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Three Reasons for a Hospital to Advertise

March 20, 2012 7 comments
Is Hospital Advertising Effective?

Why do hospitals advertise? As someone who spent a career making and watching advertising, it seems like a waste of money.

Take a look at hospital ads on YouTube. If you edited the name of the hospital from the commercial, it would be impossible to tell the difference between them. All deliver top-notch healthcare, with world-class doctors and an attentive staff of happy people.

This should be no surprise; all hospitals share the same mission.Their physicians train to the same standards. There is little tangible differentiation at level of the institution in the hospital world.  If there was, you would be hearing about it on the evening news and soon they would close their doors.

Yes, there are teaching hospitals and community hospitals and regional hospitals, but they compete with others of the same ilk on the same dimensions.

When to Advertise

In my view, there are only three legitimate reasons for hospitals to advertise:

  • Change of ownership.  The hospital is obligated to tell the communities it serves of any change in ownership. With it may come enhancements to facilities which improve the patient experience or a renewed commitment to serve the community. Corporate ads like this are often full of  platitudes. During my agency career we used to say corporate advertising is where the rubber meets the sky. Try to stick with the facts.
  • Marketing a center of excellence.  These ads work because there is a tangible, differentiated benefit to the patient. Centers of excellence usually are excellent.  And the halo they create enhances the overall image of the hospital.
  • Improve the patient mix.  Hospitals in blighted neighborhoods are often burdened with high costs of treating the uninsured, and shrinking subsidies for paying for that care. Often, these hospitals deliver superior outcomes treating chronic disease states because of the problems of their populations. Targeted, program specific spending in adjacent neighborhoods can revitalize a hospital’s profitability.

My advice to hospitals considering an ad campaign outside those purposes…scrap it and put your money to work engaging with the communities you serve. It’s more work, but it actually demonstrates the “commitment” that is too often spoken of in those commercials.

Story Time on Facebook

March 1, 2012 1 comment
Facebook’s New Marketing Platform: Big Changes for Users

Today, Facebook introduced its new offering called Facebook Premium to advertisers at its Facebook Marketing Conference. They added Sponsored Stories to Brand Pages. Facebook wants advertisers to engage with fans, to tell their brand story.

Up to now, we had to “like” a brand to get exposure to each promotion.  Not very engaging, except to promotion enthusiasts. This feature has kept my Facebook News Feed remarkably free of ads.

Facebook Premium inserts brand stories on the News Feeds of fans of a brand, next to news from their family and friends. You say you are a fan of Target stores? You get Target stories between news tidbits from your college buddies.

Bedtime Stories from Mountain Dew

Storytelling was a hot topic in social marketing circles this past year, but we didn’t see much of it. Now, I fear a festival of brand storytelling is about the begin. I wonder to what depths brand marketers will sink to engage me with their story.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good story. Moby Dick knocked me out. But what kind of stories will I hear from Mountain Dew?

My last post, “Mission-Driven Social Media” praised the Mayo Clinic for using its founding mission as inspiration for its social media strategy.  The CEO told a great story about how the Mayo brothers reinvented medicine in a way to build a network of care around the patient.  This became group medical practice.  They shared this new idea by travelling the world to tell how it worked. You can’t tell a more authentic brand story.

The question is, how many authentic-feeling brand stories can marketers conjure up? According to one report on The Next Web, “Facebook’s vision for marketers is that brands will be able to interact with customers in ways just as rich and dynamic as family and friends.” Maybe some fans will come to like their brands more than family and friends.

Agency response

I read a post in Forbes today from Jamie Tedford.  He’s CEO and founder of social media agency Brand Networks. He says, “All brands have a story.” His agency banished the word “posts” from their lexicon and replaced it with “stories”.  They reorganized account teams around Story Planners. They use analytics to figure out which stories resonate.

Sounds like a plan. I’m sure it will work…for a while and for some brands. If things go as usual in agency-land, this will get overdone. Like tourists on a whale watch, everyone will rush to one side of the boat. Brand managers – don’t trial and error this to death. Your fans are your best customers. This has the potential to wear on the user and create blow back.

Oh and one more thing. Facebook also announced that once users log off the site, ads and promos will flood the page before it closes – on desktop, mobile and tablet. Wake me when it’s over.

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