So, What CAN Brands Do Now?

So, What CAN Brands Do Now?

8 important shifts that can keep your brand relevant and meaningful in uncertain times. As people find themselves risking their own health to help others or sheltering-in-place to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, brands can provide reassurance in unique and thoughtful ways. From car manufacturers to restaurants, healthcare systems to hotels, brands are shifting their messaging to offer reassurance, safety, and even new ideas on delivering their products and services.  It’s amazing how quickly they’ve been able to turnaround their messaging and production strategies!  Already, there are best practices being established and amplified throughout the branding and advertising industries. The following are strategies you can act on quickly to keep your brand relevant and meaningful during these stressful, game-changing times: Communicate in an empathetic tone – start by acknowledging that your audience is experiencing losses and lifestyle changes in ways never felt before. Great brands have relationships with their consumers, and now is the time to communicate from the heart. Production values can be simple – there isn’t the time or the luxury of resources to pour into new brand executions.  The idea is to connect quickly with your customers and let them know you’re there for them in whatever ways are most meaningful.   There have been excellent new commercials featuring infographics, re-purposed video content, and simple interview formats. Corporate/social responsibility is every brand’s responsibility – if there’s ever a good time to be a great corporate citizen, it’s now. Informing people of how your brand is supporting social distancing, its employees, and safety regulations is paramount to being relevant.  Creatively, it can also be unique; McDonald’s, Coke, and others are among those finding interesting ways to convey social responsibilities. A special “shout out” to your employees – For essential businesses, especially in healthcare, a little recognition goes a long way!  There are real heroes out there, working tirelessly and risking their lives, and they should be acknowledged. Shift engagement to today’s channels – it’s rare that consumers are (almost) always at home and resorting to more traditional media vehicles and channels. News ratings are exploding (of course) and readership of social media – even email – is up as well.  There are many details to provide in terms of how your organization and brand is responding to the current situation and there’s a good chance they’re being read. Educate your audience around operations that keep them safe – safety is near and dear to everyone. Whether you’re setting up testing sites outside your hospital or providing contactless interactions in drive-thru’s and grocery stores, it’s imperative to communicate the operational changes your products and services are making to keep your customer’s as safe as possible.  Telehealth has never been more popular and will create a new normal when this storm clears. Embrace remote collaboration and virtual “events” – your brand can still engage its customer’s – you just have to do it on their turf, not yours. It’s amazing how many great, creative ways there are to interact with consumers using videos, apps, and constant updates to your website. Your website has never been more important – with “extra” time and the need for up-to-date information on your brand – especially among service organizations – your web traffic must be exploding. Make sure it’s up-to-date, accurate, and you’re letting your customers know how you’re dealing with this crisis. When challenged, marketing leaders and brand innovators rise above with creative solutions. This current situation just faces us to think differently, talk empathetically, and connect in new ways.  Keep innovating and be...
Important Lessons for Marketers – and their Agencies – During this Time of Crisis

Important Lessons for Marketers – and their Agencies – During this Time of Crisis

While social distancing is the new normal, there are some important lessons marketers, and their agencies, can learn from other crises in the not so distant past. Different times require different actions. 1. You have to make course corrections on your media spend and messaging. This is not the time to bombard consumers with messages totally unrelated to the topic at hand and top of mind; they’re not in the mood to listen. Organizations and brands that merely “stay the course,” not making any adjustments,  are pouring dollars down the drain.  One might argue that “my funny commercial” or “new brand video” is just what the doctor ordered, but studies of past social crises indicate that people just can’t get enough news and information about CV-19 right now.  They don’t want to be “enlightened” by other messages while their energies are fixed on the problem. 2. You should stay in the market, but in relevant and appropriate ways. Studies also show that during recessions, and social/economic disasters, advertisers should not go completely dark.  Loss of awareness and market momentum requires as much as five times the normal spend to make up for lost ground when footing becomes more solid.  So, it’s important to stay out there, but in relevant ways.  Virtual “situation rooms” with your full team are essential to talk through and take corrective measures with your messaging and channeling, especially in social media.  How your brand is responding to CV-19 and  how it’s engaging your marketplace is mission critical.  3. Now is not the time to introduce a new brand or campaign. Can’t tell you how many LinkedIn and other social media posts have focused on bringing something “new” to the market.  You might have had the big launch planned for months, even a year, but now is not the time to press the button.  All that hard work will be lost in the noise and confusion surrounding the CV-19 virus.  Besides, internal communications are key to a new launch, and with so many people working from home, best to wait it out and pick the right time.  When the dust settles, you’ll be glad you did. 4. Now is not the time to force a client meeting or action. I know this sounds obvious, but agency people are persuasive types.  That’s why we are in the business.  I’ve scanned many LinkedIn posts from those on the client side who seem to be hugely annoyed at their agency right now for repeatedly calling and requesting a (virtual) meeting to “keep the ball moving.”  What I’m reading that appears to be sitting well with clients:  letting  them know you’re here for them and if they need anything, you’re operational and able to help them through this crisis personally and professionally. 5. It’s also not the time to send solicitous emails.  Like you, I’ve probably received over a hundred emails these last few days from companies selling their services.  Not in reference to the virus, not as a solution to my current business needs, and not in any way/shape/form related to what’s happening in the world.  From music searches to “new” direct mail lists, this is not the time to sell me something – I’m not buying!  Oh, and I do appreciate your “sincere” well wishes for me and my family during these troubling times, as indicated in your email.  Do I know you? HOW YOU ACT NOW WILL DETERMINE HOW I’LL ACT IN THE FUTURE. 6. Agency folks: It’s not business as usual.  Your clients are struggling and being torn in many different directions to weather this storm.  If you have great relationships with them, be empathetic and let them know you’re there for them (#4).  Put your skills to use in relevant ways and think about how you can provide a true value add.  Think creatively, not in terms of big ideas and ads,  but in new ideas and business solutions  that will benefit your clients during the storm. You’ll see – when their world calms down, they’ll remember who was there for them. 7. Client folks: We know you’re not ignoring us. You’re probably working from home, too, with many distractions and new fires that require your attention.  We know you’re not paying as much attention to meeting reports and proposals, so we’re going to go easy on you. Challenge us to help you through these difficult times.  Don’t feel you need to do it all “in-house” and have the belief that your agency partner is not interested in the ‘small stuff.’ We are here for you and have your personal and professional best interests in mind.  While you’re dealing with the pressures of sales goals and customer volumes, we’re using our time to learn new ideas and remedies that might be helpful to you. 8. We will all get through this together. At the time of this writing, there’s not much good news to report.  The virus is rising in reported cases and the market is falling.  Businesses are struggling and employee wages are in question, if not non-existent. We are all in this together and as history has proven, we’ll make it through this together.  With every crisis comes a new normal.  I’m not sure what that will be yet, but perhaps it’s the way we view our partnerships, work, and cultural surroundings as well as professional sensitivities. There’s a fast-growing plant-based food chain, Plant Power Fast Food (plantpowerfastfood.com) that has always been a great community citizen in the markets they serve.  They have a very strong mission and cultural compass.  To help support their employees during this difficult time, they are selling tee-shirts and the proceeds are going directly to their staff.  The shirts don’t tout their amazing sandwiches and creative concoctions – but share a message that I’ll leave you with: Be good to yourself.  Be good to...
Want to Add Value to Your Medical Society Members . . . Brand Them!

Want to Add Value to Your Medical Society Members . . . Brand Them!

Medical societies and associations exist to add value to their members through education, networking and providing other resources to support personal and professional growth. This is why professionals join and pay their annual membership fees. As competition in every medical field and specialty heats up, members are demanding more from society leadership; specifically marketing to consumers and referral sources to help them distinguish their expertise and build their practice (aka “Branding”). Often, patients (and other professionals) are confused over what different medical specialists do and branding your members will help provide clarity and growth. This is where medical societies can add value. From our experience, branding members and their specialty has become one of the top requests from society leaderships. So, where do you start? Start with research, to gain insight into the following: Vision – where do your members see themselves now and in the future? Equity – what are the unique capabilities and greatest benefits your members bring to patient care? Perceptions – how do patients, referral sources and other providers, hospital administrators and payors perceive your members? Access – what are the patient/referral pathways for your members? This will help you determine the audiences for your message. Communication – how do your target audiences keep up on medical and peer information? Once you understand where your members want to go and challenges that may be involved in getting them there, you can start to develop a unique brand strategy – position and value proposition – for them. A strong brand for your medical society members will: Differentiate them in a crowded and confusing marketplace Elevate their specialty in the healthcare landscape Resonate with target audiences Align with the society’s and member’s strategic goals and plans Be sustainable This last point is where many medical societies fall off – they budget and strategize for how to build their member’s brand, but fail to develop the methodologies to sustain and carry the initiative forward. Building a strong brand for your members is never one and done.  Be sure to nurture and support it over time. Once you have established a unique position, value proposition and the creative messaging to bring your medical society member’s “story” to market, your society’s efforts will inspire and fuel preference (and business) for your members – now that’s adding value! To learn more about how Springboard has helped medical societies and associations add value for their medical society members, visit www.springboardbrand.com or email me at...
5 Facts About Millennial Physicians | Medical Association Branding

5 Facts About Millennial Physicians | Medical Association Branding

By the year 2025, millennials will constitute more than 75% of the global workforce. New doctors, too, are joining the healthcare world from this generation – one that has different perspectives and expectations about the workplace. Whether you are recruiting millennial physicians for a new job or to join a medical association, it’s a good idea to know about this generation of physicians: Millennial physicians live on social media. Millennials were raised on computers and live on social media; so it’s no surprise that you can reach this generation on various social media platforms.  It’s important your organization has an online presence; think beyond Facebook and LinkedIn to other platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat. They are tech savvy with tools and software. Growing up in the digital era, these doctors are more comfortable using EHRs and other online resources.  They grew up with “Alexa” and “Siri,” and are always “Googling” information.  Also, millennial physicians source online medical journals and publications more frequently than their older peers. Millennials want to have a voice and make a difference. While millennial physicians are interested in leadership positions and advancing their careers, they also want to do good.  They believe in improving the health among patients and the community – to help change the world!  These doctors are mission-driven and want to make an impact on the lives of others. Embracing a work-life balance is crucial. In addition to millennial physicians wanting opportunities to advance their careers, they also want a life.  These physicians  value their time with friends and family.  Flexible scheduling can also aid in a balanced work-life environment to help reduce burnout and increase career satisfaction. There is an increase in diverse and female millennial physicians. The future of medicine is looking increasingly diverse and female.  Women account for more than 61% of doctors under the age of 35 and 44% of U.S. medical school graduates in 2018 were of a racial minority background.   Be sure to understand what millennial physicians’ value in their careers and the appropriate channels to reach them for job opportunities or to join a medical association.  For additional questions or help on marketing to millennial physicians, contact Springboard Brand & Creative...
“Cultural Brand Performance” – A New Indicator of Sales Growth and Consumer Engagement

“Cultural Brand Performance” – A New Indicator of Sales Growth and Consumer Engagement

There have been important, game-changing strategies associated with marketing performance over the years.  For example, “value proposition and differentiation,” “brand positioning,” and “corporate social responsibility.”  Each has evolved from the previous and all have demonstrated revenue growth. The latest idea being integrated into brand and marketing strategies is that of cultural relevance.  Simply (easier said than done), integrating what’s most relevant and important in our culture, social consciousness, and personal responsibilities with brand personas and communications strategies…no easy task. Take a look at a couple recent failed attempts of seeking cultural relevance: Peloton lost almost a $1 Billion in market value as a result of backlash from a TV commercial perceived as depicting men encouraging women to stay in shape. Hallmark pulled, then re-instated, a “wedding” commercial for Zola featuring the marriage of two women. Cultural amplification forced their turnaround in thinking. Watch any video today, on cable, network, or social media, and you’ll see brands seeking that fine balance with cultural relevance.  Whether it’s interfaith and interracial relationships, political or satirical points-of-view, or gender defining/neutralizing, how a brand performs and reflects cultural relevance has a direct and significant impact on its bottom-line.  I refer to this as “Cultural Brand Performance,” a new indicator and strategy for sales growth and consumer engagement. More fuel for this perspective:  in September, Merriam-Webster added the singular pronoun “they,” used to refer to “a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary,” or “to a person whose gender is unknown or is intentionally not revealed.” Earlier this month, the publication went a step further and chose the pronoun as its “Word of the Year.” Cultural Brand Performance is a new, important strategic consideration in today’s marketplace.   Finding the right equation in your market, while sometimes ‘like walking on eggshells’, is key to a brand’s long-term success.  More than ever, it’s paramount to stay on top of what’s trending culturally in your marketplace.  While I have never been a big proponent of creative testing, it seems to be worth every penny.  And can save hundreds of millions. Just ask...
8 Changes to Make in 2020 to Improve Your Healthcare Marketing Success

8 Changes to Make in 2020 to Improve Your Healthcare Marketing Success

As 2020 approaches, there are important changes to make in order to help improve your personal and professional success in healthcare marketing. 1. Focus on growth and business building, not marketing Marketing in many healthcare organizations still lands on the promotional side of the equation.  Successful marketers are those who understand the growth goals of their organization and develop strategies, beyond campaigns and clicks, to generate revenue and support new customer acquisition.  Marketers need to shift their “frame of reference” from “doing marketing” to “leading organizational growth through marketing.”  This will earn you a more favorable spot in the C-Suite and among your team.   2. Develop the right dashboards You’re too focused on the promotional side of things when your marketing “dashboard” consists of primarily digital terms that leave the C-Suite in the dust.  When you include business metrics, your dashboard will light up and provide a snapshot of your organization’s marketing success in terms of share-of-wallet, customer acquisition, profit margin, and conversion rates.  CEO’s consistently state they don’t really understand digital metrics (nor care to) but want to know how this investment translates to new revenue and growth opportunities.   3. Conduct market research to learn about your customers Most market research studies ask a lot of questions about the brand, not about the customer.  Other than demographics at the end, very few ask consumers about their interests and passions, what’s important to them, and the issues they’re most interested in.  Look at your customer research from their POV and you’ll gain great insights on how to make your marketing strategies much more relevant and engaging.   4. Develop a clearly defined brand position It’s head scratching and nail biting to develop a brand position that your organization can own; one that fits like a glove and is different in the marketplace.  But, oh is it so worthwhile.  Without this, your brand defaults to a “me too” position and means everything to everybody.  Absolutely the opposite of what a brand position should be about.  Take the time and resources required to really understand how what your organization stands for and how it should be thought of in the marketplace.   5. Create a message strategy around “heartbeat,” not chest beat It takes great insights about your customer and a continuous nature of learning, observation, and discovery about your marketplace to develop a “heartbeat” for your brand.  The opposite of this is a chest beat brand, one that talks primarily about itself and reels off a list of attributes and features.  I’m sure you can guess the approach that is more interesting and engaging to customers and encourages them to share or co-author a brand story.   6. Remember the 8-second rule With over 5,000 messages a day vying for the average person’s attention, studies show an approximate 8-second time span exists to make your point.  This is why more communications are going visual; to capture attention, gain engagement, and motivate toward an action. There is always an important place for content, but keep it relevant, and short.   7. Be Social, but not too “social” Social media is powerful, but it doesn’t need to be “too” social.  Brand strategies should drive your posts and, as with every other media, shouldn’t be “all things to all people.”  Overly social posts don’t benefit from optimization of keywords and tend not to stay on brand, rather, they take your message in an entirely different direction.  You can drive engagement and interaction without sacrificing the integrity of your posts and brand platform.   8. Make your internal audience a priority The role of internal communications has evolved over the years from a preview of an ad campaign to an engagement strategy with real ROI.  Hospitals experiencing “leakage” often find that employees are unaware of the scope of services provided by their health system.  Physician practices find that making in-system referrals can be tedious and time-consuming, and therefore default to old referral habits.  As healthcare companies grow through merger and acquisition, it’s more imperative than ever to not only educate, but facilitate communications from within.   At the time of this writing, we are six weeks away from 2020. There is still time and opportunity to strengthen your healthcare branding and marketing strategies.  Time flies, so take a moment to reflect on these suggestions and avoid defaulting to old habits that weaken your position, both personally and professionally. For more information on your healthcare marketing success, contact...
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