Consult | MDU Case study

MDU - Digital Strategy

Discover how we used marketing psychology to help a not-for-profit healthcare organisation connect with a hard-to-reach audience.


The business

Established in 1885, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) is the UK’s leading medical defence organisation. The MDU protects the professional reputations of doctors and dentists when their clinical performance is called into question. 

As a mutual, not-for-profit company, the MDU provides indemnity and advisory services to over 200,000 members, ranging from medical students to retired healthcare professionals.

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The challenge

The recruitment and retention of trainee (‘foundation’) doctors and dentists is a priority for the MDU. While foundation medics have a legal requirement to arrange indemnity cover, there are several defence organisations they can choose from and endless demands on their time. Getting the attention of these highly-pressured trainees and converting it into action is no easy task. 

The MDU needed a new strategy to connect with the foundation audience. As well as gaining a deeper understanding of the psychology of trainee doctors and dentists, they required a marketing campaign with fresh messaging, assets and digital tactics. A key challenge was retaining the credibility of the MDU brand while updating the creative to resonate with a young, diverse audience. 

A further challenge was distribution. The MDU wanted to use HubSpot to automate the campaign, which required data integrations and the creation of automated workflows.

The bar was set high with the previous year’s campaign achieving an 85% retention rate of foundation medics.

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“Cognition’s process of interviewing doctors and dentists gave us a really useful steer on the messaging and challenged our assumptions. From this robust research and psychological insight, we were able to push the MDU brand and experiment with new retention techniques.”

Nicola Morgan - Head of Marketing, MDU

The solution

As with many Cognition projects, our approach started with psychology. We conducted a programme of qualitative one-to-one interviews with foundation doctors and dentists to better understand their decision-making processes. 

Our findings tested the MDU’s assumptions, and gave us valuable insights into the incentives, messaging and imagery needed to maximise recruitment and retention. 

This ’Data System’ directly informed the creative. Our in-house illustrators worked on arresting designs to resonate with the audience and drive conversion. We then ran further interviews with doctors and dentists to review the creative and refine our content. 

These market-tested assets were activated with email and social media campaigns, all orchestrated via HubSpot.

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The results

Our thorough, creative and psychology-led approach delivered strong results for the MDU. The year-on-year retention rate for foundation doctors and dentists increased from 85% to 94%, while the campaign incentive saw a 55% direct response rate. 

Nicola Morgan, MDU Head of Marketing: 

‘The campaign response and retention rates have been extremely positive. It’s getting tougher and tougher to improve our results each year, but with the support of Cognition we’ve achieved a significant increase in our retention rate to more than 94%.

‘The messaging and creative really resonated with the audience. And bearing in mind that Foundation medics are typically the largest group of opt-outs from marketing, we are delighted with the results.

‘Cognition have helped us set the bar high - we’re looking forward to continuing this partnership and seeing if we can set it even higher.

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Contact the team at Cognition Agency for all your digital marketing requirements.

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