Jan
21

Andy Council
It’s our belief that to thrive in the future, healthcare system and hospital brands need to think, act and compete like consumer brands. While in the past, providers were able to be driven by what was best for them, future success calls for rising to the challenge of delivering what’s best for a more empowered, demanding and proactive customer (more appropriate language than patient).

Along these lines, here’s a provocative article by Wendy Leebov on Hospitals & Health Networks Daily website – How Choosing Our Words Carefully Can Drive Change in Health Care.

Her thesis is that vocabulary affects our mindset, and that the words we choose to use influence our aspirations, our imaginations, our strategies and our results. She asks us to consider words like…

customer, client, patient, person…
care for, help, serve, engage, partner, advise…
patient-centered, relationship-centered, person-focused, patient-driven

Along with these pet peeves, among others (which reinforce the perception of a power differential between provider and customer)…

compliance, discharge plan, difficult patient…

She ends her article by saying that we need to heighten our self-consciousness about the words we use and intentionally choose words that move us in the direction we want. It’s a matter of aligning our language with our health care system of the future, not the past.

It’s an important idea given that the successful health care system (or hospital, or physician group) of the future must traverse around a consumer whose got the power to choose whether they want to be a customer, or not.

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Jan
20

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For most people, the extent of the time they think about names doesn’t go much beyond life’s special occasions, e.g. when you looked at your newborn son or daughter for the first time, or when you brought a new kitten or puppy home for the kids.

But if you’re even “loosely” in the branding or marketing business, life is full of special occasions. You’re launching, or evolving the name of, your organization. You’re introducing a new product or service. You’re merging your organization or product or service lines into another one. Regardless of the reason, your name is probably the most important intangible element of a successful brand.

Here’s why:

• similar to your kids (and kittens and puppies) a name is the one element you never hope to change
• it begins every conversation and captures every single penny of your marketing investment
• the more distinctive it is, the more powerful your intellectual property rights
• a powerful name is the springboard to other new launches
• it serves to create competitive space and distinctive associations between you and others
• it shortcuts the decision-making process for customers

There’s always a lot riding on new brand name success. At the same time, the process continues to become more difficult, given the vast number of names that are submitted for trademark application each and every day.

Here are five tips for getting it right:

1. Think about it early in your development process. You’d never approach product development or even a marketing campaign without a detailed plan of timing and events. Naming is no different. It requires discovery, creativity and analysis, typically multiple rounds of work, check points, buy-in from different audiences and time on the back-end for trademark search and opinion.

2. Begin with an approved brief. In the best of times, naming can become a very subjective process. So objectify it as much as possible by developing a naming brief for client approval that includes target audience profiles, naming considerations (short-term, longer-term), criteria (distinctiveness, brevity, appropriateness, extendability, etc.), strategic approaches (i.e. descriptive, suggestive, coined, arbitrary), linguistic considerations, competitive set, mandatories (e.g. URL availability), etc.

3. Speaking of URL availability, consider it early-on. Chances are, your favorite name might not be available as a URL. Which means you need a derivation of the name (which complicates search), or another name entirely.

4. Brainstorm far and wide. This is the time to imaginatively stretch. You typically need to brainstorm a very long list, using different starting points as concept springboards, to generate just a few potential “first-pass” candidates. As starting points, think about attributes, functional and emotional benefits, outcomes and target audience characteristics, to name just a few.

5. There’s more than one way to present names. It would be nirvana to present a shortlist of names (in 18 point black helvetica type) to a senior leadership team and have them agree that “strategically this is the right name for our…”. But nirvana is not reality. Think about your audience. Where are they coming from in regard to the name? What’s their expectation? What’s the most impactful way to share names with them? Maybe it’s an ad, the cover of an annual report or a mock-up of a package. As in all presentations, it’s all about engaging your audience on their terms.

Certainly, there’s more to a successful process and naming program beyond these five steps. But these will provide you with a good start to developing stand-out names that your audiences relate to, believe in, take pride in and become loyal to.

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Jan
12

There’s a lot of talk these days about “agile brands.” These are brands that are quick on their feet and able to meet consumers on their terms – wherever, whenever and however they want.

But agile brands only get that way with agile and brave brand marketers at the helm. These are marketers who share three characteristics:

1. perpetually seeking new ways to deliver value and ensure relevance, while guided by an enduring promise

2. know that the customer experience needs to be at the center of their universe and that the idea of brand experience is bigger than marketing, spans functions and divisions and before and after actual purchase and usage

3. are able to let go of long-held habits and practices of controlling the creation, growth and management of a brand from the inside-out; and who realize that brand-building is now a two-way street

Ultimately, agile brands get that way as a result of agile and brave brand marketers who take a truly integrated, shared and open approach to building brands.

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Jan
05

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In case you didn’t see it, here’s a good article on HealthLeaders Media – 5 Resolutions Every Hospital Marketer Should Make in 2015 – written by Marianne Aiello.

She looks back at some of the strongest hospital marketing initiatives accomplished in the past 12 months and translates those into resolutions that will help marketers strive for an even stronger 2015.

The five resolutions (with supporting examples from 2014) include:

1. Become more agile…by responding to what your audience is captivated by or concerned about in the current moment.

2. Prioritize social media…as if it were as important as a rebranding or a service line campaign.

3. Get back to basics with content…using it as the cornerstone for all marketing efforts.

4. Consider opportunities outside of the hospital…reaching out to patients beyond traditional walls.

5. Reimagine the patient experience…finding new ways to make patients feel cared for and at ease.

If I had to prioritize, I’d say the idea of patient experience – is the most important. But it goes beyond finding ways to make patients feel cared for and at ease. Because their experience starts way before they become patients and way after they leave the hospital. And they don’t draw a line between, or compartmentalize, these experiences. Every touch point contributes to, or doesn’t, a seamless, delighting and compelling brand experience.

So maybe there should be another resolution added to this list:

6. Think more broadly about patient experience as customer brand experience – cultivating the relationship between customers and your organization along their entire journey, and which encompasses every interaction they have with your healthcare system, hospital and offerings. And if orchestrated right, then gives you the ability to reimagine their patient experience.

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Dec
30

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I just finished reading Great By Choice by Jim Collins (author of Good To Great) and Morten T. Hansen.

Here’s the last paragraph of the Epilogue:

We are not imprisoned by our circumstances. We are not imprisoned by the luck we get or the inherent unfairness of life. We are not imprisoned by crushing setbacks, self-inflicted mistakes or our past success. We are not imprisoned by the times in which we live, by the number of hours in a day or even the number of hours we’re granted in our very short lives. In the end, we can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice.

If you’re in a position to impact or influence the company you work for, I’d highly recommend the book.

Here’s to being great by choice in 2015!

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Dec
29

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The future of healthcare marketing doesn’t merely promise better things, but gives people the things they need to better their lives

• things that create meaningful interaction and experiences that leave people not just satisfied (merely baseline today), but emotionally gratified and enriched

• which then spark conversation and word-of-mouth

• which is a recognized predictor for growth

Key is to create stuff that your customers love to talk about rather than what you love to talk about.

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Dec
10

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I stumbled upon this presentation from Stanley Hainsworth, former VP global creative at Starbucks and now Founder and CCO of Tether, a creative agency based in Seattle WA.

I don’t know the specific reason why it was created, but it’s actually a good template for how to create a uniquely ownable brand. Track through the presentation and it will prompt you to consider your:

– back story
– narrative
– rituals
– relationships
– value proposition
– values
– products
– communication
– icons
– sensory cues

…all the elements that together add up to creating an indelible brand footprint, cohesive expression…

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…and a uniquely branded experience.

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I’d suggest that you bookmark this presentation.

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Dec
01

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We always travel to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Who I adore by the way:)

And just like you can’t take the boy out of the man, you can’t take the passion and curiosity about brand out of a brand guy. I love cataloguing my brand experiences over this holiday. It’s a pretty stressful time and it’s crowded everywhere, so I like to see how brands hold up under pressure.

So, here’s my list of my most memorable brand experiences, including those whose experiences deliver on their promises (who I will name), and those that don’t (who I won’t name, as it is the holiday season).

Do Deliver

1. Amazon: Their customer service is tops, as you’d expect from an organization that strives to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. We had to return two items over the course of the week, and as always, immediate refund, no questions asked. And love that you can speak to someone live or via chat at the hit of a button.

2. JCrew: We went for the style, purchased a great suit for our son who needed it right away for a special occasion (at a wonderful holiday discount), and left delighted as they offered to tailor and have it back to him in two days (on Black Friday).

3. Raceway Gasoline: Who proclaim “Are You Tired of Overpaying for Gasoline.” I stopped by twice with my father in-law over the course of five days. It was later in the evening, and I really wanted a cup of coffee. After filling up the car, I went for my coffee. On both occasions, the gentleman behind the counter said “don’t worry about.” A small gesture, maybe. But I’m now a Raceway fan!

Don’t Deliver

1. The discount airline that boasts cheap tickets, cheap flights, cheap travel. But to now charge for the plastic cup of water on the flight. Well, that’s a bit too cheap.

2. The national coffee chain (not Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts) whose “express service” at Ft. Lauderdale airport doesn’t have any milk for coffee, but only those little creamers.

3. The airport (which happens to be in Newark NJ) that still charges for public WIFI access.

4. The yogurt shop in Del Ray Beach that refused to give a customer more sprinkles after they fumbled with the cup while removing it from the counter, claiming “it wasn’t our fault.”

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Nov
21

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When it comes to benevolence and building brand trust, there’s an important difference (for today’s customers who are looking beyond traditional brand benefits) between brands that just write the check vs. those that authentically demonstrate their commitment.

Personal care brand Philosophy is doing both. It’s making mental health its marketing cornerstone through its Hope & Grace initiative, and helping in its own way, to actively support and help solve the problem.

You can read the Ad Age article announcing the initiative here.

Efforts include:

• Making an open-ended commitment of donating 1% of all U.S. sales to mental health, which Philosophy believes fits with its heritage of its optimistic messaging. This dovetails, as of 2015, with the relaunch of the brand’s flagship product, Hope in a Jar, as Hope Renewed.

• Making the mental-health initiative a cornerstone of all brand marketing for years to come. Philosophy is also creating unbranded TV public-service announcements for the effort, and may take to TV with branded efforts as well, says Coty Skincare CMO Jill Scalamandre.

• Ultimately, expanding overseas, and hoping to raise more than $10 million for mental health over the next five years alone.

• Parent company Coty joining with the non-profit New Venture Fund to oversee the program, screen applications and award grants averaging $25,000 to community organizations. Ms. Scalamandre expects the process – both the applications and awards – to help build social-media awareness of the program, too.

But why mental health? Ms. Scalamandre said the beauty industry has focused mainly on breast and ovarian cancer and that mental health has a stigma she believes has kept marketers away. “Our role at Philosophy is to break the stigma, to be advocates and not be ashamed.” She also wanted to go beyond other cause programs dedicated to a single product, month or time of year. As we looked at our core consumer, the mental-health space just came out as a natural place for Philosophy to be and own.”

One in four women suffer some form of mental health problem, she said, “a spectrum of anything from depression and anxiety to a traumatic life event that triggers acute depression, to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.”

Here’s the video introducing the Hope & Grace initiative.

The better a brand brings its societal purpose to life through its everyday operations, the more successful both business and social impact will be (Edelman Purpose study). As such, this program is a win-win as it strengthens Philosophy consumers, company and brand.

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