Healthcare Advertising

Healthcare Marketing: We Can’t Seem to Take Our Eyes Off TV

Despite many other options for our time, television viewing remains very strong.

Many pundits and experts have predicted the demise of television.  Consumers are spending time with laptops, tablets, smartphones, social media networks and video games.  With all the competition for our attention, for some time now, experts have been prophesying that television viewing will take a hit.  But that has definitely not happened.

Measuring consumer behavior in the first quarter of 2012, Nielsen revealed that Americans averaged watching television 4.38 hours per day.  That is only six minutes less than in 2008, before the exploding proliferation of new media options. And live TV viewing was a full 4 hours a day more than they spend watching DVD playback.

Adults 65+, of course, consume the most traditional media with nearly 48 hours per week in TV viewership.  They watch just less than 2 hours of time-shifted TV per week.  By comparison, adults 35-49 watch just over 35 hours of traditional TV per week and roughly 3 and a half hours per week of time shifted TV.

The study also shows that time shifted viewing is increasing.  It has grown from 12 minutes per day on average in 2008 to 24 minutes per day in 2012.

So for hospital marketers, television is still a very viable alternative.    Consumers are still watching and thus television is a way to reach them.  All the talk about people not watching TV anymore and TV advertising no longer being effective proves not to be true.  For television the sky is not falling.  In fact, it’s still filled with television signals.

Healthcare Marketing: TMI Volume? No.

Research shows that consumers think the amount of information available to them from the plethora of choices is considered just right.

It’s truly the Age of Information.  Information abounds everywhere, from so many sources and in so many formats.  We’ve never been bombarded with as much information as we are today.  And many have suggested the “always on” media environment has overwhelmed audiences and is creating antisocial social media addicts.

In addition to the almost unlimited amount of information available online, there are now an average of 72 hours of video uploaded every minute on YouTube, over 340 million tweets per day on Twitter and over 50 million blogs on Tumblr.  It would be easy to assume consumers are just overwhelmed by all the seemingly limitless amounts of information that is now available.

Bianca Bosker, writing for The Huffington Post cited research conducted by the University of Michigan from 7 focus groups to determine the consumer’s psyche and ability to adapt to the barrage of information that hits them each day.

Surprisingly, the study found the participants felt empowered and enthusiastic about the volume of information available at their fingertips, rather than overloaded.   Only about 13% felt a sense of overload and that came most commonly from people who had elementary internet skills. .  However the participants did not provide a strong endorsement for Facebook and Twitter stating the quality of information, not quantity on these sites could be a turnoff.

Published in the journal “The Information Society”  the research indicated, rather than being overburdened, the participants enjoyed the range of information available online.

Here are some other findings from the study

  • Television is still the most popular media source followed by websites.
  • However they were frustrated with the sensationalism of TV
  • Many preferred getting news from online bloggers rather than news anchors
  • Over a quarter of the participants had some negative feelings about social media
  • Many are annoyed by what they consider as the minutia of people’s lives fed to them through Facebook and Twitter

For healthcare marketers, it’s good to know consumers want information.  They are seeking information to make their lives better.  If we provide information that’s useful and helpful and consumers will welcome it.  In fact, they expect it.  However we must be careful not to annoy them with information that’s considered trivial or self-serving.

Healthcare Marketing: Humanize Your Hospital’s Brand

Humanizing your brand by giving it a personality, making it personable and telling a narrative connects with consumers.

Every healthcare marketer tries to connect their brand with consumers.  It is an ongoing, endless task.  Of course we know that humanizing a brand improves connectivity.  And research supports it.

Emily Eldridge, writing for MarketingProfs cites research that demonstrates how human interaction affects attitudes and transactions.

Iris Bohnet and Bruno Frey conducted an economic research study in 1999 called “Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games.” Two groups of students were recruited to participate in a series of social interactions in which members of the first group had to decide whether to share any portion of a sum of money—approximately $10—with a person in the second group.

When the first group knew nothing at all about those in the second group, participants offered, on average, only 26% of the money. When the moderators asked the second group to stand up—making them less anonymous to the first group—the offer increased to 39%. When the moderators shared personal information about those in the second group with those in the first, the average offer increased to 52%. And when members of the groups were introduced to one another, the average offer was 50%.

In other words, the greater the social distance, the less willing people were to hand over money.

This can teach a valuable lesson to hospital marketers.  If our brand is humanized, it connects better with consumers.  It’s important that our brand not be cold, inanimate, and without important human traits and characteristics.  Our brand should have a personality. It must be personable. It must make a human connection.

Eldridge refers to two examples of retailers who have a strong personal connection with consumers and how it positively impacts their brand reputation and gives it increased brand equity.  The first example is Apple.  Their retail stores are not a row of cashiers. Rather when you enter their stores, in addition to a strong visual connection to the brand, they have easily identifiable employees with mobile cashier platforms ready to interact and help customers.   They are knowledgeable and will explain the benefits of each product, help with your issues and even tell you personal stores about the products.

Apple is known for its sleek innovative products.  But they also carry a premium price.  But despite a higher price, they continue to increase market share.  One reason is because they have humanized the Apple brand.  They connect with the consumer.

Another example is an online brand.  How can you humanize an online brand? places on its product pages videos of employees talking about why he or she likes the product.  The videos are not about product specs but people telling their stories about the product.  When Zappos launched the videos in 2009, their conversion rate increased from 6% to 30%.  They humanized the brand with narratives.

The lesson for healthcare marketers is that we must humanize our brand.  Make them personable.  It doesn’t matter how nice our hospital is or what kind of technology we have, we must connect on a personal level.  Maybe that comes by using patients, physicians, and staff members to tell their stories about the brand.  Making it real, and genuine and personable.  It provides an important and engaging brand narrative.

There are other ways to make that human connection.  We should always strive to find them and use them.  Our brand will become stronger as we close the gap of social distance.  As we humanize our brand.

Healthcare Marketing: Five More Social Media Mistakes

Social media mistakes damage reputations and brands.  Learn from the mistakes of others.

Although not specifically directed to healthcare and hospital marketers, an article written by A.J Ghergich, CEO of Authority Domains, and appearing in SmartBlogs from SmartBrief offers some very helpful comments about mistakes brands involved in social media should avoid.  The article is repeated here in its entirety.

Imagine you built up a vast social media following — but because of one small oversight, your reputation started to crumble right before your eyes. Sadly, this scenario is not that farfetched, because some businesses leap into the social media arena without understanding how to maintain a relationship with their customers while avoiding some obvious pitfalls.

By studying some mistakes by other companies that have resulted in negative exposure, you can learn how your business can avoid a similar fate. Here are five easy-to-avoid mistakes.

  • Being crass about current events. Last year, designer Kenneth Cole used the publicity of an international crisis in Cairo to post about his products. He even used the hashtag #Cairo to try to build buzz and reach others who were searching for tweets on the crisis. The reaction was so strong that you won’t find Kenneth Cole’s old Twitter account anymore. It has been replaced. Reacting to current events can be plus for your brand, but consider how some people might react if it looks like you’re trying to capitalize on a very serious situation. Be respectful and tread lightly when talking about current events. Take a minute to put yourself in another person’s shoes and ask how your post could be perceived. It’s possible that if Kenneth Cole had taken a few extra minutes to think through his tweet, he may have decided not to publish it.
  • Getting too personal. Be careful when posting personal content, whether or not you feel it is valuable. Your customers consider your social accounts the face of your brand. Bob Parsons, Go Daddy founder, posted a video of his trip to Zimbabwe on his blog. In the video, Parsons told the audience how he kills elephants because they damage crops, which endangers the lives of the starving locals. After Parsons published the video, the media outlets ran with the story, and some customers boycotted Go Daddy and its services. Though Parsons explained the story in more detail, the damage had already been done. Regardless of whether Parsons was doing a good deed, this type of personal content is not appropriate for customers. Occasional personal content is effective for creating connections with your customers, but keep it light and don’t antagonize people.
  • Being spammy. Resist the temptation to capitalize on the popularity of another company to promote your products. Habitat UK tried to take advantage of the trending topics #Apple, #iPhone and others to acquire some traffic. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired because the tweets had nothing to do with Apple computers or any of its products. Tweeters posted negative messages to Habitat UK’s account, complaining about its “spammy” behavior. Your customers are not stupid. They know when you are trying to manipulate the system. Stay genuine, and don’t piggyback on other companies’ successes. It will only make you look desperate.
  • Putting your account in the wrong hands. The people who tweet or posts on your company’s behalf have the fate of your company’s image in their hands. What they post could potentially damage your reputation. Invest enough resources into finding the right people who will put their opinions aside and prioritize the integrity of your company. Ensure your social media managers understand the essence of your company culture and how you want your brand portrayed.
  • Pretending your mistake didn’t happen. If you ever make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Your customers will respect you for admitting your mistakes and you can save your brand from any negative backlash. People forgive transparent mistakes much more than they excuse complete denial.

Like all marketers, those in healthcare would be wise to learn from the types of mistakes mentioned and not repeat them.

Healthcare Marketing: More Screens More Engagement

TV Viewers Are More Engaged When Watching Multiple Screens

There has been much concern about how effective television is with those who are watching TV while also engaged with other screens.  So many viewers now sit in front of their television with a laptop, tablet smart phone or a combination in front of them. The logic would seem to be that such multi-tasking would distract the viewer from their television viewing.

But research indicates that’s not true.  In fact television engagement actually goes up when viewers are watching multiple screens.  A study by Time Warner Research Council, using biometric monitoring and eye tracking, discovered that television engagement when watching with a friend over social media was 1.3 times greater than watching without social media.

“When they find something engaging on the TV, they pay attention’” stated Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting, a Times Warner unit who collaborated with the research council.  “When their interest wanes, in the absence of a second screen they could change the channel, get up, read a magazine, etc.  With a second screen that allows live social engagement, they have more reason to stay on-channel with their friend.”

And just as important to marketers is that the researchers found the increased engagement when involved in social media while watching television was true for commercials as well as programming.

So the consternation among healthcare marketers over the multi-tasking by television viewers can cease.  Social TV proves to be an asset instead a liability.

Healthcare Marketing: TV Still Rules!

Over 90% of all TV viewing is still with viewers watching live television.

Despite the pervasive nature of the internet and the growth of online options for viewing television programming, 91% of television viewing is live on a television set.  A recent study by TVB, a TV-based marketing group for stations, indicates that 1.5% of TV viewing occurs online.  And only 7% is time shifted.  The remainder is live traditional TV viewing.

Research has shown that TV usage has actually grown 8% over the past two years and the study indicated television is still the media most influential in making purchasing decisions for adults 18+ at 37.2%.  Newspaper was most influential with 10.6% of those surveyed and the internet at a surprisingly low 5.6%

So despite all the talk of the demise of television as an effective advertising medium, research indicates exactly the opposite.  Online viewing and the use of DVRs and ad skipping have had a much smaller impact on consumers’ viewing habits than has been predicted.  Traditional television viewing is indeed strong and influential.  Healthcare marketers can still have confidence in investing dollars in television. Especially since it is still renders the largest influence of all advertising mediums.  Television is alive and well.

Another important finding was that 51% of adults stated a television commercial prompted them to go online for more information.

Again, research indicates the importance of integration and convergence.  As consumers regularly access not one, but two or three screens at once, its important that our marketing efforts are integrated and converge consistently over all mediums for maximum effectiveness.  While consumers watch television traditionally, it’s extremely likely they also have a laptop open and available as well as a smartphone sitting beside them, both for internet and social media use.   To have a presence and consistency over all components of these mediums can exponentially improve the effectiveness of each. And it can certainly build and enhance our hospital brand. 

Healthcare Marketing: Fight Fragmentation with Integration

With the plethora of media options, marketing channels and consumer touch points, integration is essential for maximizing marketing success.

In the not too distant past, marketers had a rather small number of options for its marketing message.  TV, radio, print and outdoor was about it.  Then traditional advertising mediums began to offer new alternatives.  Cable television, satellite radio and custom direct marketing.

But then the web showed up.  And the choices became seemingly endless:

  • Websites/SEO
  • Search marketing
  • Web advertising
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Tablets
  • Mobile
  • Apps
  • Blogging
  • Gaming

And the list could go on and on.  There is strength in this enormous growth of marketing options.  There are new ways to reach consumers, we can target them more narrowly (demographically, sociographically, geographically and psychographically), we can sometimes measure effectiveness more effectively and we can be much more creative with our media options.

But it creates fragmentation.  Fragmentation of our brand’s message.  And that is not a good thing.  The challenge is to integrate our message over all our marketing and messaging platforms and options.   Yes it includes, but certainly not limited to using a common tagline and a single color pallet and enforcing a strict and consistent corporate identity.

As Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork wrote in an article for Bloomberg Businessweek, Integration means communicating a consistent identity from message to message, and medium to medium, and (more importantly) delivering consistently on that identity. It requires not only the identification of a powerful, unifying strategy and compelling voice for your brand, but the discipline to roll it into every aspect of your organization—from advertising to sales, customer service to customer relationship management programs (and beyond). It’s not for the faint of heart”.

McKee is correct and it’s not easy.  In fact it can be an enormous task to integrate the brand message over all messaging channels both externally and internally.  And perhaps it can never be fully accomplished.  But as healthcare marketers our task is to try.  Make it a priority.  It’s difficult enough to build a strong healthy brand, but to not have consistent integration of our brand message, voice and tone, makes it even more difficult and perhaps unlikely.

It requires knowing our brand.  Knowing who we are, our brand personality and brand attributes.  And trying as hard as we can to be consistent over all channels and mediums.  Those healthcare organizations that do it the best will be the most successful in this age of hyper-fragmentation.


Healthcare Marketing: Average and Ordinary Equals Fresh and Credible

Featuring real people in our advertising provides a freshness and credibility that can really connect with the audience

Pepsi did it.  Remember the Pepsi Challenge when ordinary people were asked to take a taste test and decided which tasted better, Coke or Pepsi?  And Folgers did it with hidden camera ads to promote Folgers crystals.  NutriSystem switched from celebrity endorsements to real people. Red Lobster put their own employees in their ads.  Ford now has actual customers talk about buying a Ford at a mock press conference in their “Drive One” campaign.  And probably the best and most influential example of all is Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign where they featured women who represented the average women and encouraged women to embrace the beauty of their bodies.

Real people delivering a message that’s real and authentic.  It speaks. It connects.  It resonates.  It’s… well, real.  And healthcare marketers should take note.  In a culture of consumerism, consumer-control and transparency, making our ads “real” speaks to the consumer.  Using real people in our advertising can be very effective.  They can be patients, family members of patients, employees, doctors or appropriate endorsers.  If delivered simply and very genuinely, it can be very believable.  Maybe it won’t be as slick, maybe not as polished.  But it can communicate – effectively.

Lucia Moses writing for Adweek discussed the current state of celebrity endorsements and contrasted it to the use of ordinary people in current advertising quotes Tor Myhren, president and chief creative officer of Grey New York, “Brands are asking for more authentic communications.  They are stepping back from casting and saying instead of using actors or celebrities, let’s use real people.”  He added, “People are taking control. Everybody can film themselves now. That immediately opens you up for user-generated content. Whether it’s on YouTube or Facebook, we’re so used to seeing less professionally done movies. Because we’re used to seeing things that are less slick, it becomes more acceptable for advertisers to do that. Because of how companies are becoming more and more exposed because of the digital age, part of this trend is that we’re going to make our communications a little more real, a little more honest.”

This is not to say all our advertising should be testimonials or feature real people.  But it is to say the authenticity of using real people can cut through the clutter and effectively promote our brand.  Consumers may question what we say about ourselves but they can’t question a friend or neighbor, a real person, either patient or employee, who speaks from the heart.  It is just naturally believable. 

In a time of skepticism and mistrust.  When transparency is expected and demanded.  When technology is so invasive.  When social interaction on social networks dominate computer time.  Maybe it’s time we just “got real!”


Healthcare Marketing: Death of Newspapers – Implications for Marketers

As newspapers close, convert to more digital content or reduce the number of publishing days, the implications for marketers are significant.

Advance Publications has announced that the New Orleans Times-Picayune, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register will all reduce their daily publications to only three times per week. This is a startling announcement in many ways.  These newspapers each have long histories, with the Mobile paper having published a daily for over a century. And it’s surprising for it to be happening in major markets like New Orleans and Birmingham.  This follows other newspapers that have either closed  (Tucson Citizen, Rocky Mountain News, Baltimore Examiner, Cincinnati Post) and others that have adopted hybrid online/print or online only models (Seattle Post Intelligencer, Detroit News/Free Press and the Ann Arbor News).

Despite the fact that some larger newspapers like the New York Times are seeing success with paid digital subscriptions and Warren Buffet recently made a $143 million investment in the newspaper business by purchasing the 63 newspapers owned by Media General, change is coming sooner rather than later for the news industry.

Printing on dead trees doesn’t make as much sense anymore. The harsh reality is that printed newspapers are no longer the dominant method of receiving news and information.  Twenty-four hour broadcast news networks and the internet make news reporting and the receiving of breaking news instantaneous.  It won’t wait till the print presses run. And the media habits of younger generations who depend on the web for almost all of their news will make print news even more obsolete.

For guys like me who look forward to reading the newspaper every morning, this is difficult to comprehend.  And as these changes occur, the implications for healthcare marketers are real and substantial.  Here are just a few ways marketers will be affected:

  • News provided to newspapers may not be published in a timely manner unless they offer a strong digital alternative. 
  • Digital and broadcast news do not offer the depth of information as newspaper.  It will be more difficult to explain complex issues
  • With fewer editions, the competition for space will be greater.  No more getting a story because it’s a slow day.
  • Newspapers will no longer provide the print frequency or timeliness for our advertising.
  • Advertising in digital and broadcast formats is much more limiting than print.  We will not be able to tell a story or deliver a message as completely as in a print ad.

In many ways, inevitable changes to the newspaper industry will make our jobs more difficult.  From the perspective of utilizing both earned and unearned media, we will have to adapt.  Adapt more to a digital age of reporting and messaging.  It will require a change for us all.

Hospital Marketing: Making the Case for Mobile

The facts are overwhelming when considering whether your hospital should go mobile.  The small screen is the place to be.

An astonishing fact: there are 48 million people in the world who have mobile phones but do not have electricity in their homes.  That shows the impact of mobile on our lives.  It’s estimated that the off-grid, on-net population will reach 138 million by 2015.

Ann Tracy Mueller posted on statistics showing the use of mobile is growing exponentially. Citing Kevin Roberts from a Cisco report in his Blogging Innovation site, the case is made for the impact of mobile and the need for healthcare marketers to be mobile-savvy and mobile-ready.

  • Global mobile traffic nearly tripled for the third year in a row in 2010.
  • Mobile video traffic will exceed 50 percent of all mobile data traffic for the first time in 2011.
  • In early 2010, iPhone use was at least four times higher than that of any other smart phone platform. By the end of 2010, iPhone use was only 1.75 times higher than that of number two, Android.
  • There will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015, up 56-fold from 14 million at the end of 2010.
  • There will be more than 7.1 billion mobile-connected devices in 2015, roughly equivalent to the world’s population by then (7.2 billion).

The numbers are staggering.  But they are understandable.  Think how much you use your mobile device.  How much you see the people around you using there’s.  How many people do you know who don’t have a mobile phone?  Probably not many.  The numbers are clear.  The stats are obvious.

As healthcare marketers, in the very least, we need to make sure our internet presence is mobile-friendly.  And we should be exploring ways to create and use mobile apps to market our hospital.  Information is being accessed from mobile devices, including information about one’s health.  We must make sure our health information and information about our organization and services are easily mobile-accessible.

Not convinced yet?  Here’s one more bit of information from Roberts that should remove any doubt about the need for our hospital to be mobile-friendly:

“The average smartphone will generate 1.3 gigabytes of traffic per month in 2015, 16 times more than the 2010 average of 79 megabytes per month.  Growth in the next five years will see global mobile traffic reach 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015. How big is that? It’s been suggested that every word ever spoken by human beings would equate to five exabytes. So six every month is a lot of chatter!”