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Our community-building is a virtuous circle of inspiration between our healthcare system and our communities.

These are not the typical words of a healthcare marketer. We don’t expect them to be talking about avid fan bases and active participants in co-creating new value. We don’t expect them to be comparing their brands to Kiehl’s, Lego, Sharpie, Benefit Cosmetics, Red Bull

And you know what, you’re right. I fabricated this quote. But why can’t this be the case? Why can’t healthcare systems and hospitals have active fan bases? Who laid down the law that healthcare marketing must follow a set pattern of self-describe, proclaim and repeat (albeit now across multiple platforms).

True community-building (with the result being “a virtuous cycle of inspiration between provider and customer”) SHOULD be a vibrant component of the healthcare marketing mix. With the competitive provider landscape changing – and the impact of this being more choice (particularly for more “routine” medical conditions) – loyal fans means more people wrapped more tightly around their brands, which means competitive insulation and more profitable business.

We’re thrilled at the extent to which one of our Trajectory healthcare system clients has embraced their (our) new tagline of Advancing Health. Transforming Lives. We’ve witnessed how in a very short time it’s become the guidepost for much of their decision-making, both internally and externally. And this “platform” idea gives them license (in fact the responsibility) to create the energy that moves their communities forward – in ways that feed their interests and passions.

True community-building helps both client brand and communities grow stronger – based on a “virtuous circle of inspiration.” I know, there are places like Mayo Clinic that have really stepped out to provide their communities with new and greater forms of value. But as I’m sure you agree, these examples are way too few and far between.

What’s your POV?

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Are all those lines and sku’s really necessary?

We wake up in the morning viewing the world through the lens of a consumer. But then we get to work and our focus changes to that of business manager. The blinders come on and our sights are set on our defined sectors and the scope of our business. One moment, we’re barraged with an overwhelming number of choices. A moment later, it’s your job to present your other “you” with more choices. Not quite a recipe for mutual gain.

Beauty is an incredibly crowded category. There are hundreds of competitors, hundreds of thousands of items. Add to this the new segments that continue to emerge – from natural and organic to fashion brands edging their way into cosmetics, nutri-cosmetics, at-home devices, ethnic-targeted brands, beauty for men, tweens, etc. Some choice is good. But piling on more and more is a recipe for complexity, confusion and frustration (both for consumers and inevitably for your business).

So, how can beauty marketers create win-win brand portfolios? Start by considering these indicators that provide an objective view of your brand evolution and future potential. In the absence of this, you really do lack the ability to enable optimal decision-making and take the right course of specific actions.

Consider your portfolio from the inter-related viewpoints of Business, Brand and Consumer.

• Does the portfolio fit with your business strategy and support strategic priorities?
• Does the marketplace value your participation (relative strength): is your name
relevant, are you providing customer benefit?
• Are you creating access to new beauty markets and customers?
• Implementation: do you have the resources to appropriately support; can you execute
with a high degree of success?
• Financial: does historical performance warrant?

• Do offerings build your brand value: do they fit with your story and positioning,
protect existing equities
• Are you creating desired new associations?
• Is there a clear relationship between new and existing brands?
• Does a new brand contribute to growing overall portfolio value?
• If offering fails, is it a major or minor setback for your brand?

• Does the brand address customer needs (today and tomorrow)?
• Is it a differentiated and superior value offering?
• Is it market-driven and customer-focused

While these are only some strategic indicators (financial indicators being the other benchmark), they’ll at least begin to help you take a holistic view of your portfolio and glean insights into relative performance of, and relative potential across, your brands.

Remember, more might not necessarily be better.

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SocialBrandI was hooked! While recently working on a beauty branding research assignment, I found myself so deeply connected to these brands that I instantly “fanned” them on Facebook, began “following” them on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, became an enewsletter “subscriber”, and “viewed” more YouTube videos than I can remember.  Christian Dior, Tom Ford, Chanel and several others were no longer just iconic beauty brands to me, I was now “engaging” with them in ways I could have never imagined. But how did this happen so quickly?

Having worked at brand marketing agencies my entire career, I now found myself on the other side of the fence as a consumer (not a marketing professional) influenced by the phenomenon known as social media – a brand engagement platform offering me new and more meaningful ways to instantly connect with these brands and their online communities.  

The Undeniable Influence of Social Media

Social media has had a significant impact on brand engagement, as it’s role continues to grow in terms of how consumers discover, research, and share information about brands and products.  With American consumers spending an average of 3.2 hours per day socially networking, the consumer decision journey has forever changed.  Just take a look at the Social Media Report recently published by Nielsen and NM Incite (a Nielsen/McKinsey company) to see how these decisions are increasingly driven by the opinions, tastes, and preferences of this extraordinary pool of social influencers.

  • 60% of consumers researching products through multiple online sources learned about a specific brand or retailer through social networking sites
  • Active social media users are more likely to read product reviews online, and 3 out of 5 create their own reviews of products and services
  • Overall, consumer-generated reviews and product ratings are the most preferred sources of product information among social media users
  • Consumers view social media networks as a more trustworthy source of information for products and services than brand-sponsored communications
  • Consumers feel more engaged with products when they are able to submit feedback
  • Socially Adept Brand Ambassadors

    Consumers are increasingly acting as ambassadors and advocates for brands through social media – as brands recruit fans and followers to facilitate consumer conversations and allow them to express their loyalty while also reinforcing the brands mission. The Dove® Movement for Self-Esteem, is a great example of utilizing the power of like-minded people to advocate for your brand – in this case a movement to build positive self-esteem and inspire all women and girls to reach their full potential.  To understand the importance of these advocates, consider these statistics:

    • A majority, 53% of active social networkers follow brands
    • Social media users are interested in collaborating with their favorite brands, with 60% (of 18- to 34-year-olds) stating they want to give product improvement recommendations, and another 64% wanting to customize their products
    • 58% of social media users say they write product reviews to protect others from bad experiences
    • Women are more likely than men to tell others about products they like – 81% of females vs. 72% of males
    • On average, a consumer will mention brands 90 times/week and your brand is more likely to be mentioned if you have an ongoing dialog and relationship with your brand advocates

    Fueling the Social Engine

    Social media growth has been fueled by increased demand for connectivity and access to/usage of mobile devices. While PC’s remain the predominant device for consumer access (61%), social networking time on mobile apps and the mobile web have increased 63% – with over 55% of social networking occurring on mobile devices. Consumer demand for on-the-go brand engagement is growing and global brands are conforming – 90% now have mobile sites. What’s next?

    Smarter Social Media

    We know first-hand that brand marketers tend to feel pressure to create a dynamic presence on every social media platform, only to learn that the “network” is ever-changing. So what does the future hold for our hyper-connected, hyper-digitized world?

    Consumer engagement is better served through a smarter and simpler approach – one that melds business objectives, brand positioning and personality, and consumers’ social media behavior to develop programs that can represent a brand’s individual “brand engagement sweetspot.” It’s an ongoing process of actively observing, shaping resultant communications strategy, monitoring conversations and refining activities. Sort of the old “rinse and repeat.”

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I can now cross Augusta National and The Masters off of the proverbial list, as I was lucky enough to attend the final weekend.

While we went for the thrill of it, and not for anything work-related, it’s hard (at least for me) not to equate it back to the branding and marketing work we do for a living. Because for me, I was blown away by the brilliant execution and subsequent “Masters” brand experience.

Here are some examples (in no particular order):

1. The course is flawless. Every detail paid attention to –– from the pine straw, to the stunning beauty of the azaleas, to the grass that is cut so fine that it could double as a carpet.

2. Before you can get to the course, however, you need to pass through multiple sets of gates and then through security. Unlike other similar events, however, everyone (literally) has a smile on their face, is as kind as can be, and is apt to be joking with fans. Case in point, you’re not allowed to bring in cameras or cell phones on the weekend. But more than once, we heard security asking if “someone would please take their picture so they could send it to their mom.”

3. It’s shocking how affordable everything is (though you do pay a handsome price to attend in the first place). But unlike other events – sandwiches, fresh fruit and drinks are upwards of only $2-$3 dollars. Brilliant, however, is the fact that all of the drink cups are really collectors items stamped with “2013 The Masters.” At the end of each day, everyone’s leaving with their drink cups. Avoids a lot of trash collection, doesn’t it?

4. Gift shops, while really crowded, are also designed to maximize the customer experience. Many of the shirts available for sale are behind a well-manned counter, identified by number. So all you do is ask for the number, by size, and your well-wrapped shirt (knowing that most people will be packing them) is ready to go. Cash registers are also outside the shops, mitigating the lines that typically interfere with shoppers.

5. The fans themselves are “different” at The Masters. They’re kinder, gentler and friendlier inside these ropes. Coming together to share in their love of, and respect for, the sport. Though it might also have to do with the fact that there’s no running, disparaging language or obnoxious shouting tolerated on the course :)

6. Sports was a huge part of my life growing up, and still is. So I really appreciated two of the more memorable acts of brilliant sportsmanship. The first being Angel Cabrera, recognizing with a thumb’s up his competitor’s shot on the second playoff hole. The second being the grace of winner Adam Scott in his post victory interview, paying homage to fellow countryman and mentor Greg Norman.

7. Finally (though not really), those same security people who welcomed you at 7am thank you for sharing your day with us , remind you to please drive safely so we can see you tomorrow, and ask you to think about the picture they want for their mom.

“The Masters” is an incredible brand with an incredible back story. Beyond the legends who have helped shape and add to the story –– from Sarazen to Nelson, Snead to Hogan, Palmer to Nicklaus, and most recently Bubba and Adam — brilliant execution and subsequent experience have definitely added to making this event one of the most highly coveted experiences a golf fan could ever ask for.

I’m glad that I can now say “thanks.”

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Our beauty marketing article – Six Tips For Igniting Beauty Brand & Business Energy – is featured in’s “The Expert’s View.” You can read it here.

To build business in today’s environment – where technology leaves nothing to the imagination and nothing out of reach, where consumers are connected, collaborating and creating, where organizations can no longer hide behind the curtain and where brands are expected to do more – a new playbook is in order.

Here’s a summary of six of those plays:

1. Belief: Competitors can copy many of the functional attributes and benefits of your beauty products. But what they can’t copy is the meaning and purpose of your brand beyond what it does.

2. Behavior: Everything you do, every experience you create – with employees, customers and the public in general – should support and enhance your story.

3. Benevolence: Are you making the world a better place? How can your “belief” link to progress in the “communities” in which your organization and brand operates?

4. Bold: Be exciting. Continue to surprise and delight. Build an expectation that something new is always around the corner.

5. Bonding: Beyond customers interacting with your brand, make your brand the platform through which they share with one another.

6. Better Questions: Obvious “inside-out” questions yield answers that are more affirming and validating. Better “outside-in” questions let you see new things about your category, company, brand and customers.

Once again, you can read the article here. As always, we welcome your comments.

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How you complete this sentence might just foreshadow the future success of Whole Foods as it considers entering the health and wellness resort business. You can see the story here at NY Daily News.

Any and all operational capabilities aside, their ability to deliver a desirable and relatable proposition starts with degree of brand “permission.” How much permission we, as Whole Foods customers, fans or fanatics give them to extend their brand into this arena.

Which circles back to how you filled in the blank. And not to limit your choices, but here’s a general framework for you to consider. Is Whole Foods a product-based, expertise-based or philosophy-based brand idea?

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Is it a grocery brand, an expert purveyor of organic, natural, healthy foods or a brand defined by a deeper philosophy? Likewise, is it functionally-based or is it emotionally-charged? Not up to me to say, but they’ll cover the necessary bases to find out.

If you read the article, you’ll see that there’s a comparison to Canyon Ranch. Though not sure this is the most appropriate or wisest comparison, as Canyon’s roots are in spa/health and wellness, so their’s was a natural progression to integrate “eating habits” into their program.

Relative to other grocery retailers, Whole Foods does stand apart. It’s driven by, and delivers on, a strong set of value and beliefs. It hasn’t strayed from selections which advance a healthy lifestyle. It does business with a strong sense of purpose. Is this enough “permission”, we’ll see.

What’s your point-of-view?

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The open mindedness and disciplined creativity required to visit parallel worlds is critical to your ability to deliver new and greater value to better customers lives beyond the reach of competitors. It allows you to consider that Nike (for example) might now be a competitor to your healthcare system or hospital, given that you’re both in the business of promoting better health outcomes.

Nike, by way of its FuelBand, lets you track your daily running, walking, dancing and dozens of other everyday activities. It tracks each step taken and calories burned. It then helps you set goals, see progress, stay motivated and share with others.

As a healthcare marketing professional, your industry focus means understanding its specific challenges, creating actionable initiatives based on knowing operational realities, living the nuances of your category on a daily basis. But exclusive industry focus also means that you’re not viewing the world through the lens of your customers life. And that means missed opportunities.

Thinking holistically about your healthcare patient (as a customer) and how you can better their lives beyond the reach of competitors, requires you to look beyond your category. Clearly, an understanding of direct competitor practices is important. But then venture out to examine the parallel world of other national healthcare players. And then most important to being able to see new value-creating opportunities is the examination of parallel organizations with similar characteristics and who face similar challenges to yours in completely different markets.

How can you truly better the lives of your customers, beyond just satisfying their most obvious needs? Only by seeing their (parallel) world(s) through their eyes. Asking the right set of brand, customer and company questions can help you determine where to look – to get you to that magical combination of intelligent focus and imaginative stretch.

What’s your opinion about the value of visiting parallel worlds?

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Edward Boches over at creativity_unbound wrote this post the other day titled “Getty Museum being social with ideas that engage.” You can read it here.

In short, the museum asked people to imagine the opening line in the concealed letter in the hands of the woman reading it in “Vermeer’s Lady in Blue.” It’s the only museum in the US to feature the painting right now as it makes its way around the world. Hundreds of art lovers submitted lines – serious, eloquent, amusing, set in the 1600′s, imagining the future.

Granted, we’re talking hundreds and not thousands of participants. But what I love about this, and what brand marketers should take away about this, is that this is what true brand engagement looks like:

• integral to patrons lives (and thereby making the Getty brand a bigger part of their lives)
• inviting them to think more deeply and involve themselves in the story behind the brand (in this case, Getty’s Vermeer’s Lady)
• creating a unique experience
• provoking shared participation among fans
• creating new value for patrons and the museum

As Edward interestingly points out in his post, “it didn’t ask for much in return. No likes. No follows. No pleas to purchase a ticket or visit the exhibit.” Just for the people, by the people.

Very cool idea!

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When 25% of people use their smartphones to browse the Internet, why is it that only 10% of websites are mobile optimized, whether through the use of a responsive design approach or a separate mobile website. This is a significant, and unfortunate, wasted opportunity for healthcare brands (which happen to trend less than this general statistic).

Healthcare marketing (given the value of what organization’s can provide and the value that people are seeking) is one of the biggest opportunities for the utilization of mobile web content. Yet the industry tends to ignore the mobile web channel. As such, an organization’s ability to stay relevant and close to its customers, and connect to new ones, is marginalized.

Missed Opportunities for Brand Engagement

There are a lot of opportunities to promote brand engagement in places where patients might already be browsing on their phones and tablets. For instance, according to Our Mobile Planet, 70% of women will browse on their phone in waiting rooms at a doctors office. What a timely and natural opportunity for them to browse your content or sign up for classes or newsletters related to the purpose of their visit. However, they will be less inclined to engage if your site is not optimized for mobile viewing. For these women, it’s on to their next task.

Getting More Mileage From Content Creation

Many healthcare brands create separate mobile sites that only include a small subset of their full website experience. They include locations, contact info, and find a doc functionality. Yet the more useful and brand-enhancing videos, articles and calendars of events, for instance, are rendered unusable. Again, another wasted opportunity for two-way value creation.

Content creation for the web, especially for large healthcare organizations with multiple hospitals and medical specialties, is a time consuming and exhaustive process. It is important that the content you are creating is getting as much mileage as possible. That means getting that content in front of multiple audiences regardless of where they are and the device through which they’re connecting.

Perception is Reality

Don’t underestimate the power of perception. Healthcare marketing and advertising is a billion dollar industry with much emphasis placed (whether right or wrong) on touting advancements in medicine and technology. But are consumers supposed to believe that an organization is on the bleeding edge of technology when its web presence looks dated and its mobile site is non-existent. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and websites are so often that first impression.

You can continue to simply communicate that your technology is cutting-edge. But if you are wrapping that information up in a way that does not look and feel advanced, and doesn’t meet customers needs in ways they want, then it looks like (in fact is) an empty promise. Customers don’t compartmentalize their experience with brands. So you can’t just claim your position, you need to demonstrate it with a smart interface and a consideration for the modern web technologies and resultant benefits that are integral to, and possibly make a difference in the lives of, your audiences.

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Here’s the world’s first billboard that converts air into drinking water. It was strategically placed in Peru’s rain-starved desert capital, Lima. Importantly, and thankfully, it produces enough water for hundreds of families each month.

It’s a collaboration between Mayo DraftFCB and Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology.

Watch this short video that explains the project.

We talk a lot about putting the customer at the center of our businesses, and delivering marketing that really matters to them. It doesn’t get much better than this!

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