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I love this quote from Tim Cook, CEO, Apple about the company’s new watch.

“Apple Watch gives us the ability to motivate people to be more active and healthy. If you are someone who just wants to be a bit more active or someone who wants to track what you are doing during the day, or perhaps you exercise regularly, or even if you’re a very serious athlete, Apple Watch helps you live a better day.”

Why is it so powerful:

1. it’s simple

2. it’s human

3. it’s purposeful

4. it’s helpful

5. it’s all about the customer

It’s Apple.


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What kept you coming back to the hit series Breaking Bad? Truth be told, I spent two weeks binging on the entire series.

If you think about it, the show exhibits similar characteristics to all great brands. And it actually offers really good lessons to healthcare marketers. With consumers now empowered to choose where they go for their care (and their preventative health and wellness), astute healthcare marketers should learn from what is arguably the best TV series ever.

Why did this show succeed (like some brands do) in the face of great competition on the television landscape? While it’s hard to pin-point the one thing that kept viewers tuning in – it’s definitely a combination of a compelling character (and characters), a gripping storyline and the novelty of concept.

According to Tiffany Vogt, who is a contributing writer to The TV Addict, there are three key ingredients that must be present for any show to succeed:  hero, heart and hook.  There must be a clearly defined hero, or heroes, to root for (in this case, Walter and Jesse), a story that engages its audience (a hero who is on a personal journey and seeking to conquer a foe), and it must be entertaining enough to compel viewers to keep tuning in (the “twist” that not only draws us to the hero and his journey, but will feel the need to take him or her with us).  Without one of these key ingredients, a show will struggle and languish.

Ms. Vogt goes on to say that “television is all about commitment.”  Viewers will only tune regularly to a show that they want to make a part of their lives.  The same holds true for brands. Your customers must feel committed to your brand – as though its intertwined with their lives.

• let your customers find the hero in your brand (e.g. your courage and passion to pursue new ideas and advancements), which expands their sense of possibility about living well and staying well
• let them feel the heart of your brand by engaging them through your healthcare marketing in ways that really matter
• and give them the hook that continues to surprise and delight them and keeps them coming back to your brand of care

It’s all about the magic combination of hero, heart and hook. What do you think?

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Coming to a town near you, it’s a Walmart primary care clinic. You can read the story here at Forbes – Health Care For $4: Are You Ready For Walmart To Be Your Doctor.

With more than a hundred hospital-leased “retail clinics” already across their stores, these new fully owned primary care clinics will number a dozen before January. And similar to the retailer’s hours, they’ll be open 12 hours per day on weekdays and 8-plus hours per day on weekends. Not quite like your current primary care provider. They’ll also be lower cost alternatives to traditional practitioners, with walk-in visits just $40. Great delivery of their Save money. Live better. promise!

So how can traditional providers, facing unparalleled risk of losing volume and even more share of mind, thrive amidst the “retail” disruption. Here are five ideas:

1. When it comes to competing for “business”, think customer, not patient. Thanks to defined contribution plans and private exchanges, “customers” have lots of new healthcare choices as it relates to when and where they go for care. Further, knowing what great customer experiences look and feel like from non-healthcare industries, they’re seeking similar great experiences from their healthcare providers. Only in the hospital are these customers captive patients.

2. Think and act like a “healthy living” CPG brand. Healthy living has become mainstream and intertwined with people’s everyday lives. To continue to be relevant, consider how you can engage people in their daily health and win the battle for an ongoing consumer relationship through traditional and technology-based (mobile, social and digital) channels. According to Oliver Wyman Health & Life Sciences, this “coordinated” health living idea includes Monitoring, Lifestyle/Wellness, Social/Mobile, Convenience Clinics, Home Services, Weight Management, E-health/Web-based Services and Coaching.

3. Emphasis above on “brand.” 90% of what most healthcare providers do tends to be the same. And even if your services are different and better, it’s often hard for customers to discern given the sameness of so much communication. So how do you break the ties? Through brand – your unique promise delivered across the entire customer experience – and ultimately the connection point with your customers. To quote Joy Howard of Patagonia, “the company is no different than the brand. Everything we do at Patagonia builds the brand, because there is no distinction between what we do and the brand experience.

4. What about you is unique and unexpected. If you’re having a hard time answering this question, imagine what it’s like for your prospective customers. Pointing to the saturated automotive market, a Governance Institute healthcare-related article titled Lessons in Customer-Centricity from Outside Industries, asks who knew cup holders could sway a consumer to buy a $30k vehicle? Is the healthcare market any less saturated? No. So it’s important to identify which benefits of your hospital or health system are unique, desired and unexpected in the eyes of your customers.

5. Think about your portfolio like shelf space. P&G is in the midst of pruning its portfolio to concentrate on its strongest businesses. Unilever cut 20% of its SKUs in 2013 and another 10-20% in 2014 to concentrate on its strongest brands with international and local scale with the goal of improving its operating performance. It’s impossible to effectively promote every one of your service lines. Where does your organization excel relative to competitors? What are your most strategic and financially important lines of business? What do you offer that they cannot? Strategically manage your portfolio to help you create competitive space and put already stretched resources to better use.

The bottom line is that you need some fresh thinking in order to envision new possibilities, do things differently and be a better competitor tomorrow (versus the likes of Walmart among the other disruptors) than you are today.




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Interesting article on – Anatomy of 3 Health System Rebranding Efforts – providing the backstory of three recent initiatives.

For each of these efforts, author Marianne Aiello seeks to answer “why the name change”, “what’s the marketing strategy”(which really just nets down to tactics) and “what does it mean for patients.”

The three examples are:

Port Huron Hospital, which became McLaren Port Huron to better reflect its new partnership with McLaren Health Care. For patients, the new partnership will bring expanded services to Port Huron, so with the name change comes added benefits.

SLC Health (CO) retires ‘Exempla’ name. Three years after Colorado’s Exempla Healthcare merged with Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, the new system—SCL Health—is unifying its brand. According to SCL Health President & CEO Mike Slubowski, “this is a symbol of where we have come and where we are going as one system with a shared sense of purpose.” For patients, the name change “reflects the organization’s effort to streamline internal processes, which will ultimately improve the patient experience.”

Catholic Health Partners becomes Mercy Health, to unify its brand across seven markets in Ohio and Kentucky.  According to Kristen Hall Wevers, Mercy Health’s chief brand, marketing and communications officer,  “simplifying our operating structure improves our ability to maximize our clinical quality and cost effectiveness, and allows us to improve the overall experience for patients and their families.”

After reading the article, however, I find myself wanting more. More insight about…

• the business case for the re-brandings
• how the initiatives are expected to better meet strategic objectives
• how each of the organization’s were building on their brand equity
• how the initiatives will re-energize employees, physicians, and staff to spur growth
• how they’ll create an emotional connection with customers through a more distinguishing and compelling story which starts with each system’s name (SCL is going to have a tough road ahead)

Ms. Aiello did a nice job beginning to examine these efforts, but there are other important things to think about to better understand the internal workings of them.


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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

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 – 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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