Can you be the Apple of (fill-in your health segment here)?

There’s good learning here for marketers to take away from Fast Company’s July cover story – Invincible Apple: 10 Lessons From the Coolest Company Anywhere.

After speaking with former employees, current partners, and others who have watched Apple for many years, the article’s author states the answers to Apple’s phenomenal success center around discipline, focus, long-term thinking, and a willingness to flout the rules that govern everybody else’s business.

Here’s Fast Company’s excerpted report on the Apple playbook:

1. Go Into Your Cave: translated as set your own agenda.
2. It’s Okay To Be King: Jobs and his team know exactly what they want, so everyone knows what the plan is. And from the likes of it, it’s working.
3. Transcend Orthodoxy: Despite all the noise about Apple’s closed ideology, the company adopts positions based on two simple conditions – whether they make for good products and good business.
4. Just Say No: Jobs’s primary role at Apple is to turn things down. Every day, he’s presented with ideas for new products and new features within existing ones. The default answer is no. “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as the ones we have done,” Jobs told an interviewer in 2004.
5. Serve Your Customer: When Apple devised its retail strategy a decade ago, the company had a single overriding goal: to launch stores (and associated service) that were unlike anything that customers associated with the computer industry.
6. Everything Is Marketing: Apple’s most effective marketing is built into its products, i.e. iPod’s white earbuds, the Mac’s startup sound, the shape of the MacBook’s back panel. Apple understands the lasting power of sensory cues, and it goes out of its way to infuse everything it makes with memorable ideas that scream its brand.
7. Kill The Past: No other company reimagines the fundamental parts of its business as frequently, and with as much gusto, as Apple does.
8. Turn Feedback Into Inspiration: Apple believes that people can’t really envision what they want. So he uses customer ideas as inspiration, not direction; as a means, not an end.
9. Don’t Invent, Reinvent: To use a musical analogy, Apple’s specialty is the remix. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own. It’s also a great fixer, improving on everything that’s wrong with other similar products on the shelves.
10. Play By Your Own Clock: Jobs knows he’ll never be fired, so he can devote years, if that’s what it takes, to attain Apple’s high standards. Of all the points covered here (according to this author), Apple’s willingness to go long is perhaps its greatest strength.

After reading this article, I begin to think about innovative, game-changing health organizations like Mayo Clinic, PatientsLikeMe, Sermo, Walgreens (Take Care Clinics), Intuitive Surgical (da Vinci robotic system), 23andme

What others would you add to this list?

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KeepBritainBiking.com is a service of UK-based Devitt Insurance Services Ltd (“Devitt”). The website helps bikers exchange views and useful information about biking, to help new and experienced bikers get the most out of biking.

Here are some lessons for health marketers to take away KeepBritianBiking.com:

1. It creates a meaningful difference in the lives of its customers – beyond the initial transaction and the occasional call about a claim or a rate adjustment.

2. It allows Devitt to build an emotional connection with their customers – above and beyond the functionality of its (and all others) insurance products.

3. It allows biking customers to connect with each other – a group that places great importance on sharing.

4. It maintains Devitt’s relevance and increases its odds of success – through a different offering, delivery of unique benefits, and the opportunity to extend its customer base.

5. This “social community” promotes word-of-mouth – and gets friends talking about biking (through its biking forums, biking blog and biking gallery) and Devitt.

6. Ultimately, it stretches Devitt brand meaning – delivering more emotional and self-expressive punch to customers beyond a traditional insurance company.

What are your thoughts about this effort?

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What is the next generation of crowdsourcing (of customers and companies working together to create new value)?

Clinton Booner answers this question as the author of this guest post Crowdsourcing: Beyond the Basics, over at Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert Blog.

Clinton offers his 3c’s of next generation crowdsourcing: Co-Creation, Constant and Control:

1. Co-Creation. Allowing consumers to contribute in a number of ways to product and service enhancements.
2. Constant. Multiple initiatives happening in parallel and offering the user a constant stream of new involvement opportunities.
3. Control. Brands viewing open innovation strategies as not ‘giving up creative control’ but rather understanding what this really is – co-created market research that is more accurate – ultimately offering remarkable ways to help deliver happy, impassioned, and loyal consumers.

Would you add any C’s to this list?

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Quebec-based Technowait gets that our time is valuable. So they’ve developed a new service that creates new value for patients – freeing them from having to wait for long periods of time in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.

Their service allows patients (after checking-in and taking a number) to leave the waiting room and go somewhere else until they’re ready to be seen. Calling in to an interactive system, they can find out via an automated message how how much waiting time still remains. As their turn approaches, they can then return in just-in-time fashion. Eventually, TechnowaiT aims to add phone alerts so that patients can get notified half an hour before it’s their turn.

Here are a few things we should appreciate about (and learn from) Technowait:

1. They’re advocates for us patients. More so than the hospitals or clinics we’re often captive to, they understand that nothing about a “waiting room” (beginning with the name) is a pleasant experience. Their service is helpful and acts on our behalf.

2. Their demonstrating respect. Someone from Technowait initially walked in our shoes. They’ve been the customer. Or they listened, acknowledged and responded to others. Either way, it’s nice to be treated like a person beyond a patient.

3. They’re also building value for their hospital and clinic clients . Beyond the time and identity value they create for patients, they’re creating relationship value for the hospitals and clinics that use their service. Everyone benefits. Everyone wins.

4. When ready, they might possibly play a bigger role in our lives. By thinking more expansively about what they ultimately provide (similar to Zappos whose real mission is customer happiness), Technowait has a lot of room to expand beyond the waiting room to other venues.

Any thoughts or ideas to share?

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If you want an exceptional retail brand experience, visit Teavana. I discovered this “part tea bar, part tea emporium” through the aroma of the freshly-brewed Chai tea being released into the Short Hills Mall.

The Teavana website says that they want to introduce people to the aromas, textures, and beneficial qualities of loose leaf teas while enlightening them with the history and variety of teas available –– creating a unique tea experience in each store by encouraging a positive, healthy outlook for all who enter. Goal accomplished.

Here’s what makes the brand so special:

A great story. One that’s built around the rituals and rich history of tea.

Focused on doing one thing better than anyone else. Teavana equals tea. Everything about tea. And this is their focus moving forward. With tremendous growth opportunities available into the future.

Great staff make for an exceptional brand experience. I had no intention of buying any tea that day I visited the mall. I left with a lot of tea. A beautiful canister to house the tea. And a great tea maker. All because of a tremendous staff member knowledgeable about tea and passionate about Teavana.

Engaging website that extends the experience. You can learn about, and shop their teas, and participate in the conversation through their “Heaven of Tea” blog.

Ability to generate word-of-mouth. I’ve told friends about this brand since first visiting the store. And they’ve told others.

Have you heard of, or visited, Teavana. Please share your thoughts.

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I’ve posted before about Humana – specifically, its CrumpleItup initiative, a dedicated group inside the company focused on coming up with creative ways to help people be healthy while having fun.

Now comes Humana Games For Health. Part of the Innovation Center within Humana, this team is driven by the belief that playing video games keeps your mind and body fit. So they’re helping people of all ages play their way to better health by getting them off their seat and on their feet.

Here’s some brand-building learning from Humana Games:

1. Actions speak louder than words: You can tell people all day long (as most benefits providers do) that they should live healthier lives. But provide them with an enjoyable and sharable experience, one that fits nicely into their daily lives, and their practices will start to change.

2. Experience alongside image: Advertising will always play a role in the marketing mix. But these messages are increasingly being rejected. So seek out the bigger role that your brand can play in customers lives. Be their advocate, and bring your marketing to life (as Humana Games has) with involving, interactive experiences that actually add value to their lives.

3. Build a community beyond the transaction: These games give participants the ability to become a member of the Humana Games universe. They also build valued interactions among game participants. Participants of different ages and stages of life (from kids to seniors).

4. From innovation silo to group think: Humana Games’ concepts (first developed by an inside/outside multidisciplinary team that includes a target audience and intended health outcome) are then taken to the prototype phase, where a working model of the idea is created and tested by consumers to get valuable feedback and determine efficacy.

5. Use of social media to build engagement: Participants can invite their friends to visit Humana Games. Get updates and meet other players on Facebook.

Any comments you’d like to share?

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According to a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEOs value “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.

That’s creativity—not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication. Coming out of the worst economic downturn in their professional lifetimes, when managerial discipline and rigor ruled the day, this indicates a remarkable shift in attitude. Until now, creativity has generally been viewed as fuel for the engines of research or product development, not the essential leadership asset that must permeate an enterprise.

As they step back and reassess, CEOs have seized upon creativity as the necessary element for enterprises that must reinvent their customer relationships and achieve greater operational dexterity. In face-to-face interviews with IBM consultants, they said creative leaders do the following:

Disrupt the status quo. Every company has legacy products that are both cash—and sacred—cows. Often the need to perpetuate the success of these products restricts innovation within the enterprise, creating a window for competitors to advance competing innovations. As CEOs tell us that fully one-fifth of revenues will have to come from new sources, they are recognizing the requirement to break with existing assumptions, methods, and best practices.

Disrupt existing business models. CEOs who select creativity as a leading competency are far more likely to pursue innovation through business model change. In keeping with their view of accelerating complexity, they are breaking with traditional strategy-planning cycles in favor of continuous, rapid-fire shifts and adjustments to their business models.

Disrupt organizational paralysis. Creative leaders fight the institutional urge to wait for completeness, clarity, and stability before making decisions. To do this takes a combination of deeply held values, vision, and conviction—combined with the application of such tools as analytics to the historic explosion of information. These drive decisionmaking that is faster, more precise, and even more predictable.

Taken together, these recommendations describe a shift toward corporate cultures that are far more transparent and entrepreneurial. They are cultures imbued with the belief that complexity poses an opportunity, rather than a threat. They hold that risk is to be managed, not avoided, and that leaders will be rewarded for their ability to build creative enterprises with fluid business models, not absolute ones.

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The real title of this Fast Company article written by Ben Paynter is Five Steps for Consumer Brands to Earn Social Currency. It is based on a Vivaldi Partners/Lightspeed study of social media efforts that create true value for organizations and their customers. But there are good insights here for health brand marketers to consider as you develop, execute and refine your social media efforts.

1. Advocates Trump Followers. Strength isn’t always in numbers. While Dunkin’ Donuts has 80% fewer Facebook and Twitter followers than Starbucks, Dunkin’ fans are 35% more likely to recommend the brand given its social media practices. Dunkin has shown that interesting initiatives that help fans engage, with your brand and with each other through your brand, build brand advocates. I think P&G’s BeingGirl.com is a good example of this.

2. Context Matters. Using the example of beer drinkers, the study found that “product and packaging innovations do not help create relevance in this consumer’s daily life.” What’s important is the bonding or “social context” during consumption. I relate this back to blasting out one-way messages touting latest technologies or chest-pounding statistics versus posting (for instance) a video on YouTube featuring an elderly couple playing the piano in the atrium of Mayo Clinic. Real people. Real story. Real relevant.

3. Not Every Brand Should Be Social. Mass-market brands positioned based on functional superiority, such as Gillette (with 96% of study respondents touting good quality and reliability), aren’t likely to see much upside in social currency. I don’t agree with this statement for the reason they cite, as social media programs should always be built around achieving specific objectives – whether building awareness, cultivating relationships, promoting new products, or targeting new markets.

4. Social Tools Are A Means, Not An End. In reviewing Axe and Clinique, the study concludes that Axe’s social-media efforts don’t translate as strongly into meaningful talk or an ardent defense when compared with a brand such as Clinique, because the Axe audience knows that it’s all a goof. By contrast, Clinique’s more instructive approach –- for example, YouTube how-to tutorials — has earned it stronger social currency. Certainly, the inherent benefits that your health brands provide give you a leg up in creating this social currency.

5. Gimmicks Marginalize Trust. Last year, Wendy’s “You Know When It’s Real” campaign featured commercial spots, online games, and contests highlighting how its never-frozen patties are cooked to order. Burger King created the Whopper Sacrifice, asking fans to drop 10 friends on Facebook to get a free hamburger, the latest in a string of Internet-sensation stunts. Today, BK’s fickle fans have moved on, but customers trust Wendy’s products much more, according to the Vivaldi-Lightspeed study. The ability of your health brands to help improve lives –– and the different ways to demonstrate this through social tools — lend themselves to building this trust.

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