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As you know, Karaoke is a form of entertainment in which people sing songs into a microphone over prerecorded music tracks. So while it’s their voice coming out of the mic, it’s someone else’s original song.

Hopefully, the idea of karaoke doesn’t remind you, or your served communities, of your healthcare marketing. Hopefully, you’re not a health system or hospital who dwindles into the karaoke club where everyone sing’s someone else’s song.

How can you create an original piece of marketing music that people see themselves in, stop and take notice of and possibly even act on? By actively looking for the strategic and creative whitespaces that can help you break away from your competitors. It’s about looking for conventions across a range of characteristics, and then subtracting what is obvious and adding what is meaningful. We call it No Boundaries℠ Branding, and its our approach to differentiating brands.

Think about it. If you’re constantly comparing yourself with others, you’ll become mainly more comparable. To get people to notice you, let alone take action – you have to be different. Because differentiation, the ability to stand out and apart from others, is one of the most critical components fueling brand success.

Here are some outside category examples of brands carving out their own “differentiating” paths, using some of the characteristics of our No Boundaries℠ Branding approach. Maybe they’ll inspire you to create a new song. Or maybe an entirely new album.  One that’s unmistakably yours.

1. DeclarationLe Labo beauty declares through its manifesto its aspirational and authentic beliefs and motivations, beyond what it simply does for people. It’s front and center to their story, and everything they say and do rings true. No surprise that even its visual presentation reinforces its ideas.  Would you be so bold? Could you be?

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2. Experience Offering. Satisfaction has become table stakes. Consumers expect to be satisfied. Do you treat customers to a “branded” and delighting customer experience. Does it extend across the customer journey – from consideration, to purchase, to post-use experience and to building loyalty?

It could be a seemingly small, but distinguishing and pleasing gesture like a Walmart greeter…

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Or Umpqua Bank’s distinguishing un-banking like approach to banking…

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Or the Culinary Events & Classes that define a Williams Sonoma in-store experience and contribute to building a loyal following, and which can be searched online…

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Do you provide any experiences that are as distinguishing or value-added when you walk through the lobby of your hospital? Or how about another high-traffic location like the cafeteria? So many ideas!


3. Dynamism. Is your brand constantly moving and evolving to surprise and delight (and remain relevant to) your audiences? Does it create the moments that can cement powerful bonds with consumers ?

I still love Citibikes. It was part of former Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to improve city life by providing new and simpler forms of transportation. According to Edward Skyler, EVP Global Public Affairs at Citi, “it has little to do with advertising or promotions. It’s about finding a fresh point of relevance that makes a difference for everyday people – whether they are Citi customers or not.”

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More recently, Mastercard is upping the ante on its well-known Priceless campaign.  The goal of the experiential Surprises campaign is to create a positive and emotional bond between the company and its users while showing the unlimited possibilities that comes with owning a MasterCard.

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4. Emotional Pull. Does your brand tap into emotions, which drive much of our decision-making. At Alessi, design is a differentiating strategy. Design triggers emotion, passion, connection. It wins hearts. And it can therefore form the basis for meaningful differentiation. And it’s a “strategy” that takes on more importance for health systems and hospitals, as they compete with more consumer-driven retail and technology players.

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5. Icons. Do your signs and symbols begin to trigger your story? Do they distinguish your experience from others? They should. Meaningful associations transform icons from mere product identifiers into powerful components of identity-shaping experiences. Like these (including our Orlando Health logo developed as part of our re-branding, now front and center on Orlando City Soccer Club jerseys)…


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6. Community. Let’s face it. Most consumers have no desire to engage with brands. They don’t even have time to engage with their friends. So don’t screw around with their time. Your only goal (as is theirs) is to better their lives. And our POV is that this is best done with your brand acting as the platform through which like-minded individuals can connect, share and mutually benefit. In our book, Utility is job #1. Like Nike Fuel and Fitbit…

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Being Girl…

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And HOG (Harley Owners Group)…

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In the words of Under Armour SVP Brand Creative Steve Battista – it’s about having a relentless curiosity about how to do things differently and tell our story in a better, bigger way — that’s what drives innovation at Under Armour. It’s like every morning when you drive through the city…pass under our logo on the bridge, onto our Baltimore campus, and it’s game on. No Karaoke here!

By the way, here’s a little personal sharing. I used to travel to Tokyo for business. And Karaoke was always on the itinerary. Girl From Ipanema, an old Brasilian bossa nova song, was my thing. Truth be told, I have no idea why😊



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Le Labo was an indie beauty brand founded in 2006. Initially a perfume business, it quickly grew a cult-like fan base and now offers a full range of sprays, gels, lotions, soaps and candles.

But it’s indie status changed as of 4th quarter 2014, when it was acquired by Estee Lauder. Built on a brand foundation of craftsmanship and personalization, it will be interesting to see if this spirit remains. So far, after checking out their website, all seems to be intact. A win-win all around for Le Labo, its customers and its new parent.

As a brand strategy and activation company, we’re pretty tuned into the fact that every experience that a person has with a brand, every touchpoint that either aligns or fails to align with customer expectations, affects the ability of that brand to shift demand. Which is, after all, the ultimate goal of any brand.

Success requires a precise playbook. An orchestration of components that grow interest and loyalty and propel a brand (its consumers, and the business) forward. At Trajectory, we believe the playbook consists of eleven components working together to maintain a brand’s ability to drive business today, and into the future.

Here are just six of those eleven characteristics. But they’re enough to convey why we’re also big fans of Le Labo:

1. Declaration. Le Labo has an aspirational and authentic purpose beyond what it simply does for people. Their manifesto is the centerpiece of their story. And its presentation reinforces its ideas.

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2. Differentiation. The brand stands out from competition in a way that really matters to its consumers. While it might not be for everybody, its ideas, its products, its craftsmanship, its personalization and its soulfulness are precious to those who matter most.

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Le Labo also provides a respite from our multi-tasking, multi-searching, technologically-driven world. The brand gives us a chance to breath. It provides a sense of comfort and escapism, and the ability to rediscover processes once forgotten or devalued in an age of shiny new objects.

3. Know-How: The brand provides proof that it is a credible expert within its category. No shallow promises here. Le Labo’s Community Of Craft, among other proof points, reinforces their craftsmanlike product approach.

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4. Alignment: touchpoints deliver a consistent look, message and emotion that contribute to building brand meaning. Across their website, their social channels and their retail presence, there’s a specialness and attention to “craftsmanlike” detail that consistently adds to building Le Labo distinctiveness and brand equity.

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5. Emotional Pull: the brand taps into emotions and creates an instinctive attraction that goes beyond rational needs. Le Labo is all at once about mind, senses and heart. It oozes emotion, appealing to our fast, frugal ‘System 1’ brain that drives much of our daily decision-making through emotion and intuition. Case in point, rather than describe their perfumes, they provide a Visual Study to create a system of images that offer a visual representation of their fragrances.

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6. Dynamism: the brand is constantly moving and evolving to surprise and delight (and remain relevant to) its audiences. Two examples include its expansive product range…

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And the brand’s desire to meet the personalized needs of its customers…

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In our playbook, Le Labo hits a home run. And we can only hope that they continue to grow and thrive the Le Labo way.

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What can healthcare marketers learn from Alessi? That design is a differentiating strategy.

And it’s a “strategy” that takes on more importance as health systems and hospitals not only “compete” for customers, but as they compete with retail and technology players who have always been more astute at “designing” for customers.

Increasingly, the success of your healthcare services will no longer depend on functionality or quality alone. Because for the most part, these attributes are now taken for granted. Offered quite similarly by your traditional competitors. Rather, customers will give their attention to those they find most attractive. Which means appearance, experience and design will be decisive factors that weigh in to their decision-making.

Design triggers emotion, passion, connection. It wins hearts. And it can therefore form the basis for meaningful differentiation. As Alberto Alessi knows.

This also reminds me of this quote from Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks. Brand capital has nothing to do with marketing…but with the emotional attachment of consumers to the brand. 



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I read this article about healthcare marketing in the Westchester County Business Journal – Social media engagement: A conundrum for hospitals.

The author states that transparency of social media for hospitals can be a bigger undertaking than for other businesses in which patient privacy protection is not a concern. Challenges include, according to the author, should medical centers have a social media presence? If so, what accounts do they administer in-house? Last, should hospitals respond to patients and their families who post comments, both negative and positive, on social media sites?

Yes, these are valid challenges. But responding to satisfy a patient need or concern is just one side of the social media coin. The other is the larger opportunity to integrate and leverage social media across all facets of the organization (beyond marketing and communications and as adjuncts to campaigns) to strengthen connections between people, and people to your brands and business.

At Trajectory, we refer to this as building a brand’s Social Capital™.  And we think it’s pivotal to the future success of your organization. It acknowledges that social media has changed business forever, and that like it or not, all businesses today are fundamentally social businesses. With customers now in control of their relationship with brands. Which requires a broader view of social media’s role. Embedding it throughout the organization along the entire customer journey – from awareness, to consideration, purchase, experience and loyalty.

Social Capital, we believe, is built on a foundation of six pillars. One of them is Information Sharing, similar to what the article author is talking about in terms of hospitals responding to patients and families. The most important pillar, however, is probably Usefulness. And it has to do with delivering real value. Because lets face it. Most people do not want to engage with brands, let alone co-create with them. Which means delivering meaningful customer value vs. what you need from a customer will be the holy grail of your success.

SO…should health systems and hospitals have a social media presence? Only if they want to remain relevant. The industry is shifting from repair care to proactive well care, consumers have a bigger stake in their decision-making, emphasis is shifting from volume to value and traditional providers are now competing with a new crop of retail and technology players. Yea, we’d say the time is right.

What’s your point-of-view?





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Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.46.07 AMThe transition from volume to value for health care providers is moving full steam ahead.

Our client, Pennsylvania-based Reading Health System is tackling the issue head-on with our new 101 REASONS healthcare marketing campaign.

The 360° campaign reveals the many things that Reading Health System is doing to deliver value, and to ultimately make individuals and its broader communities healthier – including quality of care, value for patient’s healthcare dollars, transparent information, availability of the latest technology, access to convenient care options, the patient experience, community support programs and a commitment to innovation.

The effort, initially launched internally, kicks-off through this interactive microsite, and will be expanded across all traditional, digital and social media channels.

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Here’s a bold example of a brand living its beliefs. In this case, its active lifestyle brand REI. Of which I happen to be a fan.

The retailer is taking direct aim at the frenzied consumerism that dominates the holidays with a message to do the exact opposite of what Black Friday demands.

Case in point, I received this email from them last night:

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As you can read, all stores are closing on the day after Thanksgiving, arguably the biggest shopping day of the year. But they’re not only closing. The outdoor gear and fitness retailer is paying all 12000 employees to #Opt Outside.”

They’d also like customers to “opt outside” instead of shopping as well. With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they’re doing on Black Friday on social media.

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The decision to close their stores on this HUGE shopping day has big bottom line implications. But according to REI President and CEO Jerry Strizke, “”As a co-op … we define success a little differently. It’s much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?”

Here’s what’s so impressive about this initiative:

1. It’s one thing to have a distinctive purpose (which in itself is refreshing beyond the typical generic mission statement). It’s another thing to live it.

2. REI’s true sense of purpose comes from the top, from a “Brand CEO” who is the living, breathing embodiment of the brand.

3. It’s a sure fire way to inspire people inside the business, who I’m sure, stoke the flame as front line brand ambassadors outside as well.

4. It demonstrates REI’s authentic and meaningful social impact, which has a big emotional impact on today’s customers.

By the way, REI has earned a place on FORTUNE magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year since the rankings began in 1998.  No kidding.




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Healthcare. It’s difficult for people to understand. It’s intimidating. And it’s not something you generally want to participate in.

So it stands to reason that simpler healthcare marketing and communication (beyond the technical sounding procedures, technologies and outcomes) has a much better chance of engaging, inspiring or convincing people to believe in your message.

Here’s proof. Read this fast story The Secret To Sounding Smart? Using Simple Language.

Moral of the story – simpler is smarter.

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Why not. Aren’t many of the pieces there already? Isn’t your healthcare system already evolving from point-of-care to care [health] everywhere?

I recently read that Mastercard is transforming from a payments to a lifestyle brand. Raja Ragamannar, global chief marketing officer, says the “Priceless” campaign is now laser focused on connecting with customers across nine lifestyle passion points.  This follows countless other brands which started life as an electronics, food, apparel, fashion or home furnishings brand,  but then extended beyond their core to declare their “lifestyle brand” status.

According to wikipedia, a lifestyle brand is a company that markets its products or services to embody the interests, attitudes, and opinions of a group or a culture. Lifestyle brands seek to inspire, guide, and motivate people, with the goal of their products contributing to the definition of the consumer’s way of life.

Why can’t a healthcare system brand make this transition to become the first “lifestyle brand.” Sure, your core will be your traditional health care services. But your future success rests upon health, wellness, education, prevention…inspiring, guiding and motivating people to live their best lives possible.

Just a few examples of stepping outside the box include: Orlando Health is the jersey sponsor and official medical team for MLS’s new franchise Orlando City SC. And the two organizations are united in the advancement, well-being, growth, and passion for their community. New Jersey-based Summit Medical Group, through its Road To Health Tour, participates in health fairs, farmers markets, family sporting events, etc. The Mayo Clinic offers The Mayo Clinic Diet – a plan for weight loss, and ultimately better health,  developed by the Clinic’s weight loss experts.

Lifestyle brands create an aspirational lifestyle. But who ever said that a brand needed to be “upscale” or inspire the loyalty of millions of people to qualify for lifestyle brand status. I’d say helping people on their quest to better health, wellness and quality of life is pretty aspirational.

Vision your evolution from an organization focused on your precise area of know-how today (e.g. providing healthcare), to having a wider center of interest that lets you play a bigger role in people’s lives (e.g. inspiring and supporting health and wellness).  Can you reach true lifestyle brand status?  Certainly it’s a stretch. But someone has to jump to the front of the line. Why shouldn’t it be you?




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