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In yet another mash-up of categories, designer Tory Burch has partnered with fitness-tracker brand Fitbit to introduce a Tory Burch for Fitbit accessories collection.

James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit stated that “from day one, we’ve known that the form factor is crucial to creating a health and fitness device that will fit into people’s lifestyles and become truly wearable.”  And isn’t this what it’s all about – finding fresh points of relevancy to make a bigger difference in people’s daily lives. 

Here are a four other lessons learned we should takeaway about this partnership:

1. Marketing must work from the outside in – by starting with the customer, their world and their needs. And then building your brand around them.

2. Traditional category definitions make little sense any more – as boundaries continue to blur.

3. There are always new ways to stand out and be profitable – even in crowded markets like fashion and health.

4. Either disrupt or be disrupted.

I wonder who’ll be the first mens fashion designer to partner with Fitbit?


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Good article – The Wisdom of Marketing to Aging Boomers – on thefiscaltimes.com.

More hard evidence on why marketing to boomers makes good business sense:

1. By 2017, Americans 65+ will control 70% of the disposable income in this country.

2. These same millions of people are today responsible for at least $7.1 trillion in annual economic activity, which is expected to grow to over $13.5 trillion in real terms by 2032.

In fact, S&P’s 2010 Global Aging Report states that no other force is likely to shape the future of national public health, public finances and policymaking as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.”

Particularly in sectors such as travel, technology, health care, consumer goods, telecom and housing, the smart money’s on strategic investments in a boomer market. But to unlock their potential, here are  four things to keep in mind:

1. The Baby Boomers are not one homogeneous group. Some still have kids in the house, while others are empty nesters and grandparents. Some are in their prime earning years, while others are building a second or third career or retired. Make sure you understand the exact nature of your target segment.

2. Boomers are actively fighting the aging process through every means possible. They want to maintain their edge and look and feel as good as they possible can at their given age. As such, they’re drawn to products, stories and experiences that promise and deliver overall wellness and anti-aging (though we prefer “pro-aging”) benefits.

3. The bigger opportunity is beyond just better communication to boomers. While an important tool in your arsenal, the physiological impact of aging on boomers means that you should be thinking holistically about how to shape and deliver your offerings.

4. The orientation boomers have about their current life stage is about living, not aging – about seeing opportunity everywhere, seeking ways to enrich their lives themselves, pursuing a continuing desire to grow, learn and discover. About “what’s next.”

If you have questions about how to align with and grow your fair share of this “booming” market, let’s talk.



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Big insights, ideas and lessons learned can (should) always be found by looking outside our categories.

Case in point for healthcare marketers, here’s a good article from the President and CEO of Heineken on fastcompany.com – How Heineken Discovered Its Niche In An Overcrowded Market.

If you don’t have time to read the article (though you should), here are five very relevant takeaways:

1. To find out what’s happening in the beer (healthcare) market today, you have to look beyond beer (healthcare) to what people are buying and how they make their buying decisions in the market at large. You’ll discover two major forces.

2. One of the forces is the acceleration of innovation and consumers demanding new choices in every part of their lives. The other is that brand overexposure has turned consumers into skeptics and they use technology, including social media, to inform themselves and decide what’s really important to them.

3. To deal with this new reality, find out what really resonates with consumers beyond what you’re selling. In this environment, successful brands stay relevant by building meaningful relationships with their customers. They’ve focused especially on two questions: Who are our consumers and what do they want?

4. Align consumers with the brand by identifying a number of needs a consumer has when he or she is buying an alcoholic beverage (healthcare). For Heineken, consumers fell into two distinct categories. Both were relevant, but one fit perfectly with Heineken USA’s portfolio.

5. In everything we do, says President and CEO Dolf van den Brink, we then strive to carry out our ethos.

Relevant, right?


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What is it that makes one healthcare brand stand out more than another?

Let’s assume for a moment that your neighboring healthcare systems and hospitals focus on the same service lines, deliver similar outcomes, possess equal technology prowess and amass the same number of awards.  So beyond the 90% of your business which is similar to others – what’s the 10% that makes your organization unique, gets people to notice and compels them to take action? Which then becomes much more important than the other 90%.

The 10% is about creating a strong and compelling brand that has the power to engage, align and motivate action by tapping into what really matters to customers. Both inside and outside of your organization.  Here are three ideas for making sure your 10% shines:

1. Step Beyond Your Category. No one ever said you need to play by the same rules as everyone else. Look to brands in other categories who broke away, e.g. Swatch, who approached time pieces as fashion statements; Dove, which reframed beauty; Old Spice, who got us to take notice and talk about deodorant; and Citibank, who launched Citibikes and reinforced their community commitment beyond what their words ever could.

2. Find The Big Idea That Defines You.  A big, higher-order idea that stands out from the crowd, reflects customer aspirations and is essential to their lives. Because brands are really about people, not products. About your customers, not your company.

3. Keep Moving. Don’t let your relationships get stale. Just like with our personal relationships, you need to keep evolving, surprising and delighting. Staying different. Delivering value in new and unexpected ways. Remembering that a brand is not a place, it’s a direction.

What’s your 10%?

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Your traditional industry boundaries have dissolved.

Sure you’re competing with other service area healthcare systems and hospitals.  And new “health” care providers – both real and virtual – like Walgreens (Healthcare Clinic), Nike (Fuelband), Apple (HealthKit)  and the many other technologies that put your health at your fingertips.

But from your customer’s perspective, your traditional health care playing field has become leveled. Everyone’s got the awards, the technology, the best docs. Separate from the “best’s-in-class” (e.g. the Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s of their specialties), quality has been commoditized and stripped away traditional sources of differentiation.

So how to stand out and stand apart?

1. Think like your customer. Who doesn’t compartmentalize their experiences by industry. They want the same time saving advantages of Amazon’s one-click.  The same “happiness” they get from Zappos and Southwest Airlines. The same personalized experience they get when they visit the Mac genius bar.

2. Map your customer experience journey. Which begins before a prospective patient ever picks up the phone or steps into your facilities.  Then, take the necessary steps to create more customer value across all your channels – by enhancing, doing away with or creating new interactions.

3. Change your competitive lens. Realize that you’re no longer competing with fellow traditional providers. Because customers are comparing you to companies like Amazon, USAA, Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom – who are known for their customer centricity.

How does your customer experience stack up?





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Recently, I attended a fantastic webinar on healthcare innovation featuring speaker Dr. Sam Basta, Sentara Healthcare, who gave an overview/analysis of the new technologies and innovative healthcare systems that are changing the way healthcare is being delivered. As Dr. Basta points out, technology is moving at an unprecedented pace, drastically changing the healthcare landscape. Some notable insights from his presentation include:

  • Sensors and Consumer Technology (like Nike+ Fuelbands and Apple HealthKit): Consumers are now able to track health data such as blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol, measurements traditionally taken by physicians as basis for diagnosis or treatment. Now, consumers are able to to generate data daily and very easily, empowering them to make their own health decisions.
  • AliveCor Heart Monitor: In the past, care for heart conditions meant inconvenient and frequent trips to the doctor’s office in an effort to capture abnormal activity, sometimes with fruitless results. However, with AliveCor over the counter heart monitoring device, anyone can easily collect health data on a daily basis and with the touch of a button, send abnormal activity directly to their physician for analysis – saving a visit to the office, not to mention precious moments that could mean saving a life.
  • Google Glass: Surgeons have the ability to see a patient’s x-rays or CT scans as they’re operating – no need for interaction with computers which can lead to infections.
  • Mayo Clinic: In the near future, this forward thinking healthcare organization will roll-out with a mobile app and monthly service subscription. For $49 a month, consumers can have access to Mayo Clinic nurses – ask them about symptoms they’re experiencing or ask any health questions/concerns.
  • Walgreens Clinic and Theranos Blood Testing: As it stands, getting blood work done requires a trip to the doctor’s office, followed by another trip to the lab where a technician then pokes around for a viable vein to draw blood, the results of which may take another 3-7 days to reach the doctor’s office, requiring yet another trip to review results. Whew! Enter Theranos blood test technology, now available at select Walgreens. With the prick of a finger, blood tests can be conducted and results received within the same day for a fraction of the cost of typical blood tests.

Advanced healthcare technology provides great opportunity for consumers/patients and providers alike. The ability for consumers to capture their own health data and consult online health resources, empowers them to manage their own health and gives them the knowledge they need to make better informed decisions (regarding health services or treatments).

This also means that providers will need to differentiate themselves, so that they may appeal to the educated consumer who is better able to manage their own health and stay well. The opportunity for providers here is to stay abreast of and utilize new instruments that may help patients save time/money (i.e. such as the AliveCor Heart Monitor; by saving the patient time from having to make an appointment/visit, the physician also saves time and can utilize it to see other patients or “see” multiple patients virtually) and to find new ways of providing service (i.e. the way Mayo Clinic will now be able to reach consumers in far away places). As providers head down the path to Population Health Management, technological advancements along with some creative thinking will serve to benefit everyone.

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At the recent annual Business Marketing Association meeting, GE CMO Beth Comstock spoke about the importance of telling the story of their brand to create more long-term value and to drive sales.

Three key points from her talk about b-to-b marketing (very relevant to healthcare marketing):

1. It’s important to have a strong brand and communicate who you are to connect with people first.

2. You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.

3. Marketing executives also need to build understanding and forge bonds with other parts of their companies to create value from the inside-out.

You can read the story here on Ad Age.com.

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Imagine a world where consumers (not patients) can purchase their healthcare the way they do their consumer products – across a variety of “retail” channels.  And similar to consumer products, many (usually way too many) brands are fighting for attention across more devices and networks.

So in the context of this environment, what’s the big idea that defines, and distinguishes, your brand? Or, similar to the fate of many consumer products, will your healthcare brand descend into comparative advertising and everyday low prices with consumers therefore looking for the best deal (e.g. Cleanse your body, not your wallet. Get 15% off every Thursday at The Colonscopy Center *). This “commoditization” signals the beginning of the end for a brand.

Creativity is the only way to break through the clutter. And real creativity is not guided by rational prompts. It’s not about more da Vinci’s, more five star awards or even better doctors or nurses – because unfortunately, everyone is promoting the same things. Rather, breaking through the noise is about thinking and acting differently.

At the end of the day, regardless of all the different models that exist of a “brand”, what they all have in common is that they address these four questions:

1. why do you exist (a compelling purpose that really matters to people)
2. what do you do for people (how does your product or service solve a particular challenge)
3. how do you make them feel (beyond obvious product or sector-related benefits in ways that reflect their aspirations)
4. how do you do it differently (to cut through the competitive noise; or at least in your “traditional’ service areas)

Across every category, even “supposed commodity types” like cement and water (remember when water was just a commodity), there are brands that create real differentiation by declaring and demonstrating a higher purpose and by being more essential to people’s lives. Healthcare is no different.

* for the record, my (thankfully) fictional line

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A Tribute to Women During Women’s Health Awareness Week


As healthcare marketers we know that women age 35-64 make 80% of the healthcare decisions in their household, and that they utilize health services more frequently than their male counterparts. Source:  US Department of Labor. Women are more likely to choose healthcare providers, schedule doctor’s appointments, and make medical decisions for their entire family.

For years this segment of female consumers has been a coveted source in the healthcare arena and their continued influence has grown beyond what one would consider “traditional” healthcare – extending to an overall, proactive approach to healthy living and wellbeing. Despite shifts in lifestyle and household composition, e.g. single parent households, mixed marriages, etc., these female influencers still have strong footing and continue to build traction. So why has their influence remained so powerful and how can brands continue to connect with them?

Women A Growing Population. A recent Mintel report demonstrated that women make up slightly more than half (50.8%) of the US population, and with the general population aging, it’s expected that women age 65-74 (Boomer+) will grow by 21.2% from 2013-2018.  Moreover, the World Health Organization has reported that the life expectancy for women over the age of 50 is growing and, on average, women live longer than men. The result, an increase in demand for healthy aging solutions and care that addresses midlife and geriatric health needs including, comprehensive ambulatory services with preventive health, routine health screenings, and specialty care.

Engaging in Healthy Habits. Women realize that with a longer life expectancy, they will be faced with a variety of health concerns ranging from reproductive health, to bone health, to weight management, most likely prompting their decision to be more proactive about their healthy living choices and to support their interest in healthy aging. In fact, a recent Mintel report showed that women engage in more healthy habits than men, including exercise and healthy eating. Furthermore, women are more likely to use vitamins, minerals and supplements, with 54% of US women taking them regularly and demonstrating increased usage with age. Our government even plays a role in encouraging a proactive approach to health – with the Affordable Care Act, an annual well-woman visit is now considered a preventive service and covered by most health plans at no cost.

Building Brand Connection For Generations to Come. It is clear that women will continue to demonstrate their commitment to preventive health and their influence will extend beyond their own healthcare needs. Women instinctively have a need to be healthy and well for themselves and for the people in their lives – 82% of women believe there will be negative consequences if they don’t.

And, brands should take notice, with over two-thirds of women citing that brand preferences are influenced by those brands that motivate them to be healthy.  So… the brands that genuinely speak to a woman’s internal motivations, inspiring them through the functional and emotional benefits of the brand vs. external expectations, the “shoulds” and societal standards, will build lasting connections. Today’s woman has a different attitude about health and wellness – women are seeking brands that motivate them to be healthy and well, those that not only impact them but generations to follow. Brands should dig deeper, beyond base level definitions and understandings, to decipher the nuances that will motivate women to believe in their brands.

Remember, National Women’s Health Awareness Week is May 11-17. Pledge to be well, show your support and don’t forget (or, remind a loved one) to schedule a well-women visit today.

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In today’s sound byte world, where attention and time are both very limited, infographics are the go to way for a brand to cut through the noise, capture the eye and get a message or perspective delivered.

But are your infographics all they can be? View this infographic for 6 quick keys to success.




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