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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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A month or so ago, the orange bar began to flash across my screen at an inordinate rate (relatively speaking, read: I might be exaggerating my popularity), indicating new followers on my Instagram.  I also began to notice that the number of retail brands with user accounts had multiplied.  As an avid, albeit infrequent “Instagrammer” (a modest once a week/two weeks post compared with the 40 million photos uploaded daily), I was excited that the social media tool was gaining traction and curious to see how companies were utilizing it to create brand engagement.

But first, some “Instastats” straight from the social network itself (from July 2012 to January 2013).

  • Registered Users. From 80 to 100+ million
  • Monthly Active Users. 90 million
  • Daily Uploads. From 5 million to 40 million
  • Likes Per Second. From 575 to 8,500
  • Comments Per Second. From 81 to 1000 

Within a six-month period, Instagram has seen an explosion in number of users and interaction.  On average, Instagram users spend over an hour more on the site than Twitter users spend on Twitter (257 minutes vs. 170) and in September 2012, surpassed Twitter in average daily mobile users at 7.3 million vs. 6.9 million (out of 100 million and 555 million registered users, respectively).

A rapidly growing pool of deeply engaged potential customers – it’s not difficult to see why companies are eager to jump on the Instagram bandwagon.  According to a data report by Simply Measured, Instagram and Pinterest (that other visually-based social networking site) are the fastest growing social platforms among the Interbrand Top 100 Brands in the world with a 55% and 59% adoption rate – up 9% and 10% from last quarter, respectively.  Clearly, marketers see an opportunity for reaching a wider audience.

Creative ways brands are using Instagram to engage with and expand their fan-base.

  • Behind-the-Scenes/Action Shots: Brands are getting intimate with followers by allowing them to become privy to once exclusive, private-pass-only peeks into the worlds of luxury brands (e.g. Burberry’s commercial shoot with David Beckman’s son).  They also get a glimpse of the daily grind as experienced by employees of famous brands (like Virgin America).
  • Contests: Recently, Sony hosted a photo contest, which required users to first follow them, then submit a photo that represented love, with winners chosen daily at random.
  • Follower Photo Submissions:
    • Sharpie features follower artwork drawn with their product.
    • Free People (FP): Customers are encouraged to take pictures of themselves and append unique FP decreed hashtags.  Select images are even integrated into FP’s website (with permission of course), so customers get to be models for the day and potential buyers get to see how clothes are styled in real life.

Is it working?  If the name of the game is brand engagement, the statistics speak for themselves.  For some perspective on how Instagram stacked against other social networking sites, I examined the number of likes/follows for four active Instagram brands against their other social media accounts:

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For all of the above brands, number of Instagram fans has surpassed Pinterest fans.  Both Free People and Adidas (note: clothing retailers) have amassed almost three times the number of Instagram fans as they have Twitter fans, an impressive feat considering the fact that Twitter is a much more established social platform.  To be expected, Instagram branding companies will need to exercise some social strategy muscles before they come anywhere close to nearing the gap with Facebook.

Room for improvement.  Brand engagement is fantastic and all, but what about direct sales?  Pinterest has earned a reputation for leading potential buyers to direct purchases on retailer websites (21% of Pinterest users have purchased an item after having seen it on Pinterest according to Hubspot).  Instagram doesn’t offer a direct linking capability from photos of products to website pages for purchase – something worth considering, as mobile usage growth, according to a Facebook statement, is poised to “exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future and that the usage through personal computers may be flat or continue to decline in certain markets.”

As the new darling of social media continues to glow brighter in the spotlight, marketers and consumers alike should poise themselves for some “instagramification“.

Check out Trajectory’s newly minted Instagram account here.

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Here’s a tip for brand marketers – my heart races every single day before noon and then again around 9 PM. Unbelievably, it’s not caused by stress at work or my decompressing thereafter. Rather it’s the anticipation of my pending brand engagement – receiving a series of finely tuned email alerts that update me (as an “insider” of course) on the day’s latest, curated flash sales for the world’s most coveted beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands.

My daily fix is Gilt Groupe – a one-stop shopping experience that speaks to me (figuratively that is), helping to create ongoing brand engagement with them multiple times a day (who could miss “Today’s Top Picks” as well as the full spectrum of lifestyle brands they feature). I’m one of those brand advocates that shares the love with friends and family (for a $25 incentive of course) so they too can be inspired by Gilt’s consumer marketing prowess, not to mention the amazing limited-time sales on prestige products like Yves Saint Laurent handbags, Delman shoes and Dr. Hauschka skincare.

The Art and Science of Fashion & Beauty Marketing

But what intrigues me most is that Gilt understands it has to be more than a pretty face.  Engaging customers like me means going beyond having a beautiful website.  It means understanding us. Knowing us. Catering to us on a very human and personal level.

Lessons can certainly be learned from other sophisticated ecommerce sites, including Amazon and Nordstrom, where there is a clear focus on understanding their customers and reflecting this in how they serve up content to address their every want and need. Content is king. Every action is analyzed to determine what sells best and what customers are looking for. What’s hot, and what’s not. How to proactively address customer wants before they (or I for that matter) even know.

Everything ties back to creating customer value (and ROI of course), and only rich customer data can provide that insight. According to WWD, many fashion and beauty brands like Kate Spade, Burberry and Sephora excel in their space because of the attention paid to the science (customer data and analysis) as well as the art (creative and brand marketing).  In fact, it has been said that “data scientists” are going to replace social media managers as the hottest jobs among multi-channel retail, luxury and beauty companies alike.

The fine balance of science and creativity shines through at Gilt

I enjoy the multi-faceted user experience – from Pinterest (who can resist the “Accessories to Die For” and “Shoe Porn”) to my “Gilt on the Go” mobile app (and everything in between).  They deploy great content coupled with proven consumer marketing techniques that create further brand engagement (glad they brought back February Freefall sales).

Yet in today’s time starved and frenetic world, surrounded by stimulus hitting us at every turn, marketing to consumers to capture their attention (and loyalty) is increasingly difficult. Targeting every aspect of the shopping experience based on unique, personal preferences is not an easy task, but probably a required one moving forward.

Today, many fashion and beauty marketers analyze every customer action across every channel (on and offline), identifying key triggers that can increase sales. From customized emails highlighting the latest beauty products or Spring shoes (they know what I shop for), to using data to behaviorally target me on other sites with reminders of the products I just viewed on their sites (but never closed the deal), to tying my actions on social channels to website activity to see what helps me pull the trigger. Again, science (with a healthy dose of creativity) may win when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of customers, moving them from brand engagement to true brand activation.

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Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 11.09.09 AMIt’s potentially an industry-changing time for healthcare marketing. You just need to seize the opportunity.

As consumer interest in pursuing healthier lifestyles and a higher quality of living is on the rise, health has come to be viewed in more holistic ways. As such, the lines between traditional healthcare marketing, health marketing and wellness marketing are blurring. For healthcare system and hospital marketers, the implication is that you have a real opportunity (based on a powerful cultural trend) to become a catalyst in helping your service area communities achieve their optimum health and optimum quality of life (where non-physical ideas of well-being are just as important as physical well-being).

Just one example of this opportunity is the research of Julia Boehm, research fellow in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health. She found that “factors such as optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness are associated with reduced risk of CVD regardless of such factors as a person’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status, or body weight.” “For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50% reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers,” she said. It also appears (based on a review of more than 200 studies published in two major scientific databases) that these factors also slow the progression of disease.

There will always be people who are sick. Your key service lines – whether cancer, heart, obstetrics, orthopedics, neurology – will always have a captive audience. And they’ll always be important. But the game is changing, as it does across all industries.

To be relevant, you need to follow the lead of the consumer. And in this case, they’re telling you that they don’t compartmentalize their healthcare. Their attitude is that their overall lifestyle and their health care are closely connected. In turn, this presents you with an opportunity to build around your core traditional services and own a bigger place in their lives. Which provides so many more ways for you to create new value.

Consider the combination of your different audiences, the different actions they could take (and you could promote, support and participate in) and the different places in which they could achieve their desired health/quality of life. That’s a lot of possibilities!

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Beauty Care Marketing

Beauty marketing has a new face… a new major player has emerged as male consumers continue to demand products specifically suited to their needs. Men’s perception of “personal care” has changed significantly – baby boomers understand the effects of aging, and are turning to products that help them look and feel younger. And younger people are growing more conscious and becoming more “proactive” about their appearances. As a result, these consumers have created a “new market” opportunity that both global beauty brands and new & emerging brands are rapidly responding to.

We’re seeing new category players like Bulldog, finding their way into the market historically dominated by the “big” beauty brands. So, how is the industry responding? There’s a shift of focus on product lines and brand marketing strategies that appeal to men’s sense of necessity – offering products that are convenient, multi-functional, and easy to wear. According to manufacturers at Happi, “men want basic items with real benefits, and tend to shy away from products perceived to be pampering – they want something that is unique to their masculinity.”

Brands are clearly gaining traction as this category grows at exponential rates. According to Global Industry Analysts “the global male grooming products industry is expected to generate more than $33 billion in revenue by 2015, and will continue to drive expansion in the wider global cosmetics market.” Already demonstrating great promise for new category players, are early adopter brands like Anthony and Jack Black, who identified this trend over a decade ago.

There is strong brand advocacy for male grooming products as well. Male-oriented lifestyle magazines, such as Maxim, GQ and Esquire, are touting the benefits of skin and hair care regimens. We’re seeing male role models, such as entertainers and athletes, using these products. There are numerous online product sites such as the Grooming Lounge that enhance the users experience by offering men a forum to comfortably seek and share personal care advice. And, women’s beauty sites like Sephora have dedicated sections exclusively for men’s products.

As we can see, opportunity and interest to engage this consumer is growing and the brands that establish a strong product positioning and place in men’s lives – delivering products that meet their unique lifestyle needs – will be at the forefront. We will continue to observe the men’s personal care category, as it is a natural extension of our beauty care marketing expertise. If you have anything to additional to share, I welcome your comments.

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Here’s an example of leisure marketers creating new customer value – as hospitality brands roll out new and more varied options for health and fitness on-the-go. For both guest and hotel, it’s a win-win proposition. For business travelers, it fills a need to re-energize in the midst of high-pressure road trips. For hoteliers, it’s a way to create more value and boost guest satisfaction at what can be low incremental cost.

Multiple hotel brands (e.g. Kimpton, Affinia, Peninsula, etc.) are centering their “healthier” offering around the increasing popularity of yoga, as noted earlier this month in the article A Moment of Zen, on the Go. Acccording to a recent study released by Yoga Journal, Americans practicing yoga jumped 29%, to 20.4 million — or 8.7% of American adults — since the previous study in 2008, when 15.8 million practiced.

The newest “healthy travel” hotel is International Hotels Group Even, which is scheduled to open its first hotel this year, with a target of 100 hotels in five years. Designed to make wellness a natural part of travel, amenities will include fitness that extends beyond the best-in-class gym to in-room workout spaces with exercise equipment available for checkout, spa-like showers, hypoallergenic linens, healthier food options, signature flavored and filtered drinking water, among others.

We see this same health trend in two of the verticals in which we specialize. For our healthcare marketing clients, consumer interest in pursuing healthier lifestyles and a higher quality of wellbeing is leading them toward “well care vs. sick care” strategies. And in the seemingly very different world of beauty marketing, health benefits are even finding their way into nails and nail care.

There’s a common thread here of consumers increasingly seeking health and wellness (quality of life) through the way they live, shop and use brands. As such, we see a strong opportunity for marketers to integrate a health and wellness idea and to drive growth by executing programs and tailoring messages that relate to the type of health and wellness-seeking consumer their brand speaks to.

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Pew Internet just released their new nationwide study – Health Online 2013.

When you get past the more obvious things like 81% of US adults use the internet and 59% say they’ve looked online for health information in the past year, there’s some good actionable learning for healthcare marketers to integrate into their planning. Some highlights include:

1. In the past year, 55% of internet users have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. Pew refers to this segment as “online diagnosers.”

2. Nearly half (46%) of these people felt that the information found online led them to think they needed the attention of a medical professional.

3. Nearly 8 out of 10 health inquiries (who Pew refers to as “health seekers”) started at a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. This trend has remained steady since Pew’s first study in 2000.

4. The social life of health information is reflected in the fact that 26% say they read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months.

5. But among people looking for health advice, traditional offline conversation with clinicians remains high. 70% of U.S. adults got information, care, or support from a doctor or other health care professional.

I think there’s good information here for healthcare marketers to takeaway for consideration. Some of these include: how to create more value through your marketing, where your online efforts might be focused, how patients might access service lines, how to connect prospective patients and physicians and even for creating potential partnerships and affiliations.

Hope you find some good thought-starters here.

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