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Crumpleitup is Humana’s consumer innovation team, a group within the company dedicated to building a healthier world with innovative thinking. As they say on their About Us page, we realize it’s not always easy to eat right and exercise regularly. So, we’re putting our heads together to come up with creative ways to help people be healthy while having fun.

I’m a big fan of this initiative for a number of reasons:

1. Changing the game. Humana’s changing the basis of competition, from a reactive payer to a proactive provider of products that create new and greater value for customers and company.

2. Differentiation. It helps the organization stand apart within a largely undifferentiated category of healthcare providers.

3. Deeds vs. words. Rather than campaigning about themselves or merely talking about the benefits of being healthy, the organization’s actually covering the backs of its members by helping them be healthier.

4. Promise. They [over] deliver on their promise of Guidance when you need it most.

5. Humanizing the Company. This group puts a human and approachable face on the organization.

6. Brand Engagement. They encourage participation from everyone who’d like to contribute to the initiative. In fact, anyone can join The Crumple It Up Innovation Network on Linkedin.

7. Constant Innovation. Rather than wait until transformation becomes necessary, they  integrate innovation into their everyday business.

8The real issue. They’ve uncovered (whether intentional or not) the problem behind the problem. Improving health takes a community of friends and supporters.

9. Passion and drive. These guys want to make the world healthier.

10. Belief in change. They know that change (better health) is necessary.

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“It has changed the culture of our company”

In a post on TechCrunch titled Comcast: Twitter Has Changed Our Company, this is how Comcast CEO Brian Roberts described Twitter’s impact on the company at the Web 2.o Summit on 10/20.

Comcast is a great example of a large company using Twitter to engage with customers as they tweet about their experiences (well frankly, complaints). Roberts goes on to say that their online engagement goes beyond Twitter, to Facebook and some other (not named) networks.

Lessons learned for health brand marketers include:

Embrace the negatives. Engaging customers in real-time as they tweet complaints should be embraced as an incredible opportunity. Consider how long it takes a complaint to be routed through a typical call center to someone who can actually handle your complaint. Sometimes, just letting them know you’re there can often represent a huge step forward.

Proactively tweet the negatives. Transparency and honesty are hugely important “trust-building” traits through social media. If customer tweets are gravitating around similar customer service themes, consider proactively addressing the issue(s) by starting your own conversation. There aren’t many companies who will openly admit their shortcomings.

Use the channel as an online research tool. Ask questions and ask for opinions, and you’re sure to get customer feedback.

• Use it as an early warning system. Monitoring the chatter can give you a sense of the issues surrounding your products and services.

• Don’t limit to departments. Twitter helps you get closer to your customers, on their terms – whether through their complaints, compliments, feedback, suggestions, etc.  Rarely are these limited to “marketing.”

Use TweetBeep. Similar to Google Alerts for Twitter, you can monitor conversations that mention your company, your brands and your competitors.

Are there other lessons learned to add to this list?

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As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Nancy Cawley Jean as this month’s participant. Nancy is a senior media relations officer for Lifespan, a health system in Rhode Island, splitting her time between social media for Lifespan and its affiliate hospitals.

Each guest addresses the same four questions, so that we build a wealth of perspectives and knowledge around these four issues. Here’s what Nancy has to say about the future of health brands and social media:

1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that

realize that consumers now have a voice and expect to be heard. Brands must be aware of the conversations taking place all around them that could damage their brand. Hospitals and the healthcare industry are no exceptions.

With today’s technology, communication has changed rapidly, and not only do consumers expect to be heard, they also expect a response. Social media is a way to do that – it is a way to build brand awareness, expand customer service, provide vital public service information and engage on a personal level with people not only in our own community but around the globe. Unless brands are willing to recognize the power of social media, they will be left behind.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?

While healthcare is a business, it is unique in the service it delivers, and we are governed by strict rules surrounding the protection of patient information. While it has not changed the way we do “business” it does offer additional areas of concern for potential violations of HIPAA policies, and that is something hospitals in particular must be cognizant of when entering the world of social media.

In our business, the tools we are offered through social media do not offer new ways of conducting business, but they allow us to expand our efforts in the realm of marketing, customer relations and communication. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube now provide new avenues to engage with our community, and hear back from them. It is another avenue through which we can receive feedback as well. As a result of social media, we can listen more to consumers, and this certainly creates the potential for an impact upon policies and procedures that will enhance the patient experience based on suggestions we hear.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?

The sensitivities surrounding protected health information of our patients is always a top priority and a great concern. Our risk management and legal departments have expressed concerns over liabilities that exist in social media. As with any other new procedure, service or technology, communication to staff is vital to ensure that expectations are clear and that they are aware that even in this world of social media, HIPAA regulations and patient privacy must remain top of mind. In other words, if an employee has their own blog or is commenting on a Facebook fan page, there are certain things that are still off limits, even if it is on their own time.

4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?

Sometimes the best way to learn is to jump right in, but in social media, the best approach is to start by listening – listen to what people are saying about you and your brand, listen to what other brands are saying and doing, and look to those brands in the social media world who have emerged as “leaders” – those who have figured out this new world and have been able to truly experience an impact on their reputation and improve customer relations through this medium.

Management may be hesitant to implement a social media strategy because of what is viewed as the “loss of control” but the fact is that they have already lost control given the plethora of communication vehicles available to the consumer today. Important messages to senior management must focus on acceptance that there is no longer any “control” and social media is a way to be involved in the conversations surrounding the brand.

Even in a large organization, getting the right people around the table will go a long way in developing a social media strategy. By having discussions and getting buy-in from folks like legal, human resources, risk management, and medical directors, you will have the support you need to develop appropriate policies and guidelines to help you move through the ever-changing world of social media while maintaining the focus on your overall company mission.

Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share?

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Did you know that…

81% of 10-year old girls are afraid of being fat.

In the United States, more than 2/3 of women ages 18-25 would rather be mean or stupid than be fat and over 50% would rather be hit by a truck.

70 million people worldwide are suffering with eating disorders.

Fat Talk Free® Week (Oct 19 – 23, 2009) is an international, 5-day body activism campaign that draws attention to body image issues and the damaging impact of the thin ideal on women in society. This annual public awareness effort was borne from Tri Delta’s award-winning body image education and eating disorders prevention program, Reflections: Body Image Program™.

We were thrilled to partner with Tri Delta for this important cause – to begin to change the way women think about their bodies. Please visit our endfattalk.org website. Learn about the cause, watch the video we created, get involved, pass along to friends.

Friends don’t let friends fat talk!

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How can you create new and greater value for customers by looking across complementary product and service offerings?

This post from Abe Sauer on brandchannel – The Smart Logic of Disney Products And Apple’s Retail Genius – led me to think about how health brand marketers can set themselves apart and change the game for customers by looking outside their traditional industry boundaries and seeing things from a fresh perspective.

As reported this past week, Disney is planning to spend $1 million per store over the next five years, with Apple’s help, to convert each existing Disney-branded outlet from a simple retail location to a complete “experience.”

Untapped value can often be found in complementary products and services. In this case, it’s the value that comes from providing a richer shopping experience (a Disney magic-like experience) to Disney customers.

The key to thinking more broadly about your role in customers’ lives is to consider the total solution they seek when they choose your product or service. One simple way to do so is to think about what happens before, during, and after your product is used. Map out the total “journey’ that customers take when using your (fill in the blank). When you look from their point-of-view, you’ll open up new possibilities to create new and greater value, e.g.

– why must a doctor appointment be limited to the “appointment itself” (consider that Virgin Atlantic has a limo take you to the airport)

– why do you need to call on the phone, and be put on hold for five minutes, to book a doctor appointment (when you can book everything else on line)

– why must patients wait in waiting rooms (do other professional service providers put their clients in “waiting rooms”; and why do you need to “wait”)

– why must a drugstore be a “drugstore” (isn’t their much more value, for the customer and the organization, in being a “healthstore”)

– why is a diabetes patient a “disease-specific” patient (aren’t they individuals with other important healthcare needs and desires)

How are you looking through your customers’ eyes to create new possibilities for them and for you?

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The Democratization of Online Social Networks.

This presentation is from Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist at Pew/Internet.
Important to health brand marketers, key findings include:
• 79% of American adults 18+ use the internet in 2009, up from 67% in ’05
• 46% use social networking sites, up from 8% in 2005
• 73% have a Facebook account
• 45% have a college or advanced degree
• 51% are between 25-44
• usage skews more female (56% vs. 46% male)
Key conclusion for health brand marketers:
These are your audiences participating in online social networks. Ignore how they choose to interact and share with others and seek information, don’t engage them on their terms, and you risk losing your relevancy.

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Sharing this great list from Willis Wee at Penn Olsen on 10 successful businesses on Twitter. They define success not by the number of followers, but the interaction and engagement these businesses have with their followers.

The businesses, along with their engagement focus, include:

1. @WholeFoods (customer service)
2. @Starbucks (coffee conversation)
3. @PizzaHut (pizza occasion events)
4. MailChimp (email system questions)
5. @DellOutlet (sales)
6. @Zappos (day-to-day stories)
7. @SouthWestAir (questions, quizzes, games)
8. @Redbull (events and interactions)
9. Toyota (news and customer queries)
10. @Zazzle (product customization)

Regardless of your offering across the health continuum, every one of these examples can be “tweeked” to be relevant to your brand and your audiences.

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Instead of focusing on beating the competition, make the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for customers and your company. This is a fundamental premise of blue ocean innovation strategy.

Odacite competes in the very crowded skin-care category. But they distinguish themselves from all others in the industry by “delivering directly to your door, the freshest skin care on the market.” Their products are:

• Freshly Made, in small batches, from certified organic ingredients
• Dated with a Freshiency™ date, a window of time during which ingredients maintain their full freshness and efficiency
• Directly shipped from their lab

The end-product is, in their words, the most active Skin Care Line.

Indicative of a good strategy, the company doesn’t diffuse it’s efforts across all areas of competition. It focuses on Freshness, and its value curve diverges from others along a few key dimensions. Its tagline also reflects their distinguishing and truthful brand promise – Redefining Skin Care. The First & Only Organic Skin Care Made Freshly For You.

Relating this back to your business, ask yourself these few questions…
• how are you creating a leap in value for your customers and your company?
• how are you breaking free from competitors?
• what’s your version of the Freshiency™ date?

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We’ve been tracking the social media practices of brands across the health and healthy lifestyles continuum – what they’re trying to achieve, the tools they’re using, the messaging and conversations taking place and how well we think they’re delivering.

Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ BTW is a blog authored by six J&J employees. The blog is about J&J, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and why, along with news about the industry The authors state that while they may not always be able to talk about issues that fall under regulatory or legal constraints, we’re going to do what we can to talk openly, directly and to the best of our knowledge.

Here’s what I like about JNJ BTW:

It’s written by individuals. Companies don’t blog, people do. And they do here.
It’s not a marketing campaign. Beyond promoting the company and its products, the blog is a sincere attempt to make a real connection with, and engage, external audiences.
Reflects J&J’s values. It’s (human) voice is consistent with what you’d expect from this company.
Let’s you see underneath the hood. Content gives readers an idea of what’s going on inside the company, along with the issues they’re thinking and acting upon.
Open for comments. There aren’t a lot, but they do encourage two-way communication.
Open to flaws. This was the initial promise from the authors, and they’ve delivered on this.

What they can be doing better:
Posting on a more regular schedule. While the blog is updated often, the authors should be posting more regularly. It’s hard to gain traction, and possible that readers will stop visiting altogether, when they aren’t sure when new content is being posted.
Compelling more J&J employee involvement. There are more than 120,000 people around the globe who work for J&J and their operating companies. At a minimum, employees should be contributing their comments to these posts.
• More eye candy. There’s not much here to visually capture the reader’s attention, as most posts are simply text treatments.

Visit JNJBTW, and let me know what you think. I’m interested in hearing and sharing your comments.

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Health brands are ideally suited to social media.

Across this broad category (from disease management; health care systems and hospitals; home health services and products; medical devices and equipment; nutritional and wellness products; pharma and OTC) there’s the common denominator of people really needing and wanting what these tools allow health brand marketers to provide:

– informative, even life-changing content
– talking back and forth, sharing stories and even emotionally supporting people who share common interests, ailments or illnesses
– learning from friends and providers (locally and from around the world)
– saving precious time and expense

Ultimately, social media allows you to help create healthier communities. Which leads to healthier co-creators. Which leads to a win-win for your customers, your company and society at-large.

For those brands interested in maintaining their relevancy and their value to their customers (meaning everyone), social media must be integrated into your mix. The extent of your social efforts is based on many organizational factors. But at a minimum, you need to get in the game.

Here are seven big opportunities (reasons why) for health brands to use social media:

1. Demonstrate that you practice what you preach. Social media allows you to demonstrate that you live up to the promises you make to audiences. As the traction around “engagement” continues to grow, actions will continue to speak much louder than words.

2. What benefits your audiences benefits your brand. The future of marketing is about doing things for and with audiences – on their terms. There’s simply too much opportunity for conversations, comments and collaboration for traditional one-way, tell and sell communications to work the way they did years ago.

3. Build loyalty through your brand. This is not the same as trying to build loyalty to your brand. Key is to help people achieve more than they can on their own. Helping them do this is how you gain their attention, loyalty and trust (as well as forgiveness if you ever find yourself needing it).

4. Help people live longer. Research has shown that greater social engagement helps people live longer, healthier lives. Pretty important benefit for a brand to be able to contribute to.

5. Your participation invitation is already extended. Whether you sent a formal invitation or not, participants are already gathering around the conversation (and your company).

6. Listen for rich category and brand insights. Social makes it easy to find out what people really want and need – from the category and from your brand. Which makes it easier to listen for ways to make your offering better. Covet the opportunity to collect and act on this information.

7. It’s all about establishing and earning trust. Which is one of the most important and sustainable advantages a company can build in this environment. The companies who understand this, and pay it off with the right “social” etiquette (doing for others), will see the most benefit.

Are there other reasons that should be added to this list? Please contribute your ideas.

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