Thursday, October 7, 2010

Take Proactive Steps to Ensure YOUR Brand is the One You Want!

When speaking to many marketing people on the subject of branding, I often hear an exasperated response along the lines of, “We don’t do any branding, and as a matter of fact we don’t even have a brand!”

I try to remind them that, of course they have a brand, because a brand is, by definition, a mark of distinction that is representative of how your product is perceived by its intended target audience. Like it or not, every organization and every product out there has a fundamental “brand” in the eyes of its consumers.

Sadly, it may not be the brand they want!

It is important to realize that the branding of your organization is happening, with or without your participation. Perceptions of your brand are being shaped through experience, word of mouth, and every public act undertaken by the organization and its people. Even though you may not be actively shaping the perceptions of your brand in the marketplace, strong (and lasting) perceptions are still being formed.

This begs the question, if you are not actively managing your brand, then who or what is?

If you are not actively shaping and nurturing your intended brand message in the marketplace, then you can be sure it’s being shaped either by consumer scuttlebutt or worse, by your competition. Either way, are you content to let someone or something other than you determine what the marketplace perceives about your organization?

An appropriate (albeit graphic) analogy might be a car hurtling down the highway. The driver has chosen not to drive -- he may be napping or is busy doing something “more important” -- but that does not mean the car will not arrive somewhere – it will – we just don’t know where it will arrive, how suddenly it will get there, or whether we will need a tow truck, an ambulance or a hearse to clean up the mess.

The bottom line is you DO have a brand, and it is essential that you know exactly what your consumers’ perceptions of that brand are. If you are happy with those perceptions, then your next step is to develop a strategy to defend and enhance it. If, however, you need to change your brand perception, a strategic and comprehensive program to move public perception in your favor is in order.

Consider this: Strong brands are sought out by consumers, who are willing to pay a premium for those brands. Studies show that strong brands command price premiums of, on average, 7% over lesser brands. That HAS to be worth the effort!

Let me know what you think. Respond or email me at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hospital Patient Satisfaction - A Short Story

In the world of hospitals, it is well documented that superior patient satisfaction leads to higher quality scores, a better market position, and greater revenues.

Much of the same research also tells us that the single biggest driver of patient satisfaction is employee engagement.

Despite all of this compelling research, far too many many hospitals continue to believe that patient satisfaction can be influenced by consumer advertising -- billboards, newspaper ads, radio, etc.

So here's a story -- one that I swear is 100% true.

It starts with the unfortunate fact that my wife is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. We've entrusted her care here since the beginning of October, and we've found the people who work here, from top to bottom, are beyond compare.

So here's the story: About 2 months ago, I was at Sloan with Lyn. I went to get a cup of coffee, but the coffee machine was being serviced by two people -- one training the other. As I approached, I overheard the trainer emphatically​ saying to the trainee, "The way we do things here at Sloan is simple. Everyone you deal with -- everyone -- is to be treated like they are a member of YOUR family."

I think that speaks volumes about this place.

I have now blogged that story twice, and told just about anyone who would listen -- no doubt many are telling their friends as well. Oh, and the hospital didn't need to spend $10,000 on a billboard to get that kind of good will, did it?

What does YOUR hospital do to foster a similar culture among its employees?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Minnesota Newspaper Sorts Through Nurses' Strike -- and Gets it Right

The hospital industry has been abuzz over the past several weeks, over the prospect of 12,000 nurses at 14 Minnesota hospitals striking over a variety of issues. The brief, but acrimonious strike that took place last week was punctuated by leaders of the nurses union accusing the hospitals of pressing for procedures and work rules that would lead to unsafe patient care.

Shockingly, in the end, it seems it was all about money.

An editorial published in the Pioneer Press of St. Paul hit the nail on the head. Its title: Nurses Care. So Do Hospital Bosses.

In the editorial, the paper took the nurses to task for their cynical (and apparently transparent) approach to gaining public and union support:

By relying on an argument that demonized hospital managers and attempted to raise panic about pervasive mortal danger in Twin Cities hospitals, the nurses union undermined its own credibility and the cause of intelligent discourse.

The paper went on to state: Arguing that hospital managers and the citizen boards who direct them care only about money and not at all about patients or employees is...outrageous.

More and more hospitals will be faced with labor issues -- not only among nurses, but also among support workers and technicians -- as healthcare dollars continue to get tighter and tighter. Moving forward, let's hope that these disputes can be resolved by reasonable people undertaking a discussion that centers around the best and most effective utilization of available resources, and not on a cynical attempt to demonize the opposition.

Because hospital bosses care, too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tacky? Or superior marketing thought?

If you've just awoken from a long Rip Van Winkle-like sleep, you may not know that the World Cup is taking place this fortnight in South Africa. Companies from around the globe pay millions of dollars to get their name associated with this largest and most watched sporting event on the planet.

But what if you don't have the resources (or inclination) to spend that kind or money? Or what if one of your competitors already forked over the cash to claim a coveted category-exclusive sponsorship?

Perhaps there IS another way to get some notice. Dutch beer brand Bavaria sure found a way, and it is getting noticed in the media all over the world.

Is this a criminal enterprise, or merely the case of "David" once again finding a way to slay "Goliath?" Take a look and you be the judge.

In the meantime, here's a photo of guerrilla marketing in action:

Monday, June 14, 2010

If You Run a Hospital, You Need Better Employee Engagement

The 2010 Hospital Pulse Report: Employee and Nurse Perspectives on American Health Care was recently released by Press Ganey Associates, and it should serve as a wake up call to hospital administrators.

The report, which surveyed the experiences of more than 235,000 employees at nearly 400 U.S. hospitals, tells us that 45% of hospital workers -- almost half! -- consider themselves "distanced from or discontent with their current work."

Even more troubling, those working closest to patient care have the lowest partnership scores. In other words, these employees are the least likely to feel satisfied and engaged with their organization.


The report goes on to tell us that, not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between patient satisfaction and employee partnership.

Now let's complete the circle: If employees are not engaged and satisfied, patient satisfaction suffers. And we all know that low patient satisfaction equals declining admissions, erosion of brand equity, and loss of market share.

Times are tough. Money is not easily or readily available for things that are not considered "essential" at hospitals. But the fact remains that hospital leaders need to look to employee engagement and satisfaction as a primary driver of patient satisfaction and perception of quality care.

Those hospitals that provide the best environment for employees will reap the reward of better patient care -- and increased revenues.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Follow the Money

To paraphrase the character "Deep Throat" from the Watergate movie All the President's Men: If you want to know the REAL story, you have to follow the money.

So what is the real story these days in advertising? Well, for the first time ever, Outsell, Inc.'s annual advertising and marketing study reveals that U.S. advertisers will spend more this year on digital media than on print. This long-predicted milestone has finally arrived thanks to a 9.6% planned increase in digital advertising in 2010.

Does this signal the end of print as we know it? Hardly. The same study tells us that ad spending for magazines will rise this year by 1.9%, to $9.4 billion.

It does, however, raise the interesting question that, if Madison Avenue believes that the Internet is worthy of these kinds of ad expenditures, shouldn't you, as a marketer, sit up, take notice and make sure your marketing messages are delivered in the environment where the greatest number of eyes will see them?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Make Sure You Know Where the Emergency Brake Is

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, knows that I am a strong proponent of social media as a big part of the overall marketing mix. As part of an effective communications package, every organization needs to use a combination of social media tools to speak directly with their audience.

Although social media is intended to be somewhat unfiltered, some organizations – particularly hospitals – are governed by laws and privacy issues that can preclude an unfiltered stakeholder engagement. For that reason, it is important to craft and vet a social media response protocol prior to engaging in these new, and operationally-different, media tools.

As part of your social media effort, you need to develop a comprehensive social media policy. This policy will provide needed checks and balances for all of your employees and external stakeholders who could potentially contribute content or comment on any of your company-controlled social media properties. It should also provide guidance on moderating comments and input from the general public.

Your goal should not necessarily be to control and manage the message and tone of social media communication with your various publics. Rather, your goal should be to ensure that the dialogue is fair and adheres to standards that you’ve thought through and pre-set for propriety and privacy.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I’ve come to the conclusion that social media scares a lot of people. That is understandable. It’s new. It involves unfamiliar protocols and nomenclature. It seems so easy and natural for 16-year-olds, yet is a different world altogether for those of us who still remember where we were when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Nonetheless, social media is here to stay.

So it’s time to take the plunge. Here’s what I recommend: a staged roll-out of social media tools and channels, so that you don’t “bite off more than you can chew.” Start small. Join and use Facebook (really use it; don’t be a bystander or wallflower). See what others in your industry are doing. Become a fan of sites that are delivering the kind of information you wish you were delivering about your company. Your Facebook experience shouldn’t be defined by the number of “friends” you have, but rather by the quality of contacts and experiences you can generate.

Keep a record of the kinds of information and resources you’d like YOUR company’s fan page to deliver. And yes, check out your competitors and what peer companies in different parts of the country (or even the world!) are doing.

And when you are ready, launch your page, keeping in mind it is NOT a website, which can sit fallow for months. Social media IS customer and stakeholder engagement. Be prepared to engage!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Time for Hospitals to Embrace Social Media

It’s time for hospitals to embrace social media.

Interactive online technologies, or “social media,” allow online users to search for and share content, and have become an indispensable tool in today’s communication mix – except, it seems, at smaller community hospitals. Social media sites are firmly entrenched as the primary method for online dialogue and communication for a good deal of the population today, covering people of all ages.

As part of an effective communications package, every organization needs to use a combination of social media tools to speak directly with their audience. Failing to do so risks alienating your patients and your community. Worse, it allows – and perhaps invites – the dialogue about what’s happening within your hospital and its service lines to be driven by outside, often unreliable sources.

Latest estimates show that over 500 hospitals in the U.S. are using some form of social media – and many are using multiple social media tools. If you are a healthcare marketing pro, isn’t it time to get YOUR hospital on board?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hospitals need to Embrace "Marketing"

Just about every hospital I’ve dealt with has a “marketing” department. Why did I put “marketing” in the dreaded quotation marks? Well, because “marketing” means so very many different things to individual hospitals or healthcare systems.

In some cases, “marketing” means “fund raising.” To others, it means sending out press releases on health and wellness programs. Still others equate “marketing” with “advertising,” (generally resulting in little more than a shameful waste of money, if you ask me).

In truth, (according to the American Marketing Association):

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Hospitals are quick to point out that they are doing the latest procedure, that they have the most modern equipment, and they generally provide high-tech services. Isn’t it time for hospitals to move into the 21st Century with their marketing?