Research shows that marketing tactics used in the industry to engage employees in corporate wellness are changing, yet the critical steps that set those tactics in motion are not.

Aon Hewitt’s 2012 Health Care Survey reports 70% of employers seek to increase participation in their wellness programs. When asked what tactics they currently use to drive health and performance results, top approaches include ongoing wellness program communication campaigns and unique branding of their corporate wellness program.

However, in the next three to five years employers expect to tap a very different list of tactics. Number one on the list: Most plan to use social media to promote employee health. Employers also anticipate getting more personal, targeting health care communications based on individuals’ specific conditions, demographics, health risks and biometric results.

Aon Hewitt on corporate wellness marketing

Source: Aon Hewitt 2012 Health Care Survey

Yet, a critical missing step with current corporate wellness marketing, Aon Hewitt’s survey shows, is most employers do not gather input from employees on attitudes toward health. Only 17% of surveyed employers use consumer marketing techniques when promoting their wellness program.

Why does this matter? Because when you don’t understand what your population’s barriers to health are, it is difficult to create messaging that will resonate with them and motivate them to take action.

Earlier this year, Ad Age released a white paper on how to communicate with different generations about their health care choices. It made suggestions on both messaging and mediums—such as the best way to connect with Gen-X (age 35-44) and Gen-Y (under age 35) about health is through online, mobile and social media channels.

With certain clients, we have seen this to be true. For a technology company with a younger workforce, for example, our HealthFitness staff has effectively used QR codes as a tool to engage that population in corporate wellness.

However, age is not the only factor that plays into health care attitudes and decision making. Income, lifestyle, ethnicity, location and many other influences play roles, too.

In the Consumer Health Mindset, Aon Hewitt sets aside age and recommends dividing consumers by health attitudes, motivators and barriers into six segments. The report suggests that employers create a targeted outreach communication plan that reaches key populations based on these segments to improve employee health.

This type of approach digs deeper into the psyche of a population and gets to the core of an effective marketing strategy. To successfully engage employees in your corporate wellness program, it is essential to understand your audience’s perceptions of health and then tailor messaging—and tactics to share that messaging—to your population.