How Hospitals Can Build Brand Loyalty

Earning the trust of your patients will help your hospital build brand loyalty.

After more than two years of focusing on COVID-19, health remains top of mind with consumers. Numerous surveys find that US adults are more concerned about health and hygiene than prior to 2020. Of the top five consumer brands they trust most, according to Morning Consult, four are healthcare related—BAND-AID, Lysol, Clorox and CVS Pharmacy.

64% of U.S Adults trust healthcare companies.

Likewise, similar polls show that 64 percent of all adults in this country trust healthcare companies, second only to the trust they place in food and beverage companies. At the bottom of that same poll sit CEOs, with social media and media companies hovering just slightly above them.

This backs findings from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, which reveals that globally, consumers basically trust no one—particularly government leaders, journalists and CEOs.  The same report, however, shows scientists to be the most trusted societal leaders and healthcare to be among the most trusted industry sectors.

Consumer health concerns present a platform for hospitals and healthcare systems to amplify information that lets audiences know “this is what we’re doing” to prioritize their health and care for them. That starts with strengthening bonds between providers and patients, where trust matters most.

Having Coffee With A Friend

How many times have healthcare marketers been told that, despite best efforts, patients go where doctors lead them? With consumers in the driver’s seat that belief is now less prevalent, particularly with Gen Z and Millennial audiences who harbor a high distrust of traditional methods and approaches.

The traditional model of ambulatory care has gone the way of the horse and buggy doctor making house calls. Or has it?

The digital healthcare transformation offers healthcare brands more ways to gain the trust of their patients and build brand loyalty.

Digital healthcare transformation—telemedicine, wearable diagnostic devices, texting, emailing, or messaging through EHR portals—now makes patient care more direct and personal. Remote doctor visits are becoming more like having coffee with a friend, as opposed to in-person interactions with a doctor.

Patients who trust your healthcare brand are more likely to have brand loyalty. 39% of survey respondents will go out of their way to do business with a brand they trust.

Providers can maintain trust with their patients by acknowledging and marketing themselves as unique, individual brands. In the Morning Consult study, 39 percent of respondents indicate when they trust a brand, they will go out of the way to do business with it. Few things cause a woman more angst than having to change hairdressers or gynecologists. Once they establish a bond, it’s hard to break.

Choosing one doctor over another often depends on four key factors:

  1. Patient experience
  2. Convenience
  3. Reviews
  4. Competitive pricing

Trust between doctors and their patients empowers providers to get back to what most want to do in the first place—keep patients healthy.

Humanizing the Brand

One of the most valuable lessons learned from the pandemic is the need to humanize brands to demonstrate knowledge and solidify consumer trust.

Patients trust providers with their health, time, and money. Credibility and trustworthiness solidify their decisions more than over-the-top promises and exaggerated claims.

Start by getting rid of pre-2020 platitudes. Instead:

  • Share authentic patient stories to inform and educate;
  • Feature doctors, nurses, and other staff to share brand stories;
  • Inform with science and research without hesitation or sugar coating;
  • Listen; ask patients about their visits with quick and easy post surveys; monitor reviews and social media comments.

Carefully Consider What You Say, Do and Share

Consumers tend to lose trust in a brand due to negative experiences and sub-par quality. Picking sides on a social issue that contrasts with the consumer’s views is also a trust breaker.

Even though a doctor’s or nurse’s personal social media pages should be safe forums for sharing personal beliefs, it is a public forum. The public doesn’t distinguish between what Joe says, does or shares while on vacation from what Dr. Joe says, does or shares on the practice platforms during office hours.

For example, providers are now caught in a legal and political quagmire following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. With emotions running high on both sides of the issue, not only can providers lose patients with public or private statements, but their brand can negatively be affected.

Currently, earnestly addressing, prioritizing, and managing a patient’s health builds trust.  And that’s important.

How to Improve Brand Reputation

Recognizing When Your Brand Is Losing Its Luster

Illustration of people working together on building a brand reputation. Illustration includes a laptop, graphs, and social media icons.

If your marketing seems less effective or success benchmarks aren’t being met, it may be time to evaluate your brand reputation. Though some shifts in performance can be attributed to the ever-fickle consumer and rapidly changing marketing trends, sometimes the problem can lie deeper beneath the surface and may require long-term solutions. So how do you tell if your healthcare brand is losing its luster? And how do you stay nimble enough to avoid a sliding brand reputation?

Start by examining the relationship between brand and reputation. Your brand is the promise you make to audiences. You earn a reputation by how you fulfill that promise. When the gap between those begins to widen is when the brand begins to slide. You can be a bright, shining star one day with the brand reputation of a dull pariah the next.

Learn from Retail Brands

Paying close attention to the state of your healthcare brand’s reputation could save you from being faced with a timely and expensive rebranding effort on top of falling revenues. One retail brand that failed to keep up with its changing reputation is early 2000s fashion icon, Abercrombie and Fitch. The fashion brand hinged its success on a marketing strategy of elitism, positioning itself as the way teenagers can look cool.  Abercrombie & Fitch quickly fell from grace as changing social attitudes about racial diversity and size inclusivity stood in opposition to the brand’s messaging.

When a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit against the company came to light, it was clear Abercrombie & Fitch needed serious changes in its culture and messaging. In 2017, the brand underwent a full transformation to improve its brand reputation resulting in a resurgence of success with Gen Z consumers. Carey Collins Krug, Abercrombie Brands’ senior vice president and head of marketing told TeenVogue, “Abercrombie today isn’t about ‘fitting in,’ but instead is focused on creating [a] space where everyone genuinely belongs.”

Toxic company culture—mistreatment of employees, discrimination of any kind, misinformation, and inauthenticity—can also quickly tarnish a brand. Healthcare marketers can learn lessons from retail brands like Abercrombie & Fitch. Test your brand regularly to make sure you’re still relevant and well received by your target audience.

Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.

There are two rules to maintaining a good brand reputation. First, never get comfortable. Second, constantly polish the brand.

Rule #1—never get comfortable or take your eyes off the ball.

Rule #2—constantly polish the brand and monitor your reputation.

How do stakeholders view your brand? Ask them. Perception research is critical to evaluating marketing programs and determining if messages resonate with audiences as authentic, truthful, and what they want.

Whether in-depth consumer and brand studies or short post-visit patient surveys, digital platforms place invaluable data at your fingertips. Questions or comments posted on websites or social channels can also warn of shifting consumer behaviors.

In monitoring your brand, monitor the competition as well. Look for areas where they may be outshining you or losing some of their lusters.

Step outside the marketing bubble to test the brand promise.

Being too close to creating and marketing a brand can skew the perceptions of even the most experienced marketing professional. If you haven’t tested your brand promise since pre-2020, quickly do so.

Does the promise resonate with patients, employees, doctors, and community stakeholders? Does it resonate with your barber, barista, or mother? If the reaction is “what does that mean?” you know it’s time to refresh the brand.

Brand reputation can be viewed as a Venn Diagram. One part is your brand promise. The other part is brand fulfillment. In the center you can build brand trust.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 special report, “Brands Amid Crisis,” chronicled consumer values that quickly shifted from aligning with brands reflecting social status, success and lifestyle to those that put consumer safety first, showed value and cared more about people than profit. Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer declared a complete information bankruptcy, with consumers mostly distrusting everyone.

For your brand to stay relevant and resonate with audiences, remember they are watching how you treat employees, what you’re doing for the community’s health, how you’re taking care of them and how you react in times of crisis.

To retain brand trust with audiences, stay ahead of them. Implement such tactics as:

  • Provide the best digital experiences possible from website to mobile apps.
  • Curate content that’s authentic and relevant, not platitudes about the brand.
  • Invest and engage with community needs.
  • Position leadership as leaders in the community, particularly in times of crisis.
  • Identify local micro-influencers whose brand values align with yours; leverage their influence.
  • Listen to them.

In this time of rapidly shifting consumer perceptions and social attitudes, move swiftly and strategically if you recognize that your brand is beginning to lose its luster. 

If you feel your brand may be losing its luster, we can help with strategic planning, rebranding, and more. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363.

How Brands Lose Trust: Greenwashing, Overstating and Other Marketing Spins

How Brand Lose Trust: Greenwashing, Overstating and Other Marketing Spins

Many of us are guilty of overstating a marketing claim, making it more grandiose than it is. Or we’ve done the opposite—downplayed something to manage public perception. Either can backfire and destroy trust.

Greenwashing, news high jacking, overstating, understating, and spinning all pose risks to our brands. Relationship building with audiences is paramount. Anything less proves counterproductive to maintaining trust and loyalty.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer shows consumers to be a fickle bunch with patience levels being on par with Coach Nick Saban, who famously declared, “I have none.”

The 2021 Edelman Trust Baromete shows business is more trusted than government in 18 of 27 surveyed countries. Business trust index score increased by 2 points (54 to 56) from 2020 to 2021.

After a two-year-long pandemic and epidemic of misinformation, respondents surveyed in 28 different countries declared an “information bankruptcy.” They don’t trust societal institutions, government leaders, or the media. Surprisingly, business emerged as the only trusted sector with a 56% trust index.

Improving healthcare systems dominated as the most important foundational problem worldwide. That presents hospitals and healthcare systems with a platform to amplify information that lets audiences know “this is what we’re doing” to prioritize their health and care for them and their families. Anything less, and we risk losing their trust.

Curb the Spin to Maintain Trust

Image reads: "Enviornmentally friendly policies = back up with solid, consistent practices."

Have you ever noticed how many people seem to be an environmentalist for the day every April 22nd (Earth Day)? Though their interest in environmental activism may be fickle at times, don’t underestimate your audiences. Patients, employees, and other stakeholders now expect sustainability and they know greenwashing when they see it. Spinning a message about environmentally friendly policies should be backed up with solid, consistent practices. Otherwise, the green sheen can quickly turn beet red.

In a Harris Poll for Google Cloud, executives across the globe identify Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives as their top organizational priority. Yet, soft drink giants to leading fashion retailers continue to market eco-friendly products only to have those claims blown apart.

The Healthcare industry remained at odds with environmentally friendly expectations for many years. However, over the past decade, hospitals have worked to reduce environmental footprints.

We should promote ways we’re keeping patients and the earth safer, whether it’s upgrading energy efficiency, safer biohazard handling practices, or using green-certified cleaning products. Be careful not to overstate efforts, and don’t forget to talk about it regularly—not just on Earth Day.

Market with a Cause to Elevate the Brand

Know your audience. Consumers want to support brands that align with their values. Avoid overstating your values and be honest with your audience.

Start with marketing rule #1—know your audience. Knowing your audience is more than just focusing on demographics. Empathy and shared values can solidify brand loyalty, elevate perception, and differentiate a brand from the competition.

In the past, companies shied away from public comments on social issues. Today, consumers want to support brands that align with their values. Employees also want to work where they feel included. The 2022 Communications Benchmark Report identifies Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a top priority for organizations.

Before supporting any social initiative, develop a strategic plan. Failing to do so leaves your brand open to complaints about appearing insincere and criticisms of putting profit over authentic purpose. Walmart when rolling out “Juneteenth Ice Cream” to acknowledge the holiday marking the emancipation of slaves received backlash. Critics called out Walmart for promoting Juneteenth-themed ice cream over the Black-owned brands already stocked on their shelves. What may have been a genuine attempt at support was overshadowed by the lack of strategic planning.

Corporate social responsibility, particularly for healthcare organizations, earns public trust when we use marketing platforms to direct attention to causes, we support rather than platitudes for the good we’re doing in the community. Proactive efforts to address health inequities and manage the community’s health can earn goodwill and trust.

Be Transparent, Internally and Externally

The past two years have taken their toll on healthcare workers physically, mentally, and emotionally. Then comes the Great Resignation to compound problems.

Through all this, what happens internally reflects the perception of the brand externally. How we care for our employees impacts how we care for our patients. Patients want to know their caregivers have mental health resources, are being given sufficient time off, and are supported in work-life balance.

There was a time when marketing teams argued against posting mission and vision statements and core values front and center on websites or other external-facing channels. Reset post-2020. Sharing these high-level statements gives our audiences a snapshot of what we stand for and consider important.

Patients want to trust your brand. 68% of consumers and 62% of employees believe they have the power to force corporations to change.

Such transparency also shows good faith efforts at inviting consumers and employees to take a seat at the table. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 68 percent of consumers and 62 percent of employees believe they “have the power to force corporations to change.”

Transparency, authenticity, and empathy earn trust. It’s our job not to spin it away.

If you need to evaluate your marketing strategy, we welcome a conversation. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363.

Stay Relevant with “Pay to Play” in Digital Marketing

digital marketing requires brands to pay to play

Even if you’re new to marketing, you’ve probably heard the term “pay to play.” This phrase basically means that you’ll need to spend money to get ahead. Think of the cliché “spend money to make money.” The “pay to play” strategy dominates digital marketing. With shifts in online behavior and channel updates, you can expect to reassess your digital marketing budget to stay relevant. The bottom line? If you want to reach as many potential or returning patients as possible, especially with a high frequency, you’ll need to allocate more of your budget toward advertising and marketing.

The Rise of “Pay to Play”

pay to play exists in traditional and digital marketing but it looks a little different

The concept of “pay to play” isn’t new. In traditional marketing, larger budgets typically mean more impressions and a greater impact on your audiences. In digital marketing, CPMs have been on the rise, requiring marketers to dig deeper into their pockets to stay relevant.  Largely gone are the days of an organic social post going viral and driving interest in a brand. Algorithm updates and shifting consumer expectations require strategic evaluations and budget reallocations.

Though “pay to play” has its drawbacks, it’s here to stay because it’s effective. With digital marketing in particular, search engine marketing and social media platforms give businesses more ways to reach potential customers, build brand awareness, and show ads when they’re ready to buy. Plus, with more people cutting the cord and opting into video streaming, there are more opportunities than ever to reach new audiences—if you’re willing to invest.

Digital Dives and Doubts

The growing turbulence within social media isn’t something marketers can ignore. In April, Meta—the company formerly known as Facebook—reported a 21 percent drop in profits for the first quarter of 2022 compared to the prior year. In the same week, Elon Musk purchased tech giant Twitter for $44 billion, causing many users to leave the site within a day of the announcement.

digital marketing trends and turblance within tech companies can make brands weary of using social media

On top of business concerns, ever-changing algorithms have users and marketers alike frustrated. Facebook’s organic reach has been dwindling since 2018 and a recent Instagram update reportedly decreases the reach of reposted content. For healthcare brands using digital marketing, recent health and privacy advertising policy updates can result in erroneously rejected ads that require practices to spend time submitting appeals and making creative changes.

there are 3.96 billion social media users world wide. On average, adults spend 95 minutes per day on social media

Despite all the concerns, social media marketing is still one of the best ways to reach potential customers. As of January 2022, there are reportedly 3.96 billion social media users. Adults are spending more time than ever on social media, averaging 95 minutes of use per day.

The Value Of Influencer Marketing

According to Nielsen, 56% of global audiences trust influencer marketing

A marketer with Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, Mich., recently shared that he wished influencer marketing would go away. He prefers using knowledgeable healthcare professionals to influence patients and the public about decisions involving their health. According to Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising Study, 56 percent of global audiences trust influencer marketing. Changing consumer patterns demand changes in patient experience at every touchpoint. That means connecting with them where they go for information. Expectant and new mothers reach out to mommy bloggers. Someone diagnosed with cancer may look for support from someone on social media who shares that experience.

Finding and partnering with influencers aligned with your brand can reach new audiences. But don’t forget that you’re expected to pay for their influence. Influencers are no longer just social media users and bloggers that accept and review gifted products. As with other media agreements, you’ll need to negotiate the cost, execute a contract, set goals, and measure results. Keeping your brand relevant now means paying to play across all channels.

If you need to update your social and/or traditional media strategy, we welcome a conversation. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363.

What’s Keeping You Up at Night

Shot of a young businesswoman looking stressed out while working on a laptop in an office at night

The altered sleep-wake cycle that probably plagued you in 2020 doesn’t seem to have adjusted itself. Lingering worries over a global pandemic and economic turmoil that prompted anxiety and wide-awake moments may still be keeping you up at night.

Add to those stressors even more reasons for night terrors:

  • Great Resignation
  • Violence in the workplace
  • Patient expectations
  • Cybersecurity threats
  • The metaverse

So, what is keeping you up at night, and how do you get through it?

Great Resignation

Even before 2020, nurse recruitment hovered near the top of your biggest concerns list. Few facilities had enough nurses to fill their needs. It’s even worse now.

Burnout and high stress continue to drive nurses from their jobs. In a recent report, more than one-third of nurses surveyed plan to quit by year end. They also cite higher salaries, greater flexibility and opportunities for career growth as motivating factors to leave for new positions.

During this Great Resignation, which affects industries across the board, leadership should be keenly aware of employees’ needs and concerns. Staffing shortages and healthcare workers’ mental health top the list of patient safety concerns in 2022. Managing the challenges of recruitment and retainment seems to be long-term, and keeping your employees as the center of your culture is paramount.

Gender, race and ethnic biases also contribute to staff unrest. To maintain a viable workforce, healthcare leaders must be sensitive to biases and committed to breaking down barriers. Employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z’ers, also view your commitment to the community as important as any job benefit.

Violence in the Workplace

A year ago, healthcare employees were treated as heroes. Yet, a recent survey shows that 65 percent of nurses report suffering verbal or physical abuse from patients and/or their families. The American Hospital Association says enough is enough and is asking the Justice Department to make violence against healthcare workers a federal offense.

Consider implementing messages on owned channels that remind audiences about the dedication and life-saving efforts of your staff while requesting patience and kindness. Communicate frequently with employees about what you’re doing to ensure their safety.

Patient Expectations

The pandemic reshaped the consumer experience and expectations from the way we order food and consumer goods to what we expect from our healthcare interactions, whether via telehealth or in-person visits.

After more than two traumatic years, patients long for compassion and empathy as they adjust to their new normal. Now is the time to reframe your brand based on changes that you’ve undergone and to reengage with all audiences—employees, patients and other stakeholders. Strengthen those bonds by reinforcing brand values, services, expertise and care that have kept them loyal to your system.

Improving patient experiences and satisfaction is necessary for healthcare’s long-term health. Adoption of telehealth during the pandemic paves the way to re-envision patient care with innovations designed for specially for patients.

Mayo Clinic has opened a Hybrid Care Hotel at its Jacksonville, Fla. campus where low-risk surgical patients recover overnight in a hotel rather than hospital room. Cleveland Clinic and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are opening airport lounges to welcome out-of-town patients and connect them with the local areas.

Many healthcare facilities are now using biophilic designs, which integrate natural elements such as rooftop gardens, sunlight and open spaces. The softer approach helps make patients feel healthier and happier.

Cybersecurity Threats

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has probably kept you awake. Aside from the destruction and death of thousands of innocent civilians, the ongoing conflict also poses imminent threats to healthcare facilities. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Russian-affiliated hackers developed plans to attack and disable some 400 US hospitals in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

Government officials continue to warn the healthcare industry to take cybersecurity precautions as the US intensifies sanctions against Russia.

Best Marketing Practices, Despite the Worries

Amazingly, best practices for marketing to internal and external audiences haven’t changed over the past two years. Keep messages consistent. Communicate clearly, openly and honestly. Reinforce your story and brand values.

With all the things keeping you awake at night, it might be easy to become a fear monger. Avoid the temptation and remain optimistic in your messaging. No one wants to put their care in the hands of a brand perceived as weak and scared.

Keep in mind that many of the same things keeping you up at night are also preventing others from getting a good night’s sleep. Know and listen to your audiences. What’s worrying them? What are their needs? How do they want to receive messages from you? Reach them where they spend their time.

The Metaverse

Unraveling the mysteries of the metaverse may not actually be keeping you up at night, but it’s one more thing to wrap your brain around at some point. Everyone seems to have different definitions, but basically, when immersed in interactive 3D spaces, you are in the metaverse (not in Zuckerberg’s newly branded Meta).

All this to say, if ongoing worries are keeping you awake at night, try reading about the metaverse. It might be a better sleep aid than melatonin.

How to Spend $20 Million in 60 Seconds—or Not

Another Super Bowl come and gone; a halftime show that some declare the best of all time (others argue Prince in Miami in the rain); and 97 ads from pre-kickoff to post-game that made us laugh, cringe and grab our phones to scan a bouncing QR code. In the end, there were two key takeaways:

  1. If you have as much as $20 million to spend on marketing and branding, consider something other than a one-time chance in the Super Bowl;
  2. There was only one Joe Cool in the game—Broadway Joe for DraftKings wearing the fur and getting the girl!

Despite blockbuster budgets and brands that many of us never heard of before Sunday, there are lessons to learn from some of the best—and worst—of what we saw.

Target Demographics

Along with a halftime show featuring some of the best known hip hop and rap artists, many of the spots aim directly for Gen X nostalgia. Songs from the ’80s and ’90s provide the soundtrack while celebrities such as Jim Carrey and Mike Myers reprise previous roles as “The Cable Guy” and “Austin Powers.”

Identifying a clear target market is key to successfully delivering a target message. Verizon connects all the dots with Jim Carrey as The Cable Guyin the “Goodbye Cable” spot. It’s funny, nostalgic and informational for anyone still unsure about 5G Verizon internet. Also, it lands a powerful blow at the competitive field without naming any particular company.

Emotional Appeal

In healthcare marketing, we often try to appeal to emotions. But who says emotional marketing is all about tear-jerker moments. Laughter is also an emotion. This year’s commercials are filled with humor. After two years of pandemic concerns, 2022 seems like the year to connect with consumers through a good laugh.

Humor and relatability make for a power couple in marketing, as do real-life celebrity couple Scarlet Johansson and Colin Jost in Amazon Alexa’s “Mind Reader.”  Just about any age demographic identifies with the necessity of saying one thing, meaning another in a relationship.

Strong Storylines

Most of what we saw didn’t have strong storylines. But two that captured viewers’ attention from beginning to end were also among the few heart-warming ads.

Toyota scores with the impactful story of the McKeever Brothers in “Start Your Impossible.” Their focus on Paralympic champions began last year with swimmer Jessica Long’s story. There is no Toyota vehicle in either of the commercials. Neither sells vehicles, but both sell memorable stories.

A dog. A horse. A comeback champion. Budweiser meshes all three themes with “A Clydesdale’s Journey.”

Celebrity Spokespersons

Celebrities should raise awareness and positively impact a brand. There was an overabundance of celebrities in ads this year. Some were hits, but several were misses.

Actress Lindsay Lohan’s life may have been a train wreck in the past, but she makes a comeback in Planet Fitness’ “What’s Gotten Into Lindsay.” While Lohan is a surprising celebrity choice for a fitness brand, it shows her taking control of her own narrative. It also elevates brand awareness with a message suggesting if Lohan can get it together at the fitness center, anyone can.

However, T-Mobile’s collaboration with Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus misses most tenets of advertising. The initial ad starts with Dolly seemingly delivering a PSA, but for what? Her overly plumped lips caused some viewers to quip that subtitles were needed to understand what she said. After 30 seconds, the message was still unclear.

The second spot, featuring Cyrus singing “Do It For the Phones,” doesn’t clear up the message. Instead of persuading viewers to switch to T-Mobile 5G coverage, it offends many viewers with a tone-deaf parody of the iconic “We Are the World.”

Purposeful Marketing

Of the four healthcare related ads that aired during the game, medical technology company Hologic markets purpose, not product. Featuring halftime performer Mary J. Blige, it delivers a powerful message encouraging women to prioritize their health. “Her Health Is Her Wealth” focuses on preventive screenings and drives viewers to a custom website promoting women’s health.

The commercial hits on one of the many catastrophic impacts of the pandemic as people missed annual health visits. It also presents a strong, powerful woman delivering an authentic message empowering other women.

Brand Metrics, CTA and ROI

A QR code bouncing around the screen for 60 seconds with no ad text or logo was the most talked about Super Bowl ad. While several crypto brands advertised this year, Coinbase actually crashed its own app. Yet viewers didn’t know the brand name unless they scanned the code. Some 20 million did to receive $15 in cryptocurrency.

The QR code was the obvious call to action, and it paid off for Coinbase. Along with capturing metrics for 20 million people who scanned it, the company also enjoyed an immediate short-term return on its $14 million investment. By noon on Monday, Coinbase’s stock price rose 4 percent for a nearly $4 billion increase.

USA Today’s Ad Meter may have ranked it dead last, but Coinbase emerges the winner in this year’s Super Bowl ad competition.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us for more information on how we can help tell your brand story.

How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Agency

even points to consider when selecting a healthcare marketing agency

Seven Points to Consider When Selecting a Healthcare Marketing Agency

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to escape downsizing, healthcare marketing departments often need to contract with outside agencies for tasks that your team cannot handle on its own. Consider these seven points before starting the search for .

1. Healthcare Marketing Experience.

An outside agency can add creativity and expertise to the in-house team. It also lends a third-party perspective that sometimes leverages more weight with the C-suite. However, ensure that the agency has healthcare marketing experience and proven results to back up dazzling visuals and lofty recommendations.

Healthcare industry experience is necessary due to standards and regulations that physicians and hospitals are required to follow.  The account team must be familiar with HIPAA compliance, CMS, and FDA regulations to craft marketing messages.

2. Creative Capabilities.

Creative talent should be evident from the onset, starting with the marketing agency’s website and digital presence. It can also reveal their intangible personality.  The best way to discover what they can do is by getting to know them. Conduct initial research and select two or three agencies that interest you. Talk with them; invite them to visit; figure out if there’s chemistry.

Instead of the requisite “request for proposal,” issue a “request for partnership.” While many agencies won’t do spec creative, assign a project, even at a nominal fee, to a couple at the top of your list. This can provide a preview of their creativity. You want to see innovation and vision. Look for “wow” moments.

3. Mutually Beneficial Partnership.

A successful relationship between client and agency is a 50-50 partnership. Producing the desired marketing results requires collaboration, transparency, mutual respect and realistic expectations on each side’s part.

One healthcare marketing director recently shared his thoughts about forging a client-agency partnership, explaining that the client needs to have a level of trust and confidence in the agency. For their part, the agency must have the skills and expertise to prove their worth to the client.

4. Financial Discussion.

The quickest way for relationships to break down is over money. During the review process, ask about billing, fees, retainers, up charges and rate sheets. Open and transparent discussions at the beginning can prevent misunderstandings later.

Before work starts on your account, define the process for authorizations, approvals and change orders so both sides share the same expectations. Failure to have these discussions can lead to loss of trust later.

5. Measurable Goals.

When reviewing a healthcare marketing agency’s portfolio, ask about results and case studies that include quantified measures of success. Just as with talks about money, work openly with the agency to establish performance criteria at the onset.

Beware of results that seem too good to be true—those probably can’t be proven. In the age of digital marketing, analytics are readily accessible to both client and agency to help direct the marketing spend and move the needle.

6. Relationships and Responsiveness.

Like all interpersonal relationships, people usually work best with people they like. We measure our own client relationships not just by the longevity of the account but those that produced lasting friendships.  Chemistry is the number factor in a successful agency-client relatioinship.

Ask about the team, along with bios, likely to be assigned to your account. You want experienced marketing professionals with proven credentials and core values that align with your own.

Talk to some of their current clients to discover how they interact with the agency and their responsiveness.

Establishing a successful relationship with your account services team depends, in part, on flexibility, responsiveness and willingness to listen. With the right chemistry, they can become an extension of your marketing team.

Evaluation of healthcare marketing agencies includes their research capabilities, knowledge of trends in the healthcare industry and familiarity of the local market.

Research and data should drive the development of any campaign. Review qualitative and quantitative research processes. With the myriad changes in the marketplace knowledge of trends within the marketing industry and familiarity with current media options and effectiveness is essential.

Even if an agency hasn’t worked with other local clients, their ability to learn the market and assimilate into the community can help increase your brand awareness.

Checking off these points makes the process of selecting a healthcare marketing agency easier.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us to explore if we might be a good fit for your organization.

Reflect, Renew and Reset Healthcare Marketing in 2022

Healthcare Marketing 2022

Haven’t we been here before? There seems to be a continuous loop of Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” playing non-stop in our heads. With 2022 looming ahead with much the same playbook as 2021, what’s our next move in this COVID-19 chess match? Reflect on what worked and what did not. Renew strategies that proved to be successful despite a challenging virus that won’t go away. Then accept that this is our new normal. It’s time to hit the reset button on healthcare marketing for 2022.

Reflect on Marketing Promises to Patients

We’ve reflected on marketing strategies and advice that we shared over the past year. Many of the tactics carry over into the new year:

Renew Commitments to Community

Throughout the pandemic, hospitals have faced disparities and racial inequities that prevented much of the population from accessing adequate healthcare. People of color have died at higher rates from COVID-19 than their white counterparts.

Health inequities, coupled with other social ills, compels the healthcare industry to look inward. It is crucial for companies to include diversity and inclusion in their core values, to employ people who look like their customers and to connect with their communities in meaningful ways.

Marketing campaigns should reflect the diverse communities we serve, our customers and our employees. Don’t just talk about implementing change; consumers expect us to walk the walk.

Take actions that lead to social impact investments in affordable housing, education and employment, which all contribute to the community’s holistic health.

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer showed a decline in trust of institutions, from the government to the media. A year later, according to “Top U.S. Insights from Gallup in 2021,” not much has changed—people still don’t trust politicians or the media. But, even more concerning is a dip in confidence of healthcare professionals. While 64 percent of Americans still largely trust their doctors, they are less confident than they were a decade ago.

People don’t necessarily trust or believe brands, but they do believe and trust people. Market doctors, nurses and other frontline employees as the face of the brand. Use thought leadership from the CEO in social media to connect with patients, stakeholders and community leaders. Humanize the brand by sharing ordinary acts of care and compassion that impacted others in extraordinary ways.

Reset Top Marketing Priority—Employees First

Healthcare marketing in 2022 should implement a strategy that has always been priority. We advise launching marketing campaigns internally first for employee buy-in.

This is particularly critical when at least 30 percent of nurses nationwide are considering leaving the profession, compounding the critical nursing shortage. They’ve carried the heaviest load while caring for our health during the pandemic.

However, the Great Resignation affects employees across the board, particularly females who hold 76 percent of all healthcare jobs. Balancing increased demands at work and at home has fanned the flames of burnout.

Internal marketing efforts should address issues affecting frontline employees as well as staff who may be working remotely. Compensation, staffing and resource shortages are all common issues. However, a survey of more than 1,700 nurse leaders identifies their top concern as the emotional health and well-being of their staff.

Nurses don’t want more cookies, t-shirts or flowers. They want mental health services.

Use internal marketing campaigns to promote initiatives such as on-site wellness rooms, mental health resources, recognition programs or additional PTO that prioritize employee well-being. Encourage employees to refresh by disconnecting from work, including electronic devices, for protected time.

Another message aimed at retaining talent and keeping employees happy might focus on “upskilling” opportunities. As many as 72 percent of workers say they would be more engaged with their work if companies increased investments in training for new skills.

All-in-all, 2022 seems to be a new year to focus on the “Rs”—reflect, renew and hit the rest button on marketing that balances the healthcare needs of internal and external audiences alike.

QR Codes Make a Marketing Comeback

QR code scanning for marketing and payment make a comeback as a result of pandemic

Whether it’s a revival of 1970s fashion and music or mid-century modern design, things have a way of making comebacks. The boxy, two-dimensional QR code is no exception.

Even though its popularity declined after its introduction because users had to download special apps to scan digital messages, QR codes proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic. People want contact-free exchanges of information and limited human interaction.

With scans now accessible through Apple and Android camera apps, the once clunky QR code is quick, simple, and touch-free. It’s not just a cost-effective and safe substitute for printed restaurant menus. It is also an effective tool for healthcare marketing campaigns.

Marketing Healthcare with QR Codes

When the pandemic impeded face-to-face communication, QR codes enabled communication between providers, caregivers, and patients.

There are numerous QR code generators specifically for the healthcare sector and options to generate codes for free. You can generate codes with customized logos, taglines and colors to increase brand awareness.

With QR codes, you can customize marketing materials and displays throughout your hospital. These include newsletters, posters, flyers, counter cards, digital signage, online ads, screen savers, and interactive television. You can deliver messages in three easy steps:

  1. Click on the camera app.
  2. Hover over the code.
  3. Users can view the information.

Increasing Patient Engagement

The age-old conundrum of how best to reach patients and potential patients with targeted marketing messages is no longer a mystery. We know where most people receive communications. An estimated 91 percent of adults are within arm’s reach of their phones 24/7.

Delivering targeted communications on smart devices through QR codes can immediately connect patients and their families to important health information.

Among the many uses of QR codes in healthcare marketing to engage patients include:

  • Quick access to patient portals
  • Information about medications, conditions or procedures
  • Feedback surveys
  • Support groups
  • Resources for home health, transportation, rehab or other services needed post-discharge
  • Health screenings and vaccination reminders
  • Marketing promotions
  • Foundation fundraising
  • Event registration
  • Directional way finding

Improving Patient Satisfaction and Outcomes

Hospitals can use QR codes to track and monitor patients, ensure drug safety, and enhance patient satisfaction and outcomes.

With a QR code embedded on a single rack card, a patient can scan it and immediately access information about their pregnancy, diabetes, a child’s wellness checklist, influenza or the latest COVID news. Now, they walk out of the provider’s office with updated information instead of reams of paper that may not be regularly updated.

With concerns about social distancing, using a smartphone to access everything from in-patient information to hospital maps minimizes physical contact.

Using Dynamic or Static QR codes

There are two types of QR codes—dynamic and static. Code type determines how information is scanned, delivered, and tracked.

Static codes typically have dense patterns and are less scannable. Since the information is fixed, and you cannot change the destination address or URL once it is generated. You also cannot track data from the scans.

Dynamic codes use short URLs and have less dense patterns, which are more easily scanned. These work better for most marketing purposes since the URL and content can be edited at any time. You can track the number, times and locations of scans, as well as the type device used—iPhone or Android.

The comeback of the QR code shows its value as a marketing tool to deliver quick, efficient information directly to consumers’ fingertips.

Is TikTok a Good Option for Healthcare Marketing?

Is TikTok a Good Option for Healthcare Marketing

You’ve seen the videos. Funny, dancing, lip-syncing, lots of kids—maybe your own or even your grandkids—just being cute and silly. TikTok is the shiny new thing. But should hospitals and healthcare organizations use the platform to hit marketing goals?

Short-form, user-generated TikTok videos, generally from 15 seconds to 3 minutes, engage users, particularly Gen-Z’ers, to show off their creativity. However, the video-sharing social media platform isn’t just for the young. It’s growing in popularity with older users tapping into their young-at-heart spontaneity. 

Launched in 2016, TikTok now has more than 1 billion users. The latest HubSpot Social Media Trends report declares it the #1 social media trend in 2022: “TikTok will take over social media, leaving other brands to adapt.”

Before trending on TikTok, slow down and consider the pros and cons. To go viral, a video should be fun, engaging and humorous—not typically synonymous with healthcare marketing. Also, ensure that you have bandwidth for another social channel that may minimally increase brand awareness.

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is the seventh largest social network, behind Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WeChat. It is app based and has been the most downloaded app for the past two years.

It is a US subsidiary of ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech giant. Chinese ownership and potential data breaches concern many businesses and the US government.

Aside from data security, TikTok critics complain about excessive screen time, suggestive content, negative comments and harmful challenges impacting children.

Michael Beckerman, a TikTok vice president, was among the tech giants recently grilled before a Senate Commerce subcommittee. Beckerman assured committee members that child safety tools are now in place to help parents manage screen time and monitor what young users see. But, he side-stepped data collection questions.

Who Is the Audience?

In the US, TikTok users are predominantly female (nearly 60 percent) and young with 60 percent between ages 16–24, the trendsetting Gen Z. But, the audience is aging up with Millennial and Gen X users, ages 25–44, making up another 26 percent.

TikTok’s growth parallels pandemic lockdown and quarantine when kids were bored with “nothing to do.” Then Mom has discovered the music video app. One of the fastest growing user segments is the 30-to-49-year-old female with children.

How Do You TikTok?

Step 1. Download the app and create an account.

Step 2. Or go to tiktok.com to view videos if you just want to check it out.

Step 3. Get creative.

Step 4. You can film something new or upload a video from your phone.

Step 5. Explore the video and audio editing tools; add a song, filters and effects.

Step 6. Finish up with privacy settings, hashtags and sharing the TikTok.

Step 7. Publish the video and share it on other social platforms.

Step 8. Wait for it to go viral!

Should TikTok Be Part of Healthcare Strategy?

Cleveland Clinic launched a TikTok channel in 2020 to spread public health message about COVID-19 and urge people to #MaskUp. Most of the videos are educational with interesting graphics and facts to engage viewers. There is a humorous video on how not to wear a face mask.

While Cleveland Clinic has done it right, other healthcare TikTok attempts may not be as successful. Dancing doctors, lip-syncing nurses in ICU hallways and messages that don’t align with the brand can cause quick backlash.

Define the strategy and set goals before moving forward with TikTok. Also, if you haven’t revised the company’s social media policy recently, consider employee use of the channel. Your organization can quickly lose credibility with unprofessional medical videos from employees.

Can You Use TikTok Effectively?

Changing consumer patterns demand changes in patient experience at every touchpoint. They want personalized content, faster service and better experiences.

Consider ways TikTok can be effective in the Age of the Consumer.

  • Educational content and tutorials. Consumers want short, fun, snack-able information. Break down robotic surgery, stroke symptoms, even basic procedures such as a colonoscopy.
  • Clear up misinformation.  Bust the myths of trending health misinformation.
  • Engage younger doctors to engage teens. Use physicians who are already active on social media to talk about dangers of vaping, STD risks and mental health concerns.
  • Wellness checks for women and men. Get creative with preventive health screenings for different age groups.
  • Challenges—Use TikTok challenges for New Year’s weight loss and fitness resolutions, or runs/walks and other fundraising activities.
  • Safety tips—Remind your audience how to avoid the ER with safety tips about frying turkeys, electric knives, fireworks and sunscreen. Address viral dangers such as the infamous milk crate challenge.
  • Resumes—#TikTokResumes gives you a new recruitment tool that allows users to post resumes and apply for jobs directly through the app; the highest conversion is the 25–34 age group.
  • Advertising—Run in-feed ads or create branded hashtags in TikTok for Business.

If you decide that TikTok can effectively increase awareness and relevance of your healthcare brand, engage your audience by:

  • Showing a different side of organization;
  • Experimenting;
  • Adding humor.