Archive for June, 2009

Who’s Your Mama?!

June 26, 2009

More hospitals than ever are borrowing the best practices of retail and service industries to attract today’s savvier patients. Plush robes and flat screen TVs with Internet access are just a few. But there’s one retailer doing very smart things with its most influential target audience that I haven’t yet seen in healthcare settings.

Say what you will about Wal-Mart, but they’ve gone far beyond just listening to their female customers (the same ones that make most healthcare decisions) – they’ve created a very successful community of influential women bloggers, who in turn provide great money saving ideas to other moms. It’s called ElevenMoms.

For a hospital, that could mean an instant focus group or sounding board for everything from potential service line extensions and wayfinding to patient satisfaction and wellness offerings. What works? What can be improved? What would change their perceptions of your hospital versus a competitor? What tools can you provide to help them with health and wellness?

That alone can be invaluable input, but once you’ve engaged these women in an ongoing relationship with the hospital, there’s the enormous added opportunity of leveraging *their* relationships – making healthcare decisions for their families, in the community and on social media. That’s viral marketing at its best.

So, why don’t more hospitals have their own version of ElevenMoms?

The New Sound of Word of Mouth

June 25, 2009

If you ask a hundred businessmen how best to market using social media such as Twitter or Facebook, they’ll all probably tell you something different. Except for a few who just shrug their shoulders.

This is because the industry magazines and websites keep saying that social media is forever changing marketing and advertising. But, I couldn’t disagree more.

You see, in principle, social media has been around forever. Because at its core, it’s just good ol’ word of mouth.

Seriously. It’s just people having conversations with other people. And that’s always happened. Only now, it’s happening on a computer. And if you believe that the most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth, well then that tool just became infinitely more powerful.

Think about it. Rather than having your customer tell a few friends about the great experience she had at your store/hospital/restaurant, she’s now posting it to hundreds of Facebook friends.

Of course the exact same thing will happen if you really disappoint her. So, you’d better be good at what you do.

This is why we all need to embrace the opportunity social media has given us. It’s not changing advertising so much as it’s raising the importance of quality products and services. It’s providing us the opportunity to make our products, services and interactions better than they’ve ever been before – and to be rewarded for it.

So, how do you best market using social media? It’s simple: give your customers something exceptional, something worth talking about. Then, you sit back and let the digital word-of-mouth do its thing.

When cancer hits home.

June 23, 2009
Photo courtesy of 200 Joules

Photo courtesy of 200 Joules

We write a lot about healthcare. We talk to patients, nurses and many, many doctors. While most physicians are kind and courteous, there are a few that hold a very, very special place in our hearts.

Like Arthur Chaney, at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.

He is an incredible radiation oncologist and all around cool guy. He’s in a great band made up of physicians. He is a brilliant and talented man who, through his oncology work, has brought many people in the Mooresville community hope and a longer life.

I don’t know that much about him beyond his incredible medical skills, but I know today when I learned he has cancer it pierced my heart to the very core. I know he is young, and that he has a family that adores him. And, at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, there’s an entire staff of medical professionals who, though they deal with illness everyday, have to be reeling from such a devastating diagnosis.

We can’t offer Dr. Chaney and his friends and family much more than these words. But we figured it was the least we could do for a man who has given so much to so many. Including us.

Godspeed, Dr. Chaney.

Creative Brain Freeze

June 17, 2009

Dean SmashYou’re feeling good. You’re loose. You settle in to what will surely be another fantastic brainstorming session with your trusty notebook and lucky pencil. It’s magic time. Time to come up with an idea that makes the Earth move. Then, nothing. You try to refocus and get it together. Still, nothing. Next thing you know, you’re in a quiet brainstorming session that’s been zapped by creative brain freeze. Mmm. Not good.

Whatever your profession, everyone has to come up with ideas now and then. But for creatives, it’s the raison d’etre, well, that’s what it is if you’re a Raising Arizona fan. When a creative team member can’t generate ideas, he or she might as well hang it up.

When it happens to me, I get frustrated and think, “Maybe I’m not focusing hard enough.” Then, I get angry. “I’ll never come up with a good idea! Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am. Maybe my work is mediocre. Ahhhh!! Dean SMASH!!!!”

Before resorting to wholesale office destruction, I now try the following:

  • I change my environment. Different place, different chair, anything different from the status quo.
  • I seek the opinions and thoughts of others.
  • I try 100 mph thinking (coming up with as many thoughts possible as fast as possible).
  • When all else fails, I try 180 degree thinking (coming up with ideas that are the exact opposite of my goal).

These are just a few tricks I try to overcome creative brain freeze. Tell me how you thaw your brain when the creativity gets all gummed up.

I could use a few new options for the days when my feet are exploding out of my shoes and my shirt is tearing across my back. The days I find myself screaming, “I don’t know how long I can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within!” Just kidding.

But seriously, how do you beat the freeze?

Meet George Jetson… his boy Elroy…

June 16, 2009

This is what I heard coming from the living room when my 7-year-old was watching TV the other day. Of course, I went in to watch a little too and told him how I had liked this show when I was his age.

It got me to thinking about how different generations often like the same things. We, as consumers, don’t really change all that much in a few generations. Sure, we have new technology, easier access to goods and services, and more choices for just about everything we would ever want, but what appeals to us often stays pretty much the same.

I guess that is why we have the saying of “what comes around goes around.” It happens in all areas of life, most notably in fashion design and music. The bones are the same but the skin changes to reflect the cultural shift that occurs over time.

This also is true in marketing and advertising. Many of the same strategies and messages resonate through the generations. The tactics change to meet the ever-increasing electronic life we all lead and the execution shifts to fit with current lifestyles.

In the turbulent mid ’60s the doughboy became the spokes-character for Pillsbury. He was a comforting image during a time of change in our country, with his tubby tummy and sweet giggle.

Geico has used the same strategy to create a character that appeals to the modern, informed consumer. The Gecko is sophisticated, discerning and a little aloof–but still charming. He is antithesis of the stereotypical insurance salesman, so we are comfortable with his pitch.

The Gecko also represents another generational change with his choice of media vehicles. Check him out on his new YouTube videos. The only Tube the doughboy knew was the analog picture tube.

You can see this in other campaigns as well. AT&T and Sprint have just swapped messages. In the 1980’s AT&T wanted you to “reach out and touch someone.” They played on the human desire to be connected with others. It was so easy to pick up the phone and chat. Today Sprint has the “Now Network.” It answers the same desire for human connection. It reinforces the immediacy and variety of ways Sprint technology allows us to communicate and gather information.  

In the ’80s Sprint represented the clarity of their service by having a pin drop.  Today AT&T has more bars to illustrate the availability and clarity of their service. Each campaign demonstrates the benefit of good access by using iconic imagery of the time.

What past styles, music, movies and ad campaigns will be revamped in the coming year? Personally, I plan on revisiting “Land of the Lost” on the big screen. I hope my son likes it too.

Henry Ford on Branding

June 16, 2009

Even before branding became a marketing term, Henry Ford understood the principle. He once said, ” You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

So many people misunderstand branding. Some think it’s a logo, others think it’s an advertising campaign. In reality, those are just symbols of the brand.

A brand is more — much more. It’s the sum of all perceptions your audience has of you. And, as Henry Ford knew, it’s built on what you do, not what you promise.

In the case of a hospital, it’s patient care, cleanliness of the facility, appearance, landscaping, reception, friendliness of staff, outcomes, perceived competence, technology, as well as the marketing. In essence, it’s managing the customer experience at every touchpoint — not just one or two, but every touchpoint. And, you can only manage that experience if you have the buy-in of all employees. Do your employees understand what your brand is all about?

Can social media bridge the gap between patient and doctor?

June 11, 2009

Getty Images

Here’s an interesting article on what could be the benefits of having more doctors involved in social media. 

Could it be possible that one day when we Google a health concern the result will be advice and information from your doctor’s blog rather than WebMD? How about messaging your doctor on Facebook letting him know how your recovery is going?

Medicine in the Age of Twitter

The value of transparency.

June 11, 2009

I think one of the most professionally fulfilling aspects of this business is collaborating with clients. One of our clients very recently asked to sit in on a campaign brainstorming session. Our client in this case included the Marketing/PR Director and the CEO of the hospital. It’s not every day the CEO of a hospital asks his agency to sit in on a creative brainstorming session. I can’t help but wonder how other agencies might have reacted to this. We said we’d save them two chairs at the conference room table.

The big brainstorming day came and we all crowded around our conference room table mid morning. It started with the client telling us what was happening in the market—the stories behind the market share numbers and the latest physician relations challenges. Everyone got comfortable, we started exchanging ideas, some were good–some weren’t quite there yet. No one held back. We ordered lunch in and worked through to the afternoon. I’m pretty sure everyone contributed. In a word, it was great. It was what brainstorming is supposed to be.

At the end of the day, our client was happy. Not only did they benefit from the ideas the group generated but they were an active participant in the process. Everyone involved on the agency side also felt better for the experience. I believe our client now even sees more value in our ideas because they not only witnessed the process but were a part of it. I don’t know if you can do this with just any client, but if you can, there’s more value in transparency than keeping your processes or expertise under a cloak of propriety.

The Oprah Effect

June 8, 2009

I was reading this in Newsweek last week – the new Newsweek I might add – and learned the encyclopedia of things Suzanne Sommers is doing to ward off menopause. And it appears Oprah has bought in on some of the stuff too.

The article also told of an episode featuring Jenny McCarthy who has a son with autism caused, she believes, by the MMR vaccine. Because this is an ongoing debate, Oprah read a brief statement from the CDC stating “there was no science to prove a connection and that the government was continuing to study the problem”.

But here’s what got me.

Later, when McCarthy was on, a viewer asked what she would do if she could do it all over again. “If I had another child,” McCarthy answered, “I would not vaccinate.”

That gave me great pause.

I couldn’t help but realize how much value I place on my real friends’ advice. Women talk about everything, but especially issues like this. Physician recommendations. A dentist for the kids. Illnesses. Birth experiences. Marriage dilemmas. Product endorsements.

We seek the wisdom and advice of others who have walked in our shoes – and not just our real friends. There are: our school mom friends; our book club friends; our Facebook friends; bulletin board and chat room commenters who have something in common with us. Which brings me back to Suzanne, Jenny and Oprah, who seems like a friend to millions of women out there.

I wonder how many women will look into Suzanne’s injections/pills/creams simply because she and Oprah are doing them. Or mothers who will skip vaccinations because Jenny thinks they cause autism.

I don’t mean to imply that women would decide based solely on one sentence of one interview by one person. But what if they were at a tipping point on a matter? This kind of advice or endorsement may be the thing that pushes a woman to take action.

I can run a hundred ads, have a bottomless budget and buy every media venue around and still not get the bump you get when Oprah’s the one buying the chicken. Scary.


June 5, 2009

Prius Ad

I think it’s interesting that Toyota calls this model the third generation Prius, rather than using the model year. Does this signal a shift in how people view their automobiles? Are they becoming just another piece of consumer technology? I don’t know. Maybe it really is goodbye 2009 Prius. Hello Prius 3G.

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