How to get more people using the stairs by making it fun to do? Watch this great video called Piano stairs –

But more important, this is a great example of imagining and creating new value for your customers, and your brand.

You can tell people all day long through your advertising that “taking the stairs is healthier than taking the escalator.” But bring the idea to life through your marketing in a way that people want to (can’t help but) engage with, and you’ll change behavior, and change lives.

As always, actions speak louder than words.

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Here are ten consumer trends from to help you kick-start 2010.

Within the briefing are also a couple strong macro trends resources like McKinsey’s Global Institute and IMD’s global challenges site.

Note that these consumer trends are not “healthcare-specific”, which I think is a good thing (there are many healthcare reports like this to be found; and if you don’t have, please let me know).

But make no mistake, these trends apply to your customers, your brands and your company. So think, and imagine, about how to creatively connect them, twist them, shape them and adapt them to make things better for your customers and to enhance the relevancy of your brands.

To this point, the report suggests four questions that will help you determine if they have the potential to help you create new and greater value for your customers and company. Do they:

1. influence or shape your company’s vision
2. inspire you to come up with a new business concept, an entirely new venture, a new brand
3. add a new product, service or experience for a certain customer segment
4. speak the language of those consumers already “living” a trend

In many cases, you’ll find (at least you should) the answers to be “YES”.

Enjoy, and good innovating! Once again, the link is also here.

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Beyond your products and services, does your marketing itself serve a purpose?

It’s an important question that actually harkens back to a phrase first expressed in the 1700’s – actions speak louder than words.

If your answer is NO, you’re ignoring what consumers really want. You’re also in jeopardy of your “status quo” marketing (and your brand) becoming increasingly irrelevant.

So, beyond your offer and your campaigns, does your marketing itself add value to people’s lives. Does it:

• help them do things that they couldn’t do on their own?
• engage them in ways they value and want?
• enable them to connect, share with, and learn from others?
• create participants by opening up avenues for meaning and involvement (beyond passive bystanders and followers)?

In order to escape the “status quo” and energize your customers and your brand, challenge yourself to create marketing that delivers beyond the essentials (the must-do’s which address people’s functional needs). Ask yourself these three simple questions:

• is this what our customers really want?
• are we offering them this prize today? (reminds me of Seth Godin’s analogy of the prize inside the Cracker Jack’s box)
• what else can we do, through our marketing, to provide more value to them, and for ourselves?

Your long-term health is riding on these answers, and your actions.

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People really don’t care about your products and services. This might be tough to accept, but it’s true.

What people do care a lot about, however, is how you make them feel about their decisions. How you help them improve their lives. How you help them achieve what they can’t on their own. And for healthcare marketers, these benefits translate into pretty important outcomes, from preserving life, to being able to live healthier and happier lives.

This is the incredible connecting power of your brand. By being about them, but having a strong vision about your place (what it is and what it can be) in their lives. This is the stuff that cements relationships, builds advocates, drives loyalty, gets people talking about you, creates communities and attracts others to you. This is the enormous power of your brand to help you achieve what your business alone can not.

So why do we keep talking about us? How caring we are. How celebrated we are. How trustworthy we are. How smart we are. How about turning the dial 180 degrees to the care they want. The recognition they deserve. The trust they desire. How smart they are. And how about paying this off with actions versus words (but more about this tomorrow).

Be more about your customers, and they’ll be all about you.

Any comments to share?

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What’s the story here? Are there no healthcare brand upstarts or stalwarts setting the pace for innovation and getting results – right now? To that, I say….

The 11/16 Ad Age includes a feature on America’s Hottest Brands – “meet the upstarts and the stalwarts who have found the upside of the downturn; setting the pace for innovation – and getting results – right now.”

These brands run the gamet – from Jameson, to Jetblue, Digiorno, Panera, Subaru, Bing, Barnes & Noble,, Five Guys, Ped Egg and 30 others.

I went through each one of the stories and synthesized the magic behind the results (of course, the key criteria for inclusion on the list). Just some of these include:

• Managing to get consumers psyched about their category/their brand again
• Creating partnerships to help change the nature of conversations
• Using social media and customer service as marketing tools
• Recognizing that it’s not about your product, but about their lifestyle
• Knowing who we are and speaking of things relevant to customers
• Engaging the people within our community
• Creating mobile apps to generate new revenue streams and sales channels
• Engaging folks during a period of time where it can be mayhem; and building a whole mission around providing help during these times
• Having a connection and a closeness with customers that no one else can rival
• Not talking at our consumers, but rather challenging them and supporting them

I know healthcare brands (pharmaceuticals, healthcare systems, hospitals, home care, medical devices, etc.) are typically not included in Ad Age’s list. But I don’t care. I say it’s time to look beyond traditional consumer products boundaries.

Because in healthcare – from blogs to online communities to business models – there are many upstarts and stalwarts setting the pace for innovation and getting results. In fact, these results often translate to saving lives. And it doesn’t get much hotter than that!

So to Ad Age, I say, we’ll make our own list of America’s Hottest [Healthcare] Brands. The brands that save lives. The brands that contribute to healthier, stronger and happier lives. The brands that actually allow each of America’s hottest brands to have audiences healthy enough to participate in theirs.

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To strive for perfection is admirable. But when it comes to social media, it’s a waste of time.

While your efforts need to be grounded in goals, strategy and the social media practices of your health brand audiences, it’s pointless to strive for perfection. Because unlike developing an ad, putting it through focus group testing, and then tweaking to get your “sell and tell” story just right, truly open dialogue is hard to control. Nor do you want to try. Because this means you’re probably lecturing rather than having a conversation.

With social media, take the attitude that you’re always going to be learning, always growing, always adjusting. Follow the lead of your customers. They’ll let you know which content is relevant, and how best to engage them. And how best to facilitate conversations between them.

So, while you consider whether you have a firm enough grasp of the territory, are comfortable with your transparency, wonder whether you’re compelling enough for customers to care about your offerings, don’t contemplate too long. Because the advantages of participating in social media far outweigh the negatives of waiting for “perfection” or not participating at all.

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Women (your primary healthcare influencers and decision-makers) tend to be far more active in social media than men. This was the finding from BIGresearch’s 2009 survey of 22,000 consumers asked about their usage of text, blogs, twitter and social networks.

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With the exception of business-focused LinkedIn, women are heavier users of the six other social media vehicles measured through this survey. Text leads the way at 61.7%, followed by Facebook 59.8%, blog readers 56.2%, blog posters 52.5%, MySpace 51.6%, and Twitter users 50.8%.

Given that this survey was conducted in June, the rankings might well have shifted a bit. But the more important news for health brand marketers is that these social media vehicles are effective in engaging your primary female audiences in more meaningful and trusted dialogue.

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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 Lee Aase, manager of Syndication and Social Media for Mayo Clinic, as this month’s participant.

Here’s what Lee 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…

Are trustworthy and transparent with key stakeholders, whether they be employees or customers or patients. In this regard, social media will be a force for good because it enables open communication. When organizations don’t treat people well, word will get around even faster than in the past. In the broadcast era, companies could buy gross tonnage of advertising to try to buy a consumer perception, and if they managed media relations skillfully they could pitch positive stories about their organizations to journalists.

There’s still some place for that in the conversational era, but it will be decreasingly effective.

On the positive side, if organizations provide a fantastic, remarkable experience to most customers, social media will enable that word to spread more quickly, too.

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

Social media enable Mayo Clinic to provide in-depth information to patients and consumers, with little production cost and virtually no distribution cost. We can talk in depth about relatively obscure medical conditions, for example, without worrying about turning off the mass audience. The new market has now been called “a mass of niches” and through social media tools we can provide the specialized information people crave, particularly when they’re facing a major medical issue.

We also are much more able to listen, both internally to employees and externally to patients and consumers, and to have discussions with them. This gives us great opportunities to learn and improve.

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

We’re pretty well along the road to participation, so now we’re into the phase of seeing how we can incorporate social media into everything we do, and making all of our communications more conversational. It’s really an exciting time now. Early on, we had some understandable organizational trepidation about these tools, but as we understood that social media are just the way word of mouth happens in the 21st century, and that word of mouth has been the most important factor in building Mayo Clinic’s reputation for more than 100 years, we knew we needed to engage. And as we have had positive feedback we’ve been able to extend our social media presence even further.

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

Don’t let strategy become an excuse for inaction. Often organizations wait to become involved in social media until they have thought through every imaginable scenario, and that’s fine, to a point. But too frequently they go way beyond due diligence to a social media form of hypochondria or paranoia.

Realize that if your organization is worth talking about, people are already discussing you online, so it would behoove you to join the conversation. And if you’re not being discussed online, that’s actually worse: it means you’re irrelevant, not worth talking about. That’s all the more reason to get engaged.

Social media are just another way of communicating, and are cheaper and more cost-effective than traditional means. In a twist on the defense department supercomputer’s line in the Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games,” I would say the only way to lose is not to play. It’s great to think about strategy in using social media, just as it’s appropriate to have a strategy for use of the telephone. For example, you may ask whether you will have a voice mail system or whether every call will be answered by a real person, or whether you will have a toll-free number for incoming calls. But it would be extremely odd for a company to decide it wasn’t going to install phones until it had its complete strategy decided.

So by all means, give a little thought to creating a potential growth path for social media in your organization, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The sales trainer Zig Ziglar used to say that if you wait until all the lights are on green before you leave the house, you’ll never get out of the driveway. If you spend any money to communicate with employees or customers, why wouldn’t you take advantage of free tools that help you do it better?

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So you feel like the wind might finally be at your back (at least a few days out of the week). Your CFO is easing off the brake pedal. Competitors and customers are showing signs of life. The Board is once again focused on top-line growth rather than cost savings.

It’s time to restart your brand engines. Here are 10 tips for how to proceed:

1. Revisit your customer. Listen unbiasedly to understand their pain points, priorities, practices and unmet needs. Spend time walking in their shoes. Don’t be you being them. Become them.

2. Sharpen your story. Use these insights to help determine where and how you most meaningfully improve customers lives; and do it differently from others? What do you (ultimately) help them achieve that others can’t; or aren’t?

3. Be ambitious (this is actually part b of number 2 above). Beyond where you are today, what can you be in the future? If status quo wasn’t an option (it’s not for customers), what would you want to achieve?

4. Get the juices flowing inside. Brand-building really does start inside the company. If employees are educated, if they’re believers, if they’re inspired, can walk the talk, and do it consistently, customers will come along for the ride (and bring their friends).

5. Deeds versus words. Brands used to be built through imagery and messaging. But those days are just about over. Today’s power brands are involving and dynamic, deliver great customer experiences, are mechanisms for connections and community and for more meaningfully improving our lives.

6. Co-create value. Harness the collective intelligence of audiences to create greater and new value for your customers and company; along the way, creating stronger relationships, greater advocacy and deeper loyalty.

7. Tag team. An inspiring and brand-engaged CEO, coupled with a talented, imaginative and respected CMO is a tough team to beat.

8. Deliver happiness. Happy customers are happy to spread your word. And with multiple channels at their disposal, they certainly will.

9. Extend apologies. If you screw up, admit it. Trying to hide behind it doesn’t make much sense, because you can’t.

10. Execute brilliantly. Success is in the details. Which means your whole brand house needs to be in order. Every facet of your brand expression – from behaviors, to communications, environments and products – must reflect and extend your story.

Any other tips to add to this list?

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Are you leveraging your opportunity to become one community of practice?

This video highlights the benefits of using collaborative tools to share best practices and expertise across the Rio Tinto group. According to Mark Bennett, principal advisor, a community of practice is a group of people who share a passion for something they know how to do, and who want to interact regularly to learn how to do that thing better.

These collaborative forums are changing the way the company works. People aren’t scared to ask questions. A lot of people are willing to give answers. The end result is a significant shift to become more interdependent. To being one Rio Tinto.

Sounds a lot like the opportunity we have through social media. And isn’t this its ultimate benefit? To create a community of practice. Community collaboration that creates greater value for both customers and companies. Extracting the knowledge, insights and imagination that we each possess, and unlocking it through collaboration.

I just came back from the e-patient connections conference last week. The power of this concept of communities of practice was reinforced through many important and powerful examples. Just a few of these included:

• Mayo Clinic’s Patient Stories, told by those who are honored to share their stories and who understand the power they have to help others
• Kerry Sparling, from, who said that for diabetes patients, finding emotional support online is everything
• Lisa Tate (CEO Womenheart) and Robert Schumm (Marketing Director Bayer Healthcare) who talked about their Facebook Strong@Heart initiative

So, how are you helping to create, for your customer and for  your company, your “community of practice.” Please share your story.

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