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 ad / 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 a cost of entry for your organization. Sort of like the word “trust” – if you have to say it, you probably aren’t. Good copy line, but not fit for a strong tagline or headline. State-of-the-Art Similar to “world-class” in that it is often used as one thought in advertising. In this industry, as soon as you say it, you’re out-of-date. Care See “quality.” That’s like a food brand talking about tasting good. At least use a unique adjective to describe your care. Close-to-home – another multi-word, single thought phrase often used by hospitals. Study after study reveals that being convenient is not a primary selection factor for certain kinds of specialty care beyond ER and primary care. Compassion – See “care,” see “quality,” see just about every hospital in the country. Back in the early days of hospital advertising, and most likely at a similar time as George Carlin’s original rant (1972), these words and phrases were common because the marketing discipline in the industry wasn’t. Amazingly, they are still being used today in a more sophisticated industry of brand development and differentiation. Go ahead and write your next headline or tagline for a healthcare ad. See if you can avoid these words. If so, you’re using terms and phrases that are more unique to your brand and the customer experience. This is such an important strategy in today’s keyword society. If you find yourself relying on these deadly words, kill them before they do the same to your brand. Did I miss any? — If you would like to learn more about Springboard and writing an healthcare ad, contact us...
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 different applications can be used for different spaces. You know the old saying, “you can’t stuff ten pounds of you-know-what in a five pound bag! The lost symbol If you stand on one leg, look in the mirror, and close one eye, you’ll see it! Just like the FedEx arrow! We all know these identity types. With the over 6,000 forms of messages, symbols, icons, and other forms of communications we’re exposed to on a daily basis, good luck getting someone to spend more than an eye blink trying to get the hidden meaning within your brand identity. The remedy – design a brand identity that identifies and supports the position/promise first, and if there’s an element of it that tells a brand story over time, or is lore at internal meetings, that’s great. The blank slate Creating a brand identity is part of a brand strategy and should be developed within that context. Not on a design island all on its own. When your organization has determined the need to reevaluate its brand identity, it means you should be reevaluating your overarching brand position. What a great opportunity to use the brand identity as one element of bringing the brand position and promise to life! The remedy– don’t start with a blank piece of paper. It should be filled with research findings, goals, messaging considerations, and other brand insights that need to be taken into account when developing the identity. The sea of sameness Those same turbulent waters that capsize ad campaigns also swell around identity development. When creating a new brand, use the opportunity to be fresh and different. To stand out in a crowded market. To differentiate. The remedy – pin up the identities of other brands competing in your market. Evaluate what makes them the same (colors, shapes, type, etc.) and include those in your creative brief. Encourage your designer to go outside the norm and consider new ideas that will make new waves in the industry. The “two is better than one” With all the consolidation taking place in most industries today, identities tend to have split personalities. Borrow a little from pile A and a little from pile B and, wallah, we have a pile! The remedy – instead of trying to create a Reese’s cup, capture key elements of the merging entities and/or the value of the new enterprise to develop something new. Of course, if it can be as tasty as chocolate and peanut better, bring it on. I know there are other reasons some brand identities make you cringe. Feel free to add them here. My hope is that as a result of reading this, there will be one less snarled face out there trying to decipher the story, hidden meaning, or undifferentiated blob used as a brand identity. Contact us at Springboard to learn...
Creating a Heartbeat Brand Requires Knowing Your Audience in New, Relevant Ways

Creating a Heartbeat Brand Requires Knowing Your Audience in New, Relevant Ways

Most research studies provide excellent insights into your brand.  For example, knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions people have of your brand, their intent to use, and likelihood to recommend.  In addition, there’s data collected on who replied to the survey; gender, age, income, etc.  Yes, this tells you about what people think of your brand.  However, it doesn’t tell you anything about the people who use it, or want to use it.  Creating the highest level of relevance with your brand requires knowing more about the people you’re targeting than has been customary. Just like in good advertising practices, it’s about them – not you.  A heartbeat brand is one that appeals to the interests, lifestyle, visions and dreams of your audience.  Use your market research to help you understand these traits so your brand can be more effectively positioned and modified to meet their needs. There should be a section within your questionnaire that asks people about what matters most in their lives.  How they spend their time, activities they enjoy, hobbies they pursue, etc. Armed with this information, you can begin to reflect these passions and interests in your brand communications. Images become more than design background; they become eye-catching relevant scenarios. Your audience sees themselves and how their life intersects with your brand, not the other way around. Knowing your audience in new, relevant ways will help you create positioning and messaging platforms that break through and become noticed.  Why?  Because you’ve captured the essence of what’s most important to people you’re trying to influence, not trying to influence them with your brand message. Contact us today to learn more about your heartbeat...
Transition of Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Growth Officer

Transition of Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Growth Officer

Last year brought about many major shifts and conversations in the healthcare industry; from new national health plans to ongoing debates of repeal or reform of the Affordable Care Act. All of these have had an impact on healthcare marketing and most organizations are holding tight on any specific directions until policies are determined. Another trend that healthcare marketers have to watch, based on what has occurred in the land of big brands, is the shift from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to Chief Growth Officer (CGO). Leave it to Coca-Cola, one of the best known and most valuable brands on the globe to lead the way. When its Chief Marketing Officer resigned in 2017, Coca-Cola didn’t replace his position.  This was the first time the company was without a Chief Marketing Officer in a couple of decades. Rather, it hired a CGO and now other big brands have followed suit. This trend will certainly lead to some alterations in hospital marketing departments, too. The rationale for this change at Coke was that it was part of a restructuring to turn the company into a “growth oriented, and consumer-centered   organization.” Wait, what? Coca-Cola replaced its top­ ranked marketing executive with another position that will generate growth and provide a consumer focus. Isn’t that marketing’s job? Shouldn’t a top marketer be doing that? Bottom-line, marketing at Coke and at many global brands, is not seen as a “growth” department; one that adds revenue, new operations, and new customers to the organization. Startling, yes-and here are some supportive statistics: Nearly one-third of CEO’s considered firing their Chief Marketing Officer in 2017 according to Forrester Research The average tenure of CMO’s in the US is four years, the shortest in the C-Suite CMO’s are first in the line of fire if growth targets are not met, according to an Accenture Strategy Study Only 21 percent of companies are able to fully measure marketing’s contribution to revenue (Allocadia) 30 percent of all C-Suite dissatisfaction occurs by incorrectly setting expectations and failing to onboard customers 61 percent of CMO’s cite pressure from CEO’s to provide results; 58 percent say that pressure is increasing (Deloitte) What’s a Chief Marketing Officer to Do? The first change that CMO’s need to make is to shift their own perception of their job function and those of marketing professionals in their departments. Too many still think of their role as traditional marketing; conducting research, determining product position and the other P’s, devising target audience plans, and creating integrated communications to reach, motivate, and shift attitudes of prospective customers. And this is not wrong-but it is not the focus for the top-ranked marketing executive in their respective organization. CMO’s have to take a higher view, and make broader, more disruptive decisions that impact the growth of the organization, not just its perception. These individuals and departments need to: Focus on brand-growing, and not just brand building. Marketers need to shift their attention to the complete brand experience, not just brand promotions. This is especially true for those in healthcare systems where patient experience is having a direct impact on the bottom-line. Develop plans that demonstrate real value to the core growth goals of the organization, not marketing plans that extend what was done in the past. CMO’s and other top marketing executives have to scrap marketing plans and begin to submit market growth plans to their CEO’s. Make monumental shifts in the organization’s marketing DNA, not slight changes that will go unnoticed internally. CMO’s have to be seen as disruptive and taking new paths within their organizations, shaking it up. Shift from the discipline of marketing to the business of marketing operations that directly impacts revenue operations. Develop business solutions, not creative solutions. There are still too many top marketing executives who are in the weeds in terms of creative messaging and executions. Once you’ve weighed in with strategy, it’s time to move out.  Let your internal team and outside resources run with it. Translate their role into money and growth as the “only language” that truly matters to businesses. Share-of-voice, even share-of­ market, is not in today’s Chief Marketing Officer vernacular. Revenue, growth, and income are keywords being searched by CEO’s and boards. Move quickly from “doing” digital to being digital. Today’s CMO’s and tomorrow’s CGO’s are focusing on transitioning their organization into the digital age. Not search terms, social platforms, and SEO-but the entire enterprise. Can you say ”Amazon.” Transformation in the Healthcare Industry Not only do top marketers in hospitals and health systems share the same pressures as their counterparts at big brands, but they also have unique ones. As value-based replaces volume­ based revenue, marketers will have accountability in both patient experience and satisfaction in order to contribute to organizational growth. In addition, health system top marketing executives have to find a role to play in outcomes. Candace Quinn, of Candace Quinn Consulting, believes this shift will occur at the service line delivery level. According to Quinn, “many organizations have morphed to incorporating Chief roles around their Pillar structure, as popularized in the Studer teachings. Chief Quality Officer, Chief People! Talent Officer, Chief Finance Officer, as well as Chief Growth Officer. What we haven’t really started seeing yet is what makes the Chief Growth Officer’s role as powerful and as influential as it might be. How many organizations put more than Strategic Planning, Marketing, PR, Fundraising and Physician Relations within the scope of this role, like including service line leadership? Growth happens at the service line delivery level.  Linking these key leaders even in a matrix relationship would truly give bigger meaning to the ‘growth’ part of the Chief Growth Officer.” Paul Szablowski is a Senior Vice President and Experience Officer for Texas Health Resources in Dallas.  He is the organization’s top-ranked marketing executive, supports this shift toward growth and has witnessed it take place among his peers in hospital systems. He offers this advice. “Today, more than ever, CMO’s need to be submerged in the continuous...
Consumer trends impacting healthcare marketing

Consumer trends impacting healthcare marketing

By now, we have all seen the articles, blog posts, and other content on consumer trends impacting healthcare marketing for 2018.   From Artificial Intelligence and big data to value, there is no doubt the industry will continue to transform. And consumer expectations and behavior will keep pace with the changes.  And, while it’s tough to predict the future, there is a place to look and get an idea as to what will occur down the road; the rearview mirror. According to Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos, this is often the first place he looks when predicting future trends and changes.  Amazon is one of the most innovative companies on the planet. Yet it was (and still is) built on a premise that is very down to earth: focusing on what’s not going to change. Bezos is frequently asked to comment on “what’s going to change in the next ten years?” His answer may surprise you. “While that’s an interesting question, I almost never get the question, what’s not going to change in the next ten years.  And that’s the most important question because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in times and will be true ten years from now.  It’s impossible to imagine a future ten years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘I don’t want great prices, faster delivery, and more selection.’”  So rather than try and predict what will change, he focuses on what will stay the same and makes Amazon’s deliverables even better.  And that’s a model all marketers can follow. So, what’s not going to change in 2018 that healthcare marketers can make even better for consumers? Customer Service – consumers want the ability to see and be seen. From online patient portals and apps to getting an appointment within 24 hours or less, consumers want service from their selected provider.  This demand is only going to increase and challenges marketers to evaluate their customer service programs to meet these needs. Competence – most people have access to “world-class” care. Some might have to travel a little farther for it.  But – according to focus group studies – it is a small inconvenience for excellent care. There are a lot of ways to differentiate your healthcare brand.  But if you’re a provider, the cost of entry is medical and professional competence.  Marketers need to know their brands level of knowledge and distinction in this important area. Compassion – while most consumers will cite “competence” as their number one selection criterion for a provider, a close contender is how they are treated. People still expect to be cared for and that’s not going to change. Convenience – while willing to travel farther for medical excellence, most healthcare interactions are not critical. Consumers want to access their favorite healthcare brand in as many ways as possible.  More than ever, healthcare marketers have greater opportunity to become involved.  Especially in the distribution channels of their brands physically, socially, and technologically. Cost – people are focused and obsessed on healthcare prices. This has been the case for the last 20 years and is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.  Consumers still have out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles regardless of their coverage. They will remain actively involved in trying to figure them out.  It might not influence their selection, but it certainly needs to be transparent and easier to understand. Confidence – studies show that when it comes to their favorite brands, consumers have confidence in them. Things just work and the people associated with the brands are smart.  Healthcare brands, even more so, have to exude this level of trust and dependability with each piece of new technology, diagnosis, and treatment plan. Clarity – healthcare is confusing. Good marketing programs seek to simplify the big words. They also want to reduce confusion around people’s care in terms of who’s associated with what and how they are all linked together. As we enter the New Year, yes it’s important to look ahead and think into the future.  But it’s also important to look behind and get a sense of what’s not going to change. And, how healthcare organizations can better deliver on the tried and true expectations of their customers. Best advice – clean your headlights, but also shine up your rearview mirror. Contact Springboard today for more information on consumer trends impacting healthcare...
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