Healthcare Marketing: What We Can Learn from PR Snafus in 2012

Some of the most popular brands had major snafus last year.  They provide valuable lessons for healthcare marketers.

133428188As in any year, some pretty big advertisers made some pretty big mistakes in 2012.  It’s useful to review some of them and learn from their missteps.  Ad Age compiled what it considered to be the biggest mistakes by advertisers in 2012.  It might be useful to look at their list and see what we as healthcare marketers can learn.

1.    Apple Loses Its Way

It was very likely that you would get totally lost if you depended on Apple Maps app, which replaced Google Maps on iPhone 5.  Whole towns were misplaced!  It’s reliability was quickly questioned which led to a major outcry.  Apple did issue an apology and promised to make improvements.  But the app was replaced with Google Maps 3 months later.

Lesson:  If you’re going to do something, do it well.  Bad service or a bad product will tarnish your brand.  Especially in healthcare, when dealing with something as important as one’s health and well being.

 2.    Komen Burns Its Brand

Susan G. Komen Fight for the Cure, one of the most visible and well-liked charities in the country, created a firestorm of protest when it pulled funding from Planned Parenthood.  The initial PR response from the charity was a total disaster as it offered multiple and conflicting explanations before reversing its decision.

Lesson:  When responding to a crisis, carefully consider your response.  Make sure everyone is on the same page and the message is honest and consistent.

3.    Romney and the 47%

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a remark at a fundraiser all but dismissing 46% of the population.  His remarks were taped and released.  It was the beginning of the end for the campaign.

Lesson:  Don’t ever assume remarks made in a public setting won’t be shared with the entire market.  All comments made in any public gathering are fair game for all to hear. Words must always be chosen wisely.

4.    Chick-Fil-A Gay Marriage Brouhaha

Chick-Fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, publically said he believed the Bible and therefore didn’t condone gay marriage; the outcry was fast and furious.  Even a couple of politicians said they would ban the restaurant.  Then came the outcry against the outcry as conservative customers rallied around the chicken chain leading it to record sales.

Lesson:  What is the lesson here?  One is that comments and beliefs stated publically by leaders of your hospital will be applied to the entire organization.  It’s difficult for consumers to separate the two.  The other lesson is that if you have convictions and know your audience well enough to know they share the same convictions you can probably withstand criticism from those who disagree.

 5.    The BK-Blige Chicken Fiasco

It was a bad year for chicken!  Burger King broke an ad starring musician Mary J Blige singing about chicken strips.  Some saw racial implications and others didn’t.  But all agreed the ad was incredibly bad. BK quickly pulled the ad over what it called a music-licensing issue and said it would return.  To date it hasn’t.

Lesson:  Carefully consider all marketing messages.  There are many unintended consequences.  As healthcare marketers, we should consider any proposed messaging and be sensitive to how it will be perceived by all audiences.

6.    Butt-Shaping Shoes Busted

Butt-shaping shoes too good to be true?  What do you think?  The Federal Trade Commission certainly thinks so.  Eight months after extracting a $25 million settlement from Reebok for such claims, Skechers agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges it deceived customers with weight-loss and toning claims related to it Shapeup shoes.

Lesson:  Be truthful.  Don’t exaggerate.  And especially in healthcare.  State your case.  Provide benefits but don’t overpromise.  Never give consumers false hope about their health.

7.    McDStories Gets Hijacked

McDonald’s proved how a hashtag can become a bashtag, as Forbes Kashmir Hill put it.  The fast food chain launched the promoted tweet, #mcdstories, in an effort to solicit some heart-warming stores about consumers’ experiences with McDonalds’s.  Instead, it got all kinds of stories it didn’t want.  Consumer telling stories that were not at all heart-warming or flattering.  McD’s yanked the hashtag after two hours.  Unfortunately for them, it then had a life of it’s own.

Lesson:  Be careful.  There are risks involved with social media.  Know them and weigh them and always be prepared for possible negativity.

8.  Lance Armstrong Fall Flat

Lance finally came clean and gave up his fight against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs.  And quickly,  his reputation and marketing empire crumbled.  Stripped of his titles and banned from cycling, he lost an estimated $30 million in sponsorships.

Lesson:  Always tell the truth!

As healthcare marketers we hate to see marketing blunders made by others (unless maybe by our competitors) but it ‘s wise to take notice and learn.  Lest we fall victim to the same screw-ups and missteps.


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