubs, volunteering, a household, and everything else that encompasses a parent’s day can be taxing. Plan out what can be done to make a clinical trial commitment a simple integration into their schedule, without being something that adds guilt to the parents.

  • Is the visit schedule conducive to school days? Are there more visits planned than are absolutely needed? Can any visits be done remotely to avoid another trip into the doctor’s office?
  • What comfort items can be distributed that not only make sense for the condition or study, but also help parents with the experience? Think a ShotBlocker or Buzzy for kiddos who find shots terrifying, toys and coloring books to pass the time, or weighted blankets to bring comfort for nervousness.
  • What can be offered to replace or help with other daily tasks? Leverage services familiar to this generation, such as Uber, Grubhub, Airbnb, and Amazon.

2. Integrate technology in a familiar way.

Communicate with these parents in the way they’re most comfortable. Impress them with the available capabilities to discuss procedures and to document treatments and side effects. Keep input and output streamlined and easy to use.

  • What are easy ways to help parents and participants stay compliant with study requirements? Incorporating e-diaries into the study protocol (and ensuring they can be accessed anywhere) is a great start.
  • What social media groups are available that your site can join or observe to share experiences and ask questions?
  • How can you make information readily available for parents? Keep your study top of mind by creating customized apps so parents can access visit schedules, doctor’s office information, reminders for upcoming appointments, and so on.
  • Are your doctors accessible via web-based platforms in case time-sensitive answers need to be given or getting out of the house is simply not happening that day?
  • What options are available with virtual reality? Is there a way to demonstrate a complicated procedure via an immersive environment to better understand the commitment at hand?

3. Be an information resource.

Social media is a huge driver for this generation being deemed the “most-informed” parents. They are researching more than ever and want answers instantly. Hungry for information, they’re accustomed to instant gratification.

  • Can you be a leader in information on a specific condition, trends in research/clinical trials, or other information that parents may be seeking? Provide validated content upfront, possibly even before they’re considering your clinical trial.
  • Are your patient-facing materials written if you’re speaking to a patient (not a doctor)? Make communication easy to understand, and keep the most pertinent information easy to find.
  • Are you listening to parents as they tell you what they think and need? Can you organize a parent-patient panel to provide the platform for them to talk about their experiences and what can be done to improve them?
  • Have you considered influencer outreach? There are well-known bloggers in the digital world for just about everything these days. Research who is an influential voice for the condition at hand, and see what they’re saying. Leverage them as a resource for your own research, as well as a means of speaking to your prospects on a personal level.


At the end of the day, regardless of the generation, a parent’s biggest concern is the well-being of their children, and that trend will never change. Ultimately, as the leaders in medical advancement, it is crucial to constantly consider whom we’re serving and what their preferences are. It’s important to remember to stay true to our responsibility of providing the support and resolution that’s needed to all – young and old.