Lessons from the Shark Tank for Healthcare Marketers

Lessons from the Shark Tank for Healthcare Marketers

I had the pleasure to present at the SHSMD Connections conference in Seattle a few weeks ago.  My co-presenter, and fellow disruptor, Paul Szablowski and I were thrilled to see a full house for our session, as healthcare marketers were eager to learn business lessons from the hit reality television show “Shark Tank.”  And, at a time when marketers are under constant scrutiny from their CEO’s to demonstrate value and Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), walking into a shark tank each time budgeting and annual planning rolls around is all too much a reality. Here’s a recap of our presentation, “Lessons from the Shark Tank.”  If it leaves you swimming with questions or additional thoughts, I look forward to hearing from you. The Waters are Murky for Marketers Marketers in all industries are facing intense pressure to perform for their organization.  Many studies suggest that there is definitely a realignment needed between the C-Suite and marketing department in terms of expectations, accountability, and responsibilities.  Nearly three quarters of CEO’s want their marketing department to focus on growth goals and new customer acquisition, and the same percentage of marketers believe their jobs are not designed to let them achieve this for their organizations. Perhaps this is why the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is only four years – the shortest length of any position in the C-Suite. Another reason is that marketers have focused too much on “marketing” and not enough on growth goals.  So before walking into your “shark tank,” this mindset  has to shift or you’ll be quick to sink in your organization. Lesson 1:  Know...
Healthcare Brands Require Strong Internal Engagement

Healthcare Brands Require Strong Internal Engagement

Whether a hospital system, specialty practice, medical association, or device company, healthcare brands will only thrive with strong internal engagement. This is especially important with the rapid consolidation in the healthcare industry today. For providers, where referrals among medical staff members and sub-specialties make or break the system, engagement is paramount. When we conduct focus groups with internal teams at leading health systems, most employees do not know the “5 W’s and H” within their own organization; “who it consists of,” “what’s expected of them,” “why should they care,” “where they should refer,” “when,” and “how.” As a result, organizations experience great leakage of patients, and revenue. Communications strategies help address many of the unknowns. Internal campaigns including brand overviews, videos, books, and other tactics can explain the size and scope of the organization. Of course, graphic standards manuals are essential in terms of presenting the brand in a consistent and unified manner, no matter which architecture strategy is being developed. Online tools and staff profiles will also help facilitate referrals from one practice to another or among sub-specialties. Most healthcare professionals understand “when” referrals should be made, although soft reminders are sometimes needed for family physicians who would rather treat their patient rather than “lose” them to a referral. Key here is to develop protocols which ensure the primary care provider gets their patient back after specialty procedures or consultations are performed. That takes care of most of the W’s and H. Let’s focus on the “why.” Really(!?), employees have to be told why they need to care about keeping patients within the health system? Unfortunately, they do....
Can you write a healthcare ad without using the seven “deadly” words?

Can you write a healthcare ad without using the seven “deadly” words?

George Carlin will always be remembered as an original with many great comedic acts, but his “seven deadly words” bit (what you can’t say on network television, back then…) is a classic. Under this theme, branding expert Paul Szablowski (former Senior V.P., Brand Engagement of Texas Health Resources, CHW, etc.) and I teamed up on an article of a similar title for a popular healthcare marketing publication. It’s been about ten years since it was published, but that article generated more talk value than any I’ve received since. The article was about the seven “deadly” words you shouldn’t use in hospital advertising because they make little sense to consumers and are non-differentiating for the brand. After attending a recent healthcare advertising trade show and competition, I am prompted to again write about these words and why hospital marketers should not be using them. Because I heard a lot of them! Okay, here’s the list: Interdisciplinary – Ask ten consumers on the street what this means to them and their health and you’ll quickly understand why it’s a waste of space and benefit. Other like words that don’t officially make the list, but should, include continuum, integrated, and coordinated. World-class – technically two words, but often used as one thought in healthcare. After a decade, there is still no need nor regulatory act to substantiate such claims and as a result even a two-bed hospital in you know where, can claim to be “world class.” By the way, in case you’re looking to be less global and more local, “nationally-recognized” doesn’t do it, either. Quality – okay healthcare folks, it’s...
Why some brand identities make you cringe

Why some brand identities make you cringe

When you stop for a brief moment, and let’s face it – a very brief moment, to look at a brand identity, there are some that make you nod approval and others that make you cringe. You know, that look on your face when nose and lips almost meet and your eyes squint. What makes a brand identity cringe-worthy? Why can’t they all be simple and powerful like Apple, Nike, and FedEx; each telling a story well beyond the icon or tagline. After studying and creating various identities over the years, here’s a quick list of some reasons brand identities might make you cringe: What is that? – These are the brand identities that you can’t even identify. They contain strange symbols, layers of “brand” elements, and iconic images that only a client would love. Typically, these are client-led ideas that nobody had the guts to say, “this looks like guts.” The remedy – listen to what the client meant, not what they said. And translate into an identity accordingly. Size matters – Agency folks, especially art directors, for years have told tales about the client “wanting to make the logo bigger.” I’ve secretly sided with clients on this request because, after all, it’s important to know the brand anchor behind the ad, brochure, or other piece of communications you’re reading. Interesting that today, where digital media receives the majority of brand spend, identities are getting smaller and more difficult to read on social media posts, banners, and other applications. The remedy – brand identities need to be responsive (like websites) to adapt to the space that’s allotted. This means there needs to be flexibility built into graphic standards so...
Brand Thinking Outside the (Blue) Box

Brand Thinking Outside the (Blue) Box

The blue box has never been hotter. Sales and stock prices are at record highs and Tiffany appears to be soaring, even with some of the highest price points in the retail jewelry sector. The reason for this performance is that Tiffany is thinking outside its box and embracing new customers, lifestyles, and preferences with innovative products and open-armed service. Long regarded as a stodgy, conservative brand for those consumers who step right off a print advertisement, Tiffany has recognized that brands change at the speed of culture, and it was time for a different course. After 178 years in business, the company is recognizing that marriages are different as are household compositions and it’s paying off for them. One excellent example of this is Tiffany’s first advertising campaign targeting same-sex couples. A series of print ads is being introduced not only featuring these couples, but also showing traditional marriages which represent more than husband and wife. Today, there are kids and other family members involved and new messages and products are hitting that sweet spot. We talk about “Heartbeat Branding” at Springboard. Tiffany is doing just that. They have found the “sweeter spot” at the intersection of brand benefits, consumer needs, and cultural influences. Their brand attributes include excellence and elegance. Their consumers want excitement and commitment. Cultural influences include new marriages, household composition and a stronger economy. Mix it all together and they’ve hit the “Heartbeat” of their brand. Branding today is about heartbeat, not chest beat. Tiffany is one example of making your brand super relevant. Brands that are looking for their heartbeat need to think...
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