Feb
11

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We came across this special little piece from JuE Wong, CEO of StriVectin skin care, in the February issue of More Magazine.

Beyond JuE’s intimate glimpse into her life – it indirectly puts a genuine, human and honest face on a skin care brand that is vying for attention, share and loyalty amidst hundreds of others. While we know that this is not its intent, it does go a long way for consumers desiring real, authentic stories that intersect with their lives and who share similar values and beliefs.

It’s also another touch point in someone’s customer journey that indirectly distinguishes StriVectin in this very crowded category. At the same time, we think it’s a wonderful signal to company employees and associates that they work for a company surrounded by a culture – starting from the top – filled with empathy and relevance.

Thank you for sharing a piece of yourself JuE.

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Feb
09

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The good old days of healthcare system and hospital branding and marketing are over. How will you survive and thrive in the new paradigm?

Competition is no longer just down the street, nor limited to the traditional confines of healthcare. Boundary lines have been redrawn, and national retail pharmacy brands, big-box retailers and both established and new technology companies all want a piece of the action.

At the same time, proactive consumers have replaced passive patients. No longer tied to the hip of their physician, they have choices, information, resources and technology tools – an entire ecosystem of health and wellness resources to take more control over their health. And, complements of the Affordable Care Act, there are more than 30 million new consumers who’ve entered the market for healthcare services.

Healthcare is in the midst of disruption. It’s being pushed, pulled and morphing into a health market that crosses multiple verticals and demographics, intersects consumers looking to get well, stay well and play well and moving to a model of value-based care.

Where it stops nobody really knows. But everyone knows that the traditional model is on borrowed time. Oliver Wyman, in their report titled the Patient-To-Consumer Revolution, refer to “Health Market 2.0 as a space where new kinds of companies offer combinations of services never seen before, redrawing industry lines and engaging consumers in new ways.”

But even within this fluid environment, there’s one thing that no competitor, no matter how well resourced they are, can take from you. That is, they can’t stake a claim to your brand ideas – who you are, what you believe and why people should care.

It’s our belief that healthcare systems and hospitals must seize the opportunity to take their place at the new “health and wellness” table by taking control of their brands. It’s the one asset that is sustainable into the future – regardless of business model – and the one asset that in the midst of the rise of consumerism and more empowered consumers, is at the heart of your relationships.

Five implications for healthcare system and hospital leaders are as follows:

1. Who you are is beyond what you deliver. What you deliver looks much the same to the outside world and doesn’t distinguish you from others. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, Nike and Converse, Virgin and United – all similar in their offerings, but your mind and heart quickly gravitate to one brand promise or the other. Same for your hospital vs. the one on the other side of town? Or how about vs. the retail pharmacy and its health partner down the street (a la Rite-Aid’s Health Alliance Program)? What you deliver can be ripped off tomorrow. Bravely declaring who you are is sustainable, distinguishable and pulls people towards you.

2. Demonstrate brand beliefs . How you behave in the world – and in your new consumer-oriented health vs. healthcare market – is becoming increasingly important. Create easy linkages to your brand by becoming more relevant to people’s everyday lives – engaging them in their own health and empowering them by making health and wellness easy and personalized anywhere and all the time. While some traditional healthcare services might be shrinking, the demands of “health 2.0″ communities will still be as great as they’ve been in the past. Use your muscle to find your organization’s soul, its authentic purpose, and creatively express that in actions as well as communications.

3. Bring mobile/social front and center. Your customers increasingly rely on a mobile device (be it smartphone or tablet) as their first screen, their doorway into your healthcare system or hospital and as means to manage their own health. As a result, they’re expecting better, more personalized, real-time experiences. Their journey with your healthcare brand must take into account mobile (which is really digital, social and search all wrapped up in one) as an integral part of their lifestyle. More about mobile here.

4. Create a seamless brand experience. Customers shouldn’t be burdened by the artificial barriers that exist between your services, departments and channels. How can your brand truly live up to its potential (and how can it help people live up to their potential) when its interactions are artificially siloed. The more you can get over your own infrastructures, the more value you can provide, and the more loyalty, engagement and advocacy you’ll gain as a result.

5. Look outside your immediate industry. No longer can you meaningfully benchmark your organization against other healthcare systems and hospitals. Because your competitive set has drastically expanded. And customer expectations have followed suit. Just because you’re in “healthcare”, doesn’t mean customers compartmentalize their healthcare experience from outside industry experiences. What they get from Open Table, Amazon, Southwest, et al, they expect from you. “Brand experience” is “brand experience”, irrespective of category.

Regardless of how “healthcare” shakes out, one thing is certain. It will. It’s up to you whether your brand has a seat at the table.

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Jan
30

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It’s not hard to imagine that at some point in the future, customers (formerly known as patients) might have a mobile-only relationship with your healthcare system or hospital brand.

The numbers bear out this possibility. Consider that between 2010 and 2013, time spent on smartphones more than tripled, while time spent on tablets increased tenfold. By 2020, 80% of adults in the world will own a smartphone.

But even today, your healthcare system or hospital customers increasingly rely on a mobile device (be it smartphone or tablet) as their first screen. This is happening at the same time as the traditional b2b nature of the industry is quickly moving to a b2c model and customers are expecting better, more personalized experiences. As a result, their journey with your healthcare brand must take into account mobile as an integral part of their lifestyle.

If your healthcare system or hospital isn’t leveraging mobile as an integral part of your brand experience strategy, you’re out of sync with customers and prospects. Consider too that mobile is not just another channel, it’s digital, search and social, all wrapped into one.

Here are five ways your healthcare system or hospital can begin to optimize value for consumers through mobile:

1. Responsive website design. At a bare minimum, customers, who have a mobile device within reach 24 hours a day, expect your website to be responsive and work on their phones. If you’re not providing a mobile-friendly experience, they’ll bounce off your site and visit a competitor who is just a click away. More about responsive web design on this previous post.

2. Holistic strategy. Because mobile really is digital, search and social all rolled into one, approach mobile strategy as a fully integrated experience. Not just as a “bolt-on” to current digital initiatives or campaigns, but a mobile-optimized end-to-end customer engagement strategy that recognizes the channel as integral to how customers live their lives.

3. Map the customer journey. Consider how customers want information, when they want it and where they want it. Without understanding their mobile behaviors, it’s impossible to develop a meaningful strategy that aligns with their expectations for relevant, connected and personalized experiences in real time. Remember also, that competitive alternatives are just a click away.

4. Coordinate internally. Customers don’t see departments, they see a borderless brand and want a consistent brand experience. The walls between Cardiac, Oncology and Orthopedics, for example, are of no concern to them. There must be a centralized team internally that coordinates across departments to deliver a seamless and optimized mobile experience.

5. Look at other categories. There’s a lot to be learned from outside industries, based on thinking about how you can differentiate yourself by creating an optimal customer experience. Case in point, Intuit’s Director of Development Mitch Bayersdorfer talks about Intuit’s approach to finding their mobile “sweet spot.” It’s a Venn diagram of three elements around the art of what’s possible based on customer needs, business priorities and device capabilities. “We keep a laser focus on that intersection.”

In the midst of so much disruption, healthcare system and hospital leaders and marketers must be asking “how can we provide the best customer experience and how can we differentiate ourselves from competition”? Mobile is an imperative, as customers’ increasingly expect relevant, connected and personalized experiences in real time – which leads to greater engagement, satisfaction and advocacy.

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Jan
21

Andy Council
It’s our belief that to thrive in the future, healthcare system and hospital brands need to think, act and compete like consumer brands. While in the past, providers were able to be driven by what was best for them, future success calls for rising to the challenge of delivering what’s best for a more empowered, demanding and proactive customer (more appropriate language than patient).

Along these lines, here’s a provocative article by Wendy Leebov on Hospitals & Health Networks Daily website – How Choosing Our Words Carefully Can Drive Change in Health Care.

Her thesis is that vocabulary affects our mindset, and that the words we choose to use influence our aspirations, our imaginations, our strategies and our results. She asks us to consider words like…

customer, client, patient, person…
care for, help, serve, engage, partner, advise…
patient-centered, relationship-centered, person-focused, patient-driven

Along with these pet peeves, among others (which reinforce the perception of a power differential between provider and customer)…

compliance, discharge plan, difficult patient…

She ends her article by saying that we need to heighten our self-consciousness about the words we use and intentionally choose words that move us in the direction we want. It’s a matter of aligning our language with our health care system of the future, not the past.

It’s an important idea given that the successful health care system (or hospital, or physician group) of the future must traverse around a consumer whose got the power to choose whether they want to be a customer, or not.

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Jan
20

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For most people, the extent of the time they think about names doesn’t go much beyond life’s special occasions, e.g. when you looked at your newborn son or daughter for the first time, or when you brought a new kitten or puppy home for the kids.

But if you’re even “loosely” in the branding or marketing business, life is full of special occasions. You’re launching, or evolving the name of, your organization. You’re introducing a new product or service. You’re merging your organization or product or service lines into another one. Regardless of the reason, your name is probably the most important intangible element of a successful brand.

Here’s why:

• similar to your kids (and kittens and puppies) a name is the one element you never hope to change
• it begins every conversation and captures every single penny of your marketing investment
• the more distinctive it is, the more powerful your intellectual property rights
• a powerful name is the springboard to other new launches
• it serves to create competitive space and distinctive associations between you and others
• it shortcuts the decision-making process for customers

There’s always a lot riding on new brand name success. At the same time, the process continues to become more difficult, given the vast number of names that are submitted for trademark application each and every day.

Here are five tips for getting it right:

1. Think about it early in your development process. You’d never approach product development or even a marketing campaign without a detailed plan of timing and events. Naming is no different. It requires discovery, creativity and analysis, typically multiple rounds of work, check points, buy-in from different audiences and time on the back-end for trademark search and opinion.

2. Begin with an approved brief. In the best of times, naming can become a very subjective process. So objectify it as much as possible by developing a naming brief for client approval that includes target audience profiles, naming considerations (short-term, longer-term), criteria (distinctiveness, brevity, appropriateness, extendability, etc.), strategic approaches (i.e. descriptive, suggestive, coined, arbitrary), linguistic considerations, competitive set, mandatories (e.g. URL availability), etc.

3. Speaking of URL availability, consider it early-on. Chances are, your favorite name might not be available as a URL. Which means you need a derivation of the name (which complicates search), or another name entirely.

4. Brainstorm far and wide. This is the time to imaginatively stretch. You typically need to brainstorm a very long list, using different starting points as concept springboards, to generate just a few potential “first-pass” candidates. As starting points, think about attributes, functional and emotional benefits, outcomes and target audience characteristics, to name just a few.

5. There’s more than one way to present names. It would be nirvana to present a shortlist of names (in 18 point black helvetica type) to a senior leadership team and have them agree that “strategically this is the right name for our…”. But nirvana is not reality. Think about your audience. Where are they coming from in regard to the name? What’s their expectation? What’s the most impactful way to share names with them? Maybe it’s an ad, the cover of an annual report or a mock-up of a package. As in all presentations, it’s all about engaging your audience on their terms.

Certainly, there’s more to a successful process and naming program beyond these five steps. But these will provide you with a good start to developing stand-out names that your audiences relate to, believe in, take pride in and become loyal to.

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Jan
12

There’s a lot of talk these days about “agile brands.” These are brands that are quick on their feet and able to meet consumers on their terms – wherever, whenever and however they want.

But agile brands only get that way with agile and brave brand marketers at the helm. These are marketers who share three characteristics:

1. perpetually seeking new ways to deliver value and ensure relevance, while guided by an enduring promise

2. know that the customer experience needs to be at the center of their universe and that the idea of brand experience is bigger than marketing, spans functions and divisions and before and after actual purchase and usage

3. are able to let go of long-held habits and practices of controlling the creation, growth and management of a brand from the inside-out; and who realize that brand-building is now a two-way street

Ultimately, agile brands get that way as a result of agile and brave brand marketers who take a truly integrated, shared and open approach to building brands.

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Jan
05

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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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Dec
30

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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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Dec
29

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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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Dec
10

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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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