As consumerism and competition shift the healthcare landscape, hospital marketing should take a cue from Mastercard.

Reference this great article in CMO Today section of The Wall Street Journal, from sponsor Deloitte – Mastercard’s Shift from Storytelling to Storymaking.

It’s not that great storytelling isn’t fundamental to connecting with audiences. In fact, our recent blog post Healthcare Branding: start with “their” story talks about the power of storytelling.

But “storytelling” is just that – it’s “telling.” It’s one way. On the other hand, Mastercard’s “storymaking” is shared with consumers. It’s marketing in collaboration with consumers, making them part of the narrative.

And it’s a category agnostic idea. Just as relevant for hospital marketing as it is for credit card, financial, retail or food. Because as media habits have changed, expectations have changed. And experiencing and participating is more relevant than being on the receiving end of “telling.”

According to Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar, despite the success of the long-running Priceless campaign, the company reexamined its strategy three years ago to ensure it still resonated with consumers. He states that while people still come together in the family room, it’s a collection of individuals who are all in their own private worlds with their own connected devices.”

“Priceless” still endures, however, as the well-known umbrella that holds all Mastercard marketing efforts together. But “Priceless” is now delivered through always-on marketing across four categories: Surprises, Cities, Causes and Specials.

You can read the CMO’s interview here about how the organization is redefining its relationship with consumers and how this new always-on marketing has benefited the organization. He answers the following questions:

• How has the shift from campaign-based marketing to always-on marketing played out at Mastercard?

• In an age of information overload, how does Mastercard connect with consumers and build relationships?

• What other initiatives have been particularly successful?

• In what areas would you like to see your marketing organization improve?

• How is the CMO position evolving? What can top marketers do to make the most of their roles?

Hospital marketers have every right, in their own way, to be just as relevant as Mastercard. The stories are there, and they’re powerful. And customers are ready for the “making.”

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When it comes to healthcare branding, it’s crucial to first craft a better story.

Story telling is central to our lives. Has been for thousands of years. Stories are how we learn, share, relate, grow and make sense of the world. In fact, the oldest known literary work (above) is “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, composed in Babylonia and written on clay tablets more than 3,000 years ago.

If you’re a healthcare marketer and you want to get attention today, you better have a really good story to tell. It’s not a story about technology, awards, population health, volume to value, Dr. fill-in-the-blank or a patient-centered medical home. Those are just the means, not an end in itself.

Healthcare branding is the expression of the value of your organization, product, or service. It communicates attributes, beliefs, characteristics and values that clarify what your particular brand is, what it stands for and its ultimate purpose. Expressed first through your story. Which then flows down stream through everything – from positioning, to messaging, to marketing, to crafting of content, to experience delivery.

We’re fortunate that in healthcare, we can make a real difference in people’s lives. But our stories often fall short of delivering on this opportunity. We water them down with information. Facts, figures and insider language. But no one is waiting for more information. Because we’re already drowning in it.

In his excellent manifesto – Believe Me – Michael Margolis states the stories we choose literally make our world. Our identities, our beliefs, and our values all live and breathe in the matrix of stories. It’s the prima materia of how we each perceive reality—our culture’s collective agreements. A search for answers begins to show how the dots are connected. It is hard not to see the huge implications of storytelling in an increasingly brand-driven, and experience-based economy. It’s all about the stories.

He further states every experience is stored in the mind with a story attached to it. This means every brand is only as strong as the stories people tell about it. This explains why “word-of-mouth” is the new marketing Holy Grail. We only spread stories that are worth talking about—either the really bad stuff that upsets us, or the good stuff that lights up our day with an unexpected smile.

As healthcare marketers, we’re trying to influence, persuade, or convince others to believe in our message. We want to have an impact on their lives. To do this, we need to tell a healthcare branding story that others can find themselves a part of. We need to make our stories, their stories. A couple good examples include Bupa UK, and GE’s Fire With Fire.

The solution is not just about creating a great story for your brand. It is about knowing your audience and their story and how your brand fits into theirs. Finding this story can unleash opportunities to connect to your audience in a more relevant, authentic and value creating way. Because it establishes an emotional connection.

Every healthcare brand has a story to tell. Healthcare marketers who tell it best will win.

Want to tell a better story? Let’s co-author together.

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If your goal as a healthcare marketer is to engage consumers wherever they are along the entire brand journey (which it should be), and if you agree that we’re operating in a post-media world (which we are), branded content creation should be an important tool in your organization’s marketing arsenal.

The future of marketing is about pulling customers and prospects into your brand rather than pushing messages out. And content does this. We define content as anything published by a brand that isn’t paid advertising, e.g. blogs, vlogs, podcasts, whitepapers, e-books, social media posts.

Regardless of how its delivered, whether through print, digital, social, film, content should…

• convey important information
• solve customer needs
• build trust
• promote transparency
• serve a community
• start a conversation
• improve relationships
• enhance brand experience

In short, content does for you, and for your current and prospective healthcare customers, what paid advertising does not. It gives them the power to do something. And makes you the hero. The one that makes a difference in their lives, beyond that of your competitors.

Content can also make you a perceived leader. While many associate leading brands with traditional metrics of size and growth, content levels the playing field. Because you can be the most relevant or differentiated above the noise. You can be the one they come to rely on the most.

We also know that in today’s world, where we’ve been burned by brands and are still scarred from the recession, leading brands exhibit characteristics of trustworthy, authentic, reliable and, increasingly, purpose-led. And relevant and valuable content reinforces these traits.

According to a survey by Rapt Media, viewing content makes up the largest portion of the time that consumers spend online. And, in recent years, video has emerged as one of the most dominant ways that consumers view their content online. 78% of Internet users in the U.S. will be watching digital video by 2017. That’s 201MM viewers and 63% of the U.S. population.

How to create the content that pulls people towards you? Here, in brief, are five “C”‘s which should serve as your foundation:

Company-Wide Vision. A common content strategy gives each department (marketing, service lines, HR) a clear vision for what your healthcare organization wants to achieve and how all messaging ladders up to it.

Customer-First. Customers come before business objectives. Start by creating a customer persona – a picture of who your customer is, what their interests are, what their questions are, the challenges they face, which of these challenges can be solved through content along with the types of content they respond best to.

Content Strategy. Most content created by companies falls into five broad types. Altimeter refers to them as archetypes. And each delivers on a specific customer need or obstacle for your organization. Choosing one archetype forces your organization to prioritize solving one major need for the customer and investing in the content that suits that need.

Compelling. We’re swimming in a sea of content. So give readers something they can really chew on. Which doesn’t include your features and benefits. Instead, you need to tell stories that talk to the impact your services have on the people who use them. Remember that people attach to stories. They remember them and tell them again.

Conversation-Creating. Your organization shouldn’t do all the talking. Be engaging and invite dialogue. Create authentic, mutually beneficial discussions. The more you do this, the more your audience will grow.

PULLING MORE PEOPLE TOWARD’S YOU. A five word strategy that will signal future success for healthcare marketers.

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Leading healthcare marketers know that they need to up their game. The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s also harder to cut through the noise and connect with them.

Rather than creating passive (often ignored) ads, VR is being adopted by marketers as a powerful storytelling tool to connect with consumers on a whole new level by offering them fresh, engaging and memorable new experiences.

The Industry
The Virtual Reality industry is poised to be an 80 billion market by 2025. Deloitte Global predicts that VR will have its first billion dollar year in 2016, with about $700 million in hardware sales, and the remainder from content. This breaks down into two main types of VR devices: ‘full feature’ and ‘mobile’.

“Full feature” incorporates high-resolution screens. ‘Mobile VR’ incorporates a smartphone’s screen into a special case, enabling the headset to fit snugly on the user’s head. Google was one of the first companies to combine VR and mobile with Google Cardboard. It allowed users to download an app, plug their phones into a cardboard “VR Headset” and take photos.

Healthcare VR
VR is an emerging tool that will transform the healthcare landscape. It is a new and exciting technology with the power to improve clinical outcomes, deliver innovative new therapies, better train healthcare professionals and reshape the patient experience.

For healthcare marketers tasked with creating stronger brands, stronger bonds and stronger businesses, we’re focusing here on VR as it relates to transforming the lives of patients.

Here are seven ways virtual reality can achieve this (by preparing, preventing, providing therapy and follow-up):

1. Give consumers a behind-the-scenes look
Virtual Reality can provide a unique, behind-the-scenes look at new initiatives going on at the organization, facility or service line level. For our client Reading Health System, Trajectory developed a VR experience as part of a larger marketing program to introduce Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Inpatient Care. As one of the most transformative facilities of its kind in PA and in the nation, we wanted an equally transformational way to introduce this game-changing facility to internal and external audiences.

2. Making children feel like they’re home
The hospital experience is particularly tough for kids who miss their parents, their best friends and their comforting home environment. Now, a Dutch company provides a virtual remedy. Through a smartphone and virtual glasses, VisitU makes live contact possible with a 360 degree camera at the patient’s home, school or special occasions such as a birthday celebration or a football game. Though hospitalized, young patients can still connect and enjoy their lives.

3. Improved patient education
One of many examples is about what will actually happen in a clinical trial. The clinical research organization Quintiles will use VR for recruitment of patients into clinical trials, taking the prospective patient through the journey of learning about what’s involved in the clinical trial and what will actually happen.

4. Helping to ease phobias
Virtual reality is being used in controlled environments to force patients to physically confront that which they fear the most – in order to ease or completely cure phobias. With 4-5% of Americans suffering from a clinically significant phobia, the opportunity is significant. The Virtual Reality Medical Center has been offering VR treatments for specific phobias such as fear of flying, fear of driving, fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of thunderstorms, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, arachnophobia, social phobia, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder due to motor vehicle accidents.

5. Speeding recovery after a stroke
For patients who survived a stroke or traumatic brain injury, time is of the essence. The earlier they start rehabilitation, the better chances they have for successfully regaining lost functions. MindMotionPro, produced by the Swiss Mindmaze allows patients to “practice” how to lift their arms or move their fingers with the help of virtual reality. Although they might not carry out the actual movement, the app enhances attention, motivation and engagement with visual and auditory feedback. The resulting mental effort helps their traumatized nervous systems to recover much faster than lying helplessly in bed. Along these same lines, the use of VR in physical therapy has yielded studies with some very encouraging results, demonstrating a clear link between the effectiveness that the duo might be able to provide.

6. Powering Patients
USC Center for Body Computing, is leading several initiatives to make virtual and mixed reality more patient friendly. The center’s Virtual Care Clinic system features an app that connects patients to medical expertise similar to what they would receive at the doctor’s office. It has helped develop prototypes and create market-ready health management solutions that “allow every patient, athlete, warfighter and veteran to obtain the most contextualized and individualized information and care anywhere, anytime.”

7. Relaxing chronic patients
When you’re in a hospital, time seems to stand still. There’s little to do, except miss your family and friends, and worry about your condition. Brennan Spiegel and his team at the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles introduced VR worlds to their patients to help them release stress and reduce pain. Through VR, they could escape the four walls of the hospital and visit landscapes in Iceland, participate in the work of an art studio or swim alongside whales in the ocean. Spiegel says that “not only can the hospital experience be improved with medical VR, but the costs of care may also be reduced. By reducing stress and pain, the length of the patient’s stay or the amount of resources utilized can both be decreased.”

Our Take
VR is booming. And there’s no indication that its trajectory will slow. There are a few reasons why:

1. It can easily be integrated with consumer’s mobile devices.

2. Instead of same-as-everyone-else passive ads, it’s a powerful experience-based storytelling tool that can captivate and engage healthcare consumers as they feel like they’re part of the story.

3. Beyond delivering a better story, it’s also a tool to deliver exceptional “value” to patients and physicians, and competitive advantage to organizations.

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Here’s a smart, quick and timely read on – The Digital Media Revolution and Its Impact on Healthcare Marketing. It’s an interview with Rose Glenn, SVP of marketing and PR at Henry Ford Health System.

She discusses digital media and CRM in the highly competitive healthcare marketplace, and where the rules of marketing are changing. A few of her important points include:

  1. The need for her marketing and communications teams to work in a much more integrated and comprehensive fashion to optimize content across all platforms.
  2. As consumers are shopping around for their care more than ever before and using sites such as Healthgrades and Yelp to learn about other people’s experiences on physicians and hospitals, it’s important to develop a comprehensive strategy that takes into account the other credible places online that patients turn to for information.
  3. To break through the noise and stay on the cutting edge of digital communication, you have to understand consumers better and provide valuable content. We are taking a much more individualized approach when it comes to engaging different stakeholders.
  4. Both the healthcare industry and the marketing discipline are changing rapidly. Keeping pace and making sure you align resources with the best way to acquire and retain your customers is a big challenge. You have to be on top of understanding and being responsive to customers’ needs.
  5. The call for transparency is another big challenge. People want to know the price of their healthcare and what others think of the physicians who work at a health system. It is important to use the same retail models as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and others for healthcare consumers.
  6. We think Rose nails it in respect to her team needing to work in a much more integrated and comprehensive fashion to optimize content across all platforms. Our Trajectory point-of-view in respect to healthcare marketing is similar. All points are now melding together. Service into experience. Digital into physical. Consumer into producer. What was once siloed is now integrated.

    So it’s incumbent on healthcare marketers to create integrated and seamless brand experiences that blend together. To not only build ongoing relationships beyond individual transactions, but to enrich people’s lives. Another way to say this is that it’s not just about creating revenue growth, but mutual growth. In our view, the two can not be separated.

    We also appreciate Rose’s reference to TripAdvisor and integrating a “star rating” into their website in the future. We wrote this little thought piece a few months back – TripAdvisor, How Would Your Healthcare Brand Fare – which imagined a time when healthcare systems and hospitals were reviewed right alongside hotels, restaurants, etc. on TripAdvisor.

    While this might sound far-fetched, who really knows. But the bigger point is that the relationship between healthcare brands and consumers has fundamentally and irreversibly changed. How healthcare marketers acknowledge and get out in front of this change by melding physical, digital and other experiences dictates the future trajectory of a health system’s brand, customers and business.

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Today marks a death in the social media family. The once promising, video-centric platform Vine, purchased by Twitter before it went live, is now just a distant memory.

Launched back in 2013, Vine’s popularity exploded as a quick and easy way to create endlessly entertaining, six-second videos that looped incessantly to share with your friends. As with any popular social platform, a culture of influencers able to master the art form (see Jerry Purpdrank, with over 9 MILLION followers) rose to the top, making Vine as addictive as it was entertaining. The shortsighted trajectory of Vine’s strategy would eventually prove to be their downfall. With the introduction of video capabilities to Instagram not long after Vine hit the scene, the platform began a slow decline.

The advent of Snapchat proved to be the nail in Vine’s coffin. Just goes to show how quickly social media tastes can change based on convenience. Facebook has managed to sustain consistent growth over the last twelve years by anticipating their users’ needs, and giving them little reason to leave (you can now sell a toaster via Facebook, really. You can). At Trajectory, we know staying up on social media trends isn’t easy. Tools come and go, but a sound strategy is forever.

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It’s “that” morning. The one you as a hospital marketing director set aside for some creative thinking. No phones, no emails, no meetings. Just you, your thoughts, your imagination.

Today’s agenda item: how can we acquire and retain patients in light of our expanded (more consumer-friendly technology and retail) competitive set.

For Trajectory, this kind of exercise begins by looking outside of healthcare. Because if you spend all your time thinking about what other similar health systems and hospitals are doing, you’ll end up with a “me-too” equivalent. So you start down the path of finding inspiration from other brands that do an exceptional job of acquiring and retaining customers.

Next, you break down that agenda item into manageable bitesize pieces. Because it’s too big and hairy to tackle otherwise. This morning, you decide that one of those pieces is going to be “how can we create more of a distinctive customer experience.”

With this foundation in place, your brainstorm begins. There are the obvious role models of Apple, Nordstrom, Nike, Amazon and Ritz-Carlton. But they’re obvious.

How about newer brands that are popular in culture and adapting new business models. Ah ha. You remember that you just signed up for Dollar Shave Club a couple weeks ago after reading how Unilever forked over $1 billion following its rapid growth from its 2012 launch. And as a responsible and curious marketer, you just had to see what DSC was about. So you go with DSC and see what inspiration you can find. You also realize that in some ways, healthcare and shaving are somewhat similar. They’re both things that you just have to do.


Here’s what you consider:

  • The Name. Dollar Shave Club quickly and simply declares exactly what the company is about, what’s different about it and how it helps prospective customers/club members.
  • Relatable, Playful Brand Idea. A simple, cheeky and benefit-driven value proposition – Shave Time. Shave Money.
  • Distinctive Website. Against a paneled background, the look and feel of the site – including the packaging – is highly distinctive versus key competitor corporate brands Gillette and Schick.
  • Simple, Fresh Language. More informal, more personal, like the brand is actually speaking to its customers.

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-9-37-00-am screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-9-36-37-am

  • The Convenience. The “Club” isn’t just about delivery of blades, it’s about delivery of emotional delight. Conveniently delivered once a month, or more, to your door in a stylishly branded box.


  • Relevant, enjoyable content. Note the “bathroom minutes” author. There are also the “Help Me Dress Myself” recurring posts. Uniquely DSC.



  • Social Sharing Reward. When members share a photo of their DSC shipment, the brand re-posts their favs and sends the member a free tee shirt.


  • Word of Mouth. The amount of which any health system or hospital should be envious of.  In an interview with CNBC, CEO Michael Dubin stated that 50,000 people a month refer a friend to the club.
  • Which all adds up to giving customers/club members an experience unlike any other in the space. 

By the way, if you’ve never seen the initial DSC launch video (though nearly 24 million already have), enjoy it here. It set the stage for everything that follows.

Net: If you spend all your time thinking about what other health systems and hospitals are doing, you’ll end up with a “me-too” healthcare marketing solution. But seeing through a new lens, done with the right framework, can help you unleash a lot of concrete ideas and approaches to help you break out. Look at your story from all angles. Cast aside the do’s and don’ts, colors and imagery and so-called best practices of competitors. Find a new way to attack old problems by using an out-of-category perspective.

Want some help breaking out? Reach out to Rick Zaniboni.

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How did EOS enter an oversaturated personal care market and become the lip balm of choice for the millennial generation?

Here’s the story of the company’s rapid trajectory on –The Untold Story of How Lip Balm Upstart EOS Outdid Chapstick.

First came Chapstick. 50+ years ago. In a stick, with a list of active ingredients on the package. In flavors original, cherry or mint. Then just seven years ago, EOS arrived. It’s pastel-colored orbs of lip balm began to pop up everywhere. On drug store shelves, in the hands of beauty editors and in the makeup bags of celebs like Miley Cyrus and Christina Aquilera.

Fast Forward
“Fast” being a very accurate take on EOS (short for Evolution of Smooth). Because it’s now a $250 million company and the second best-selling lip balm in the country, after Burt’s Bees. And given that EOS’s sweet spot is natural and organic, the future looks bright.

In a rare interview, the co-founders told Fast Company about their business strategy. Here are some of the highlights, bucketed based on the characteristics that we at Trajectory believe drive brand momentum:

Target-centric. With in-depth research, they found that lip balm was overwhelmingly used by women, as part of their beauty regime. But they didn’t find applying it fun or enjoyable. They solved this by designing everyday products that also deliver moments of delight that elevate these daily routines.

Differentiation. Which started by rethinking the tube: since the majority of products on the market were indistinguishable from their 100-year old predecessors.

Symbolism. EOS created its own emotional shorthand by engaging all five senses, from soft round packaging that felt good in the hands, to the colors of the orbs, to the smells, to the way the flavors tasted, and even to the clicking sound the sphere makes when it closes.


Emotional Pull. Throughout it all, they wanted to focus on creating an emotional connection with the user (in this case, millennial women 25-35), rather than being simply another commodity. They picked the tagline, “The lip balm that makes you smile.”

Authenticity. EOS became experts at influencer marketing, which they believed was a smart way to reach their demographic. They contacted beauty bloggers who reviewed the product and talked about it on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. They worked with millennial celebrities to get the word through product placements and endorsements. EOS appeared in Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears music videos, was a headline sponsor for Demi Lovato’s world tour, and Taylor Swift became its Asian spokesperson.

Tribe. EOS has also worked to build a large social media presence. It now has more than 1.8 million followers on Instagram and nearly 7 million followers on Facebook. A photograph of a new EOS flavor can get over 40,000 likes.

Dynamism. For all this success, the company works hard at innovation. It comes up with new collections regularly, so that there is a constant stream of new products on shelves. EOS is also creating shaving creams and hand lotions, and plans to enter new categories in the future. It also partners with other major players, like collaborating with Keds to produce an EOS shoe that came with a matching lip balm.

EOS created a surprise effect in a category that probably didn’t expect such a brand to shake things up. This unexpectedness, in terms of both the stretch itself and the product design and features, created a “wow” factor that continues to propel the brand and business forward.




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