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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.

The Act of Becoming: Branding on Social Media

March 15, 2012 7 comments
Social Influencers

Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Factor. He showed that trends are not spread by the many, but by a few influential connectors.  Marketers identify and leverage these connectors or social influencers to build their brands in the social marketplace.  As  brands engage with these key customers and taste makers, what are they hearing? The social marketplace is no place for brands who don’t have a firm grasp of their identity. Social media marketing is an exacting science and but it can also be a rude awakening.

The Exacting Science Part

Like the ripples of water from a rock thrown in a pond, marketers identify each degree of separation and influence. There are  power influencers, idea starters, amplifiers, etc.

Marketing agencies and research firms have developed innumerable measurement and analysis tools. From buzz analysis to tweet and blog level,  Klout to PeerIndex we know who to court and woo. We seek favor for the brand with a blog or podcast mention. We know the demography and social media profile of  second level influencers, the “brand ambassadors” and on to the next. Let the word of mouth begin.

The beauty of social media marketing is that you can learn which programs, messages and offers work and which don’t.  ROI is a snap.  For new brands and small marketing budgets, it’s the only way to go. For many big brands, it’s an effective way to keep their customer base. Ford Motor Company is revitalizing their brand with an improved product line and great social marketing.

The Rude Awakening Part

The world of social media has no tolerance for executive, top down brands.  Traditional brand messaging does not resonate in this world. Today’s consumers are on information overload. They want to make brand decisions on their own terms, filtered through their network.

Consumers use social media to create a cultural context that has meaning for them, a “collective I”, as Alex Wipperfurth describes it.  The brand must become something with meaning and authenticity to take part in that world. Who are you and what do you stand for?  It’s surprising, but many companies don’t really know.

Luxury brands that rely on cache have not done well in the democratic arena of social. Campaigns with even a hint of controversy can go viral negative in days. The California Milk Board’s “PMS” campaign polled positive, but stirred a firestorm of negative social media backlash. Relevance and resonance displace reach as the prescription for success in social media marketplace.

To quote Mr. Wipperfurth again, “It’s no longer about positioning…it’s about taking a position.”

Please let me know your thoughts by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post.
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