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In case you didn’t see it, here’s a good article on HealthLeaders Media – 5 Resolutions Every Hospital Marketer Should Make in 2015 – written by Marianne Aiello.

She looks back at some of the strongest hospital marketing initiatives accomplished in the past 12 months and translates those into resolutions that will help marketers strive for an even stronger 2015.

The five resolutions (with supporting examples from 2014) include:

1. Become more agile…by responding to what your audience is captivated by or concerned about in the current moment.

2. Prioritize social media…as if it were as important as a rebranding or a service line campaign.

3. Get back to basics with content…using it as the cornerstone for all marketing efforts.

4. Consider opportunities outside of the hospital…reaching out to patients beyond traditional walls.

5. Reimagine the patient experience…finding new ways to make patients feel cared for and at ease.

If I had to prioritize, I’d say the idea of patient experience – is the most important. But it goes beyond finding ways to make patients feel cared for and at ease. Because their experience starts way before they become patients and way after they leave the hospital. And they don’t draw a line between, or compartmentalize, these experiences. Every touch point contributes to, or doesn’t, a seamless, delighting and compelling brand experience.

So maybe there should be another resolution added to this list:

6. Think more broadly about patient experience as customer brand experience – cultivating the relationship between customers and your organization along their entire journey, and which encompasses every interaction they have with your healthcare system, hospital and offerings. And if orchestrated right, then gives you the ability to reimagine their patient experience.

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I just finished reading Great By Choice by Jim Collins (author of Good To Great) and Morten T. Hansen.

Here’s the last paragraph of the Epilogue:

We are not imprisoned by our circumstances. We are not imprisoned by the luck we get or the inherent unfairness of life. We are not imprisoned by crushing setbacks, self-inflicted mistakes or our past success. We are not imprisoned by the times in which we live, by the number of hours in a day or even the number of hours we’re granted in our very short lives. In the end, we can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice.

If you’re in a position to impact or influence the company you work for, I’d highly recommend the book.

Here’s to being great by choice in 2015!

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The future of healthcare marketing doesn’t merely promise better things, but gives people the things they need to better their lives

• things that create meaningful interaction and experiences that leave people not just satisfied (merely baseline today), but emotionally gratified and enriched

• which then spark conversation and word-of-mouth

• which is a recognized predictor for growth

Key is to create stuff that your customers love to talk about rather than what you love to talk about.

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I stumbled upon this presentation from Stanley Hainsworth, former VP global creative at Starbucks and now Founder and CCO of Tether, a creative agency based in Seattle WA.

I don’t know the specific reason why it was created, but it’s actually a good template for how to create a uniquely ownable brand. Track through the presentation and it will prompt you to consider your:

– back story
– narrative
– rituals
– relationships
– value proposition
– values
– products
– communication
– icons
– sensory cues

…all the elements that together add up to creating an indelible brand footprint, cohesive expression…

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…and a uniquely branded experience.

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I’d suggest that you bookmark this presentation.

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We always travel to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Who I adore by the way:)

And just like you can’t take the boy out of the man, you can’t take the passion and curiosity about brand out of a brand guy. I love cataloguing my brand experiences over this holiday. It’s a pretty stressful time and it’s crowded everywhere, so I like to see how brands hold up under pressure.

So, here’s my list of my most memorable brand experiences, including those whose experiences deliver on their promises (who I will name), and those that don’t (who I won’t name, as it is the holiday season).

Do Deliver

1. Amazon: Their customer service is tops, as you’d expect from an organization that strives to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. We had to return two items over the course of the week, and as always, immediate refund, no questions asked. And love that you can speak to someone live or via chat at the hit of a button.

2. JCrew: We went for the style, purchased a great suit for our son who needed it right away for a special occasion (at a wonderful holiday discount), and left delighted as they offered to tailor and have it back to him in two days (on Black Friday).

3. Raceway Gasoline: Who proclaim “Are You Tired of Overpaying for Gasoline.” I stopped by twice with my father in-law over the course of five days. It was later in the evening, and I really wanted a cup of coffee. After filling up the car, I went for my coffee. On both occasions, the gentleman behind the counter said “don’t worry about.” A small gesture, maybe. But I’m now a Raceway fan!

Don’t Deliver

1. The discount airline that boasts cheap tickets, cheap flights, cheap travel. But to now charge for the plastic cup of water on the flight. Well, that’s a bit too cheap.

2. The national coffee chain (not Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts) whose “express service” at Ft. Lauderdale airport doesn’t have any milk for coffee, but only those little creamers.

3. The airport (which happens to be in Newark NJ) that still charges for public WIFI access.

4. The yogurt shop in Del Ray Beach that refused to give a customer more sprinkles after they fumbled with the cup while removing it from the counter, claiming “it wasn’t our fault.”

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When it comes to benevolence and building brand trust, there’s an important difference (for today’s customers who are looking beyond traditional brand benefits) between brands that just write the check vs. those that authentically demonstrate their commitment.

Personal care brand Philosophy is doing both. It’s making mental health its marketing cornerstone through its Hope & Grace initiative, and helping in its own way, to actively support and help solve the problem.

You can read the Ad Age article announcing the initiative here.

Efforts include:

• Making an open-ended commitment of donating 1% of all U.S. sales to mental health, which Philosophy believes fits with its heritage of its optimistic messaging. This dovetails, as of 2015, with the relaunch of the brand’s flagship product, Hope in a Jar, as Hope Renewed.

• Making the mental-health initiative a cornerstone of all brand marketing for years to come. Philosophy is also creating unbranded TV public-service announcements for the effort, and may take to TV with branded efforts as well, says Coty Skincare CMO Jill Scalamandre.

• Ultimately, expanding overseas, and hoping to raise more than $10 million for mental health over the next five years alone.

• Parent company Coty joining with the non-profit New Venture Fund to oversee the program, screen applications and award grants averaging $25,000 to community organizations. Ms. Scalamandre expects the process – both the applications and awards – to help build social-media awareness of the program, too.

But why mental health? Ms. Scalamandre said the beauty industry has focused mainly on breast and ovarian cancer and that mental health has a stigma she believes has kept marketers away. “Our role at Philosophy is to break the stigma, to be advocates and not be ashamed.” She also wanted to go beyond other cause programs dedicated to a single product, month or time of year. As we looked at our core consumer, the mental-health space just came out as a natural place for Philosophy to be and own.”

One in four women suffer some form of mental health problem, she said, “a spectrum of anything from depression and anxiety to a traumatic life event that triggers acute depression, to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.”

Here’s the video introducing the Hope & Grace initiative.

The better a brand brings its societal purpose to life through its everyday operations, the more successful both business and social impact will be (Edelman Purpose study). As such, this program is a win-win as it strengthens Philosophy consumers, company and brand.

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As a longstanding Bloomingdales “Loyalist” (enrolled in their loyalty program), I thought I was being recognized for my years of brand dedication, not to mention financial commitment. It was also my card of choice for everyday purchases. So wasn’t this program designed to reward my tenure as a brand devotee as well as my contributions to building the value of the Bloomingdales brand?

Wasn’t this relationship a two-way street.  I promoted “Loyalist”, referred friends and family, frequented events, engaged socially, and participated in online promotions. I was even on a first name basis with several sales associates. And for my years of loyalty, I was rewarded with key benefits – one of which was unlimited complimentary gift-wrap. Now this may not sound important, but to me it provided much needed relief from this dreaded chore. Always time starved, this extra was meaningful to me.

I soon learned that ‘brand loyalty’ was one sided. After a visit to ‘my’ store to buy some early holiday gifts, my wonderful sales associate offered to wrap my gifts – free of charge of course – ready for pick-up. Pressed for time yet again, Bloomies pulled through. However, my bubble was soon burst after I learned from a call to customer service, “as one of their most valued customers”, that I no longer qualified for ‘top of the list’ (their term, not mine) loyalist status.

Without being notified, my spending over the course of this year at Bloomies was not enough to maintain my premier card and benefits. So Bloomies loyalty to me only really amounted to me spending enough money each year – despite my many YEARS of brand loyalty (and my first year of spending under this threshold).  And I learned about my ‘demotion’ in status through a random call on an unrelated inquiry. I felt let down. Used. Like I’d been dumped.

So what can brand marketers learn from this experience?

1. You know how hard it is to build brand loyalty, let alone advocacy. You fight this fight every day. So don’t destroy it through one short-sighted action, or inaction for that matter. We’re your most precious assets and some of us, like me, are (were) your biggest brand advocates.

2. Brand loyalty should be recognized beyond simple spending levels. There are many other dimensions that constitute value to an organization (like our advocacy and engagement), and these should be factored into the loyalty equation.

3. Brands talk about the importance of building relationships. On being on a path with customers of increasing co-involvement and value-building – with the end goal of true engagement. We refer to this as Customer Engagement Trajectory. But this needs to be a two-way street.

A note to healthcare marketers. It seems healthcare practices and providers can take a page out of the retailing ‘brand loyalty’ handbook (the good parts) and start to think of customers (and patients) as brand ambassadors with the power to advocate for your brand. Further, why not establish a recognition and reward program to let your patients know that you genuinely appreciate their business, their referrals, their family’s devotion…and more.

With today’s growing use of CRM (customer relationship management) in healthcare, the foundation is there to learn more about your customers, personalize what you offer them, and recognize them for their continued contribution to your organization in the form of ongoing and continued business. But remember, loyalty – and true engagement (with a stronger correlation to ROI, revenue and profitability) is a two way street!

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