Sunday, May 29, 2011

Connecting the Tissue Between Health Care and Branding

Hospitals face a number of challenges in recruiting physicians. Smaller facilities and those in rural areas find it difficult to compete with high-tech hospitals in major cities. Some states, like Nevada, are burdened with high medical insurance costs. Lastly, and most surprisingly, the large number of specialties and sub-specialties means that the candidate pool for each position is surprisingly small.
How are hospitals standing out in the crowded marketplace? By branding.
You would think that branding would have no place in health care – the environment is too clinical, the stakes are too high, and the workplace is too busy. But hospitals have been using social media to become thought leaders and experts in their field, allowing them to polish their brand, attract new patients, and recruit top talent.
Consider Children’s Hospital in Dallas, where the public relations department live-tweeted a kidney transplant between a father and his three-year-old son. After the dramatic event, the hospital’s Twitter following jumped by almost 400%, twenty people had contacted the hospital to inquire about becoming organ donors, and dozens of media outlets conducted interviews with either the surgeons or the patients. This enormous response (from what is actually a rather routine procedure) raised the facility’s profile with both patients and physicians, who sought out what was now a brand that symbolized cutting-edge technology and heartwarming success stories. Since then, six other hospitals have live-tweeted surgical procedures, ranging from a hysterectomy to brain surgery.

Another great example is St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. Its Facebook page features a health tip every day, and the organization allows anyone to post on the Wall. Whether it’s a patient thanking their nurse for great care or a staffer quickly responding to a bad ER experience, St. Joseph’s has created a brand around customer service and quick response time. It’s no wonder that the hospital has over 2,300 Facebook likes.
While Children’s and St. Joseph’s demonstrate pure branding, some hospitals are even using social media directly for recruitment. The famous Mayo Clinic, for example, has its own careers Twitter: @mayoclinicjobs. The organization has almost 1,900 followers and posts jobs openings at its Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota campuses throughout the day. Clearly, the HR department at the Mayo Clinic is aware of the 2008 New England Journal Medicine study that revealed that 71% of physicians searched for jobs online.
We’ve seen branding applied to consumer products, sports teams, and celebrities. Now the health care industry is using branding to connect with consumers and job applicants. These practices also help hospitals demystify their field and focus on their medical triumphs instead of the uncertainty and paperwork that many associate with medicine.
It should be clear by now that every industry can benefit from branding and recruitment through social media. Are you using social media to brand your company and recruit top talent?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So Long Average Joe, Hello Diversity.

What the new demographics mean to branding. 

According to the recent Census findings from over 20 states, the concept of the average American is over. As a nation, we are becoming a more diverse population and in fact, in our 10 largest cities, no one segment forms a majority.

Throw out your cookie-cutters because the impact of this information to marketing, branding and talent acquisition is significant.

·      The concept of a value proposition, which by definition means creating a targeted strategy aligned with the wants and needs of your audience, is expanding in direct proportion to our audience segments.

·      Adding complexity is the fact that for the first time in history, we have four generations existing side-by-side in the workplace.

·      Social networks have fragmented our audiences even further, creating smaller clusters of niche groups with fewer members.  

In today’s world, building relevant and authentic messages that appeal to multicultural and multigenerational professionals means more market research and message testing. The good news is that the internet has provided us with a greater variety of ways to launch these plans.

Sites like GutCheck and Quantcast bring innovation to qualitative research. And survey tools like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang make Quant a breeze.

Sadly, these tools and technology will not help in analyzing the data and creating truly unique messaging and marketing plans that resonate with fragmented groups.

That can only be accomplished by people with experience, insight and creativity. Fortunately for you, I know a few of them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Brand, A Blindfold, A Birthday and The Bottom Line. Coke Turns 125

Valued at more than $70 billion, Coca-Cola’s brand is ranked # 1 in the world. Its nearest competitor by category, Pepsi, is not next in line, not even in the top 10. They’re a whole 23 steps away, worth only a mere $14 bil and change. Yet since 1975 when The Pepsi Challenge blind taste tasting events began, consumer preference trended towards Pepsi.

What’s up with that?

First, lets take a quick look at the difference in branding- the emotional connection consumers have with both.

What do you think about when you think Coke?
Maybe it’s Santa Clause. Maybe it’s Norman Rockwell. Coke credits their advertising with creating the modern image of big Nick himself. Or how about diversity- and the beautiful commercials about teaching the Whole World to Sing, that had America humming.

Now think Pepsi
Maybe Madonna comes to mind. Or Michael Jackson’s hair catching on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial.

Or maybe I’m too old.

Let’s go social to see how the two companies use the social network differently. 
Pepsi’s Facebook page looks downright sparse compared to Coke’s two dozen features.

Some Stats

Who Created the Page
Coke: Two fans, who were given a tour of the headquarters in Atlanta and whose video of the trip is prominently displayed on the site.
Pepsi: The PepsiCo marketing department.

Immediate Call to “Like” the Site
Coke: “Like Coke? There’s a button for that.”

Number of “Likes"
Coke: 24.6 million
Pepsi: 3.8 million

Number of Photos
Coke: 13, 319
Pepsi: 1,774

A Social Media Gaffe?

The Pepsi Refresh project, with a promise of $20 million in donations for "refreshing ideas that change the world," is being revamped though the response was spectacular: 80 million votes registered; 60,000 followers on Twitter; 4 million “likes” on Facebook.

Only one problem- many voters and grant winners say they don't generally buy soda. Perhaps that explains why last month the Wall Street Journal reported that both Pepsi and Diet Pepsi had each lost about 5% of their market share over the past 12 months in the US.
The bottom line is that after 125 years in business, the future still looks bright for Coca-Cola. That’s because no one buys soda with a blindfold on.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

If The Shoe Fits: Social Media Lessons from Converse

   Mashable just published an interview with Geoff Cottrill, Chief Marketing Officer of Converse. One passage jumped out at me:

   One day he discovered that Converse had 8 million [Facebook] fans and was asked what the brand should do. “Nothing,” he replied.

   How counter-intuitive! While the interview goes on to show that Cottrill’s philosophy isn’t quite that meager, his strategy for Converse is very simple and effective. Here are the lessons you can take from the shoe company and apply to your own brand.

   Listen More Than You Talk
   Cottrill explains that he actually meant “Do nothing special,” meaning Converse should allow online conversations to go on without any assistance. “The bottom line is that in social media you have to let go,” he tells Mashable, pointing out that the era of one-way communication is over. Studies have shown that people “Unlike” brands on Facebook when they post too often and broadcast too much promotional material. Allow your customers to come to you and address their concerns. If you just link to your own press releases, people will stay away.

   Give Things Away
   Knowing that rock musicians have a history of wearing Converse shoes to express their “individuality and independence,” the company is about to open a recording studio in Brooklyn, which it will rent to new bands for free; Cottrill promises that the musicians won’t even be asked to promote Converse in their work. You may not be able to offer a recording studio, but you can still hold giveaways and contests on your Twitter feed, Facebook Page, or blog. Give everyone who votes in your online poll a chance to win a small gift card or one of your less expensive products. You can also give away white papers, e-books, or other premium content.

   Focus on Core Marketing Truths
   For Cottrill, that means “Be relevant, make a connection, and be useful.” A quick check of the Converse Twitter feed shows that a significant portion of the tweets are @replies to customers and fans. You can emulate this strategy by keeping straight promotion to a minimum and actively engaging your followers with answers, fun facts, surveys, and links to content that matches their interests and lifestyle.

   Don’t Duplicate Content
   Cottrill says that he modifies his messaging based on the platform. The example he gives involves posting videos of rock bands on YouTube, while asking for band member interview questions from followers on Twitter. Duplicating content may save time, but you’ll pay for it as followers get tired of seeing the same links three or four times in one day. I’m very aware of this phenomenon and I created the Four Essential Profiles to ensure that your four main messaging sources work together instead of against each other.

   Ultimately, Cottrill compares his social media campaign to being a good party guest: bringing your unique voice to the medium, letting go of the urge to manage the conversation, and trusting your customers. The result is that Converse has four times as many Facebook fans as its parent company Nike -- and over three times that of Pepsi, which aggressively advertises its brand. “The key is to know yourself as a brand, be confident in your POV, and act that way wherever you are,” he says. Good advice.