Lori Moore

The Next Big Thing: Marketing To Gen Z

The next big thing: Marketing to Gen Z.

Marketing to Gen Z Requires a Whole New Strategy

Remember when everyone was trying to figure out how to successfully market to millennials? That conundrum is yesterday’s news. The next big thing on the marketing horizon focuses on connecting with Gen Z. Many brands see connecting with a new generation as a daunting task. But, figuring out how to market to Gen Z is probably easier than you think and can generate impressive results.

Why should you want to market to Gen Z? Below, we cover 6 facts about Gen Z to help you understand this new audience.

Generation Z—Gen Z or Zoomers—includes anyone born between 1997 and 2012. Why the attention on ages 10–25? Look at Gen Z’s numbers:

  • Represent 40 percent of US consumers;
  • Set to outpace Millennials’ earnings by 2031 with over one quarter of global income;
  • 48 percent non-white; nearly 22 percent with at least one immigrant parent;
  • 1-in-5 identify as LGBTQ+;
  • On track to be the best-educated generation with 57 percent currently enrolled in college and 44 percent living with a college-educated parent.

Brands across all industries clamor for the attention of this influential group that is regarded as the “disruptive generation.” As the first completely digital generation, they rule video and audio. Whether producing TikTok videos and podcasts or curating audio playlists, they prefer creating their own content rather than consuming what others create.

How does your healthcare marketing strategy connect with Gen Z? By identifying their rules and playing in their digital playgrounds.

TikTok: The Clock is Running

Several months ago, we asked if TikTok should be a part of your strategy. If you’re marketing to Gen Z, then the answer is yes. Gen Z now makes up 60% of TikTok’s 80 million monthly active users in the United States. However, slow down to carefully define the strategy and goals before moving forward.

Marketing to Gen Z means being active on TikTok. Gen Z makes up 60% of TikTok's 80 million active users in the U.S. and spend an average of 95 minutes per day on the platform.

Part of TikTok’s rapid growth and success is attributed to the platform’s unique algorithm that quickly adapts to show content users find interesting or entertaining. Users decide what they want to watch, not who they friend or follow. When marketing to Gen Z on TikTok, it’s important that brands prioritize creating content that grabs attention within a few seconds. TikTok users spend an average of 95 minutes per day on the platform, but TikTok says the best performing content is between 21-34 seconds. (Note: This is up from 11-17 seconds in 2020).

Gen Z lives in a video world, with TikTok, Instagram and YouTube the most used social media apps  for networking, entertainment and product purchases. It’s clear video marketing resonates with Gen Z. The 2022 State of U.S. Consumer Trends report shows that over three months 28 percent of Gen Zs and Millennials bought products directly on social apps. That’s compared to 18 percent by Gen X and 4 percent by Boomers.

This opens the door for healthcare marketers to make much-needed connections for successfully marketing to Gen Z. While most TikTok videos tend to be fun and entertaining, be careful that content doesn’t backfire. Healthcare is serious, and patients don’t want #dancingdoctors or #dancingnurses in the hospital hallways when they are pressing the call button. However, a choreographed dance with nurses in pink scrubs calling attention to #BreastCancerAwareness can effectively remind women it’s time for annual mammograms. Gen Z is quick to call out marketing that feels gimmicky or inauthentic. Young consumers expect brands to engage in corporate responsibility, but doing so without a strategic plan could result in a viral disaster.

Gen Z Fandom: Nostalgic and Quirky

Lockdown also left Gen Z looking to the past for emotional connections. Their throwback searches resulted in nearly 19 billion views for #nostalgia on TikTok. A resurgence of nostalgic pop culture has inspired fandom for TV shows such as “Euphoria”and “Stranger Things” and propelled “Maverick: Top Gun” and “Elvis” to being the summer’s biggest box office hits.

Consider using nostalgia to appeal to emotions. But it doesn’t always have to induce tears; it can prompt laughter just as easily. Thoughtfully adding a bit of nostalgia to the content mix can strengthen the connection with the target audience.

To market to Gen Z, try using nostalgia to appeal to positive emotions. There are 19 billion views for #nostalgia on TikToK57% of Gen Z like it when brands participate in memes. 80% of Gen Z like it when brands connect with their different personalities.

Gen Z audiences like memes. More than half responded to a recent YouTube survey that they like when brands post memes. So, get creative and create memes that promote service lines or shares relevant information for this target demographic.

Another part of the Gen Z persona is their uniqueness. They don’t want to fit in; they want to stand out and are perfectly comfortable with being quirky. Some 80 percent of Gen Zs surveyed for Spotify’s Culture Next Global Trends Report say they like when brands connect with their different personalities.

Experiment with fresh marketing tactics to connect with Gen Z. Use contextual targeting to place educational messages on unexpected sites—info about fashion on a pizza website. Whatever the message or the channel, include audio. In the first quarter of this year, 18-to-24 year olds played more than 578 billion minutes of music on Spotify.

Shared Brand Values: Honesty, Authenticity, Transparency

In terms of values, Gen Zs do not stray far from other generations. Honesty ranks as the most important value they look for in a brand, followed closely by transparency and authenticity.

Whether on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube, video proves to be a useful tool for marketing to share values and personality while also promoting services and products. It is the ideal platform for storytelling that engages with the Gen Z audience.

Resonate with Gen Z by communicating honesty, transparency, and authenticity through video content.

In committing to short-form videos that connect with Gen Zs, remember that they see themselves as change makers ready to disrupt culture. Status quo doesn’t make the connection. Keep content meaningful, creative and different—just as if they created it themselves.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you.

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.

Healthcare Marketing: For Stickiness – Motivate Your Audience

Understanding what motivates your audience helps make your message resonate.

Understanding your audience is a key ingredient for successful messaging. Healthcare marketers must know and understand their audience to effectively comsticky marketingmunicate with them.  We are often too quick to talk about features and about our hospital than to talk about benefits and what it means to the consumer.  We must always stop and ask from a consumer’s perspective, so what?

There are many methods to use for getting to know you audience.  Market research, patient interviews, primary and secondary consumer research and, of course, listening. We have all used these and many other methods with varying degrees of success.

The desire for all healthcare marketers is stickiness.  For our message to stick.  To resonate with our target audience.  To achieve this, it’s not only important to understand our audience it’s also important to understand what motivates them.  Some of the most successful advertising campaigns are the result of not just knowing the audience but having a deep understanding of what motivates their audience. Nate Fleming, writing for the Agency Post (agencypost.com) summed up successful advertising this way, “the most powerful messages tap into the audience’s desired emotional state and transport them from where they stand to another place and time. A message that connects deeply has a kind of transformative power that only comes from knowing what makes the audience tick. And it’s not just made of words. There’s magic in it”.

He continued, “In this fast-moving digital age, it’s easy to get distracted by technology and forget that human beings with beating hearts are the fuel that keeps our economic engine running. These strategies focus on activating the human reward response by focusing on a specific desired emotional state or end goal. A good message is a promise. And if yours promises to help people achieve one or more of their end goals, you’ll have messages that are both memorable and motivational”.

Fleming went on to list five key motivating factors for consumers.  They are very helpful as we try to create messages that resonate with our audiences?

1.  Power and Control

An absence of power or a feeling of loss of power activates the threat response. By offering to bring stability, empowerment and order to people’s lives, you can activate the reward response and appeal to your audience on a deep, emotional level. In healthcare, quite often consumers have a strong emotional sense of losing control.  They feel their health and possibly their healing and recovery are totally outside their control.  Hospital can respond to this by offering help and the expectation of good outcomes. The “Truth” campaign does just that by empowering young people to rebel against the big tobacco companies that were trying to manipulate them.

2.  Pleasure and Enjoyment

Promising luxurious, sensual experiences appeals to the reward system in ways that don’t need much explanation. Promise consumers’ senses a good time, and you’ll tap into a motivational nerve that is millions of years old. In addition to the expectation of good outcomes that lead to an enjoyable life, hospitals have been successful tapping into this emotion by offering amenities that go beyond basic medicine and treatment.  BMW focuses on this motivator with the promise of the “ultimate driving machine.” Klondike bars also do it in a very clever way by posing the question, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”

3.  Freedom and Independence

Promising people a sense of freedom encourages people to look to you as a companion that supports their desire to break free from social norms and the confines of their current reality. Freedom to act courageously and get outside the box is an alluring proposition for many. Hospitals can offer a new improved life with the right kind of treatment and successful recovery.  Levi’s flips the freedom switch with its “Go Forth” campaign that celebrates freedom and the hard work that comes with it.

4.  Certainty and Understanding

The discovery of truth and knowing the inner workings of things can be very potent motivators for some. Promise to be a source of clarity and confidence, and you’ll tap the basic human need for security. Feeling safe is a comforting reward.  By communicating and becoming the source of helpful knowledge and information, hospitals can connect with consumers.   Lumosity brain training leverages this by helping people understand that they can improve their mental capabilities because of a thing called neuroplasticity.

5.  Achievement and Accomplishment

For many people, the act of doing something is fueled by an even deeper need to achieve a goal or to create for ourselves a sense of accomplishment. Promise to be a means to achieve this state, and you’ll find plenty of takers.  Good health and an active life is an achievement or accomplishment every consumer desires.  Hospitals wellness programs can certainly offer a promise of a better, healthier life.  Nike has consistently tapped the human need to achieve a personal best for decades. Then again, so has the My Fitness Pal application, where members have lost 100 million pounds since 2005.

Fleming concluded, “delivering on the promise in your message at every turn, of course, is the key to making your message work. Simply saying the words isn’t enough. Which goes without saying and is certainly worth repeating. Sound bytes alone won’t cut it. The promise must match the experience.”

Understanding what motivates our audiences is the key to creating messages that have stickiness. We should always strive to understand consumer motivation and then craft our message so we not only communicate but we connect – with the mind and heart.

Healthcare Marketing: The Big Data Debate

10 Marketers weigh-in on whether big data is useful or harmful.  Big Data for Healthcare Marketing

There is much talk today about “Big Data.  The availability of a massive amount of consumer data that can help marketers make their efforts more precise and with pinpoint targetability.  The healthcare industry has certainly been a player in the use of all the data that is now available.  Despite HIPPA regulations there is an enormous amount of data that hospitals and healthcare organizations collect and can access.  When combined with state medical information and demographic tendencies, healthcare marketers have invaluable information at their fingertips.  And there are now several very large companies who work specifically with healthcare companies to help collect and mine the data and then use it to create very targeted messages to consumers.

But a debate rages among advertising and marketing professionals about the advantages, opportunities, disadvantages and liabilities of “big data.”  Recently Jami Oetting writing for the Agency Post (agncypost.com) collected viewpoints from 10 very experienced and respected marketers concerning “big data.”  Here are their comments.

1. Deacon Webster, Owner and Chief Creative Officer | Walrus

At some point, we’ll be able to tell unequivocally whether somebody who saw a message was more compelled to make a purchase than somebody who didn’t. That’s the ultimate goal of most advertising, so it’s hard to argue that having concrete causation data is a bad thing. It’s the real-time nature of the data that can lead to rash decisions. Nobody measures a car commercial’s effectiveness by the number of people who saw the ad, got off the couch and drove to the dealership within ten seconds of seeing it. People don’t behave that way. Yet, lots of digital advertising is measured and optimized against this exact type of behavior.

We need to practice a bit more patience and realize that there’s a non-interacting majority out there that might enjoy and look forward to a brand’s messaging but don’t feel the need to like, share or retweet it. There are plenty of things in the world that we enjoy without telling anyone.

2. Juliet Haygarth, Managing Director | Brothers and Sisters

I’m dog-sitting for my best friend, and I’ve just returned from an emergency trip to the vet. Panic-stricken, I bundled Dolly onto the table in the surgery room, and the vet sat and checked her over. I love Dolly, so when the vet told me her temperature and heart rate were normal, I felt pretty darn grateful for those little bits of data.

Data is a very useful tool; it can help steer and guide decision-making. It measures our progress and success. It helps us make constant improvements. It can reassure us everything is heading in the right direction.

My concern kicks in when slavish reliance on data occurs, when it becomes the be-all and end-all in strategic and creative development. This is dangerous in a world where a lot of data isn’t necessarily that accurate and certain stats can be invested with undue importance. A few years ago, it was all about the number of Facebook likes, and now the latest thinking debunks this in favor of deeper tools like sentiment tracking. The integrity and intelligence behind the data needs to be actively questioned.

I’m a fan of good data. I’m also a fan of gut instinct. When the two are combined, insight and creativity can be set free rather than hemmed in. If data is our only tool, it’s unlikely we’ll transform a category or move people to do something, whether that is voting in an election or buying a certain brand of washing powder. Painting by numbers will give you a competent picture, but people will know it’s not an original Picasso.

We must not fool ourselves into thinking the subjective business of creativity can be put through some sort of rational filter in order to manage our risk and make us less fearful. Data should be respected, but before we bow down before it we need to think – how was this measured and was it worth measuring in the first place?

3. Jonathan Ashton, Executive Director | TBWA

We are making steady progress toward the state where “more is not always better.” When do we reach too big of data? What are you going to do with even bigger data if you are not already seeing clear benefit from the data you already have? The solution to data blindness is not to track more data or to buy some industrial strength data management tools. The solution is to align strategy and creativity with the data that matters.

Understanding the difference between key performance indicators and performance indicators is important in the big data conversation. A KPI is an action that is tied to ROI (something that can be tested and optimized). A PI is just that — some indicator of performance that can be measured. Just because you can measure it does not mean you should pay attention to it.

A clear focus on the right data can already prove the effectiveness of the broader marketing strategy, not just the advertising. (Who has a chief advertising officer for a client anyway?) Raw data must turn into brand-driving insights. No tool can do that. Only deep experience and innovative, creative human minds can truly see the signal in the noise. Sure, big data can turn into incremental media spend efficiency or a more precisely targeted direct response campaign, but the real challenge is to turn the right data into the big ideas that disrupt entire business categories.

The industry must be careful to focus on what matters in our growing obsession with data. Trade the obsession for dashboards and reports for a passion for client results.

4. James Denton Clark, Managing Director | Karmarama

This is all about fear and how fear stifles creativity, innovation and progression (in all things). People in a recession are scared, and they don’t have the confidence to try new things that may have turned their businesses around.

Big data is a rubbish name. It sounds like Big Brother and the inference in this question is that extreme measurement and identification stifle creativity. So, let’s call it smart data.

As we emerge into a more confident economy (from a culture of fear), having reassurance in the effectiveness of what they do will give brand owners the confidence to test, learn and innovate more.

And that’s what we’re all about. So why should data be at the heart of everything we do?

Because it will unleash the creative industry, not hurt it.

5. James Green, CEO | Magnetic

Big data has become a grossly overused term — overused enough for it to be banned from industry events I’ve attended. The reason everyone is fed up with hearing the term “big data” is because it’s a bit like the term “advertising.” It covers so much ground that, really, it’s no longer useful. If you were asked to write about the state of the advertising industry, you’d have to cover a variety of topics including old media and new, creative, research and reporting, social and mobile, agencies and client-specific trends. Although there are some trends that run through all of these topics, the most interesting information is found by being specific.

So is the case with big data. Everyone has some part of their company that they would like to improve. And no matter what that is — purchasing, selling, accounting, marketing or investor relations — big data is here to help. You can now not only see the trends, but also the parts that make up the trends all the way down to individual events. And often we find that what we thought was a simple trend is made up of more interesting separate parts. For example, an uptick in sales in a geographic region may hide a downtrend in sales among a demographic. But big data can help you see through it all and create separate strategies for each component part.

There is no doubt that big data will help all marketing campaigns become more effective. But deciding what to focus on and then applying the right tools will separate the winners from the frustrated participants.

6. Shirley Au, President, COO | Huge

We see data impacting advertising in two areas: efficiency of delivery and effectiveness of experience. We use data to drive the right experience to the right user, at the right time and in the right place.

Rather than just retargeting the same user 30 times after visiting a site, this means integrating customer profile data with third party data to deliver a more rewarding experience. Our use of sophisticated segmentation systems provides users the same experience across all touchpoints — from desktop and mobile to apps and advertising.

We’ve had this data and personalization capability for some time, but what’s changed is how we merge users’ site personalization with ad targeting and customer data to optimize a desired action (e.g., reduced call center volume).

This is a departure from traditional marketing where you might test creative among a small audience and optimize media based on clicks. In this method, the question about ROI was: Does my marketing work? Now, the question is: How do I manage marketing on an ongoing basis, maximizing the right KPIs and providing the best experience for my most valuable users?

We believe data shifts the onus of the industry from proving value to making effectiveness an ongoing process: we create, test, refine and repeat; we keep learning as our users keep evolving.

What’s hurting the industry is a focus on short-term results and immediate financial return versus the long-term impact, which can ultimately stifle innovation. We know click generation and cluttering pages with upsell opportunities will generate some sales, but it can also damage a brand’s relationship with the user.

7. Robert Guay, SVP and Managing Director | Digitas

Like everything else, marketing data must be used in moderation. Most importantly, marketers have to determine which key performance indicators are most relevant to the long-term success of their businesses.

Clients will often use data to prove that campaigns are effective to drive an upper-funnel metric-like awareness or consideration. Sometimes it’s not possible (or easy) to connect media spend farther down the funnel to actual purchase or, better yet, lifetime value. The challenge is that it is easy to get focused on an upper-funnel metric and actually get good at efficiently driving customer engagements, but we have to be sure we know to what end.

With the amount of data available to brands today, those who do not effectively use it will fall behind quickly. The best practice for big data: Use common sense and only place confidence in those measurements that have a proven connection to business growth.

8. Jalal Nasir, Founder and CEO | Pixalate

All the talk about big data and what it means for agencies can be frightening, but the obsession with big data can also be intoxicating. Agencies now have the ability to effectively measure a campaign’s success and target the audience that brands want to attract by using hard-nosed data and numbers. The litmus test of a successful big data company includes the ability to keep cost of acquisition, process and curation of data relatively low. Before, ad-tech companies used legacy technology stacks for data storage, processing and visualization, which slowed the pace of technology innovation and drove the cost of doing business higher. But big data companies have now figured out a cheaper way to acquire more data, so every interaction a user has with a brand will be curated and more relevant. If applied correctly, this will be a consistent feedback loop that will change the nature of advertising as we know it.

I think that, with anything in life, expecting perfection on day one can lead to disappointment and can hurt our industry. Rationalizing and predicting human behavior with some level of probability is quite complex, but we will find a way to use technologies to solve this problem. This will take time, team effort and multiple technological iterations to get it right if it all. But, it’s an intoxicating problem that’s worth solving.

9. Gina Grillo, President & CEO | The ADVERTISING Club of New York

Big data is more than a buzzword surrounding our business. Our industry has made significant strides in its ability to gather, measure and analyze information in order to precisely target and reach audiences. We now have the capability to tap into this intricate realm of analytics that can be used to understand, track and predict consumer behaviors and preferences. And from there, we are better able to strategically place our creative messages in the right channel at the most receptive moment and in front of the right set of eyes. These are invaluable insights for the world of advertising.

But are we using this data to its utmost potential? As an industry, we are becoming a bit “obsessed” with the opportunity that comes with data collecting tools and techniques. New pressures to effectively hone in and reach people based on their attitudes, needs and desires is front and center. Marketers remain focused on the real goal: to entertain and engage. That leads to true effectiveness and ROI.

Advertisers and marketers still have a ways to go in terms of making the most of this powerful resource. Fortunately, they are already on the fast track. We are working to utilize data in an innovative way by conducting a survey with the help of PwC to track and measure the industry’s progress toward promoting greater diversity. And as we approach the 50th anniversary of the International ANDY awards in 2014, industry leaders will have the opportunity to come together to not only celebrate creativity, but also explore how to strategically bring the innovative use of data and analytics into the mix in the next 50 years of advertising. The future lies in mastering the right combination of strategically placed ads and engaging and connecting with consumers through these messages and content. Only then will the ‘buzzy’ concept of big data truly prove its relevancy in advertising.

10. Amy Lanigan, Vice President of Client Strategy | Fluid, Inc.

Data and ROI metrics will ultimately make advertising accountable, which is fantastic. In digital commerce, it’s essential. Smart use of data is digital’s ace in the hole. The wealth of digital data holds endless insights and ideas. It commands we set up success metrics. Its constant stream is a chance for ongoing testing, optimization and iteration.

That said, ‘big data’ can be bad. Bad like big government, Big Brother (in the book and on TV), Big Gulps and the Big Dig in Boston — overwhelming, intimidating and debilitating. Similar to endless excel spreadsheets and brainstorms constrained by metrics, measuring everything rarely helps anyone.

The two ‘bigs’ worth keeping? The big picture and the big ideas. The big picture keeps us out of the weeds and focused on goals. We get to mine the data whys and what-ifs. And the best big ideas have a foundation in data-driven insights — even the bold, crazy, go-for-it ones.

If data is our only obsession, it hurts us. Luckily, we’re a multiple-obsession industry — groundbreaking creative, innovation, intuitive experiences, conversion, client satisfaction, etc. You name it, and there’s someone up at night at an agency thinking about it. If we partner with our clients early on to define which data matters most and how we should measure success, our obsession can be positive. Our obsession then means we mine data in ways that positively impact customers and the experiences we create for them — which is flat-out fun.

I know this is a long post but I thought the opinions expressed by a wide variety of marketing experts were very revealing and helpful.  The take away for healthcare marketers is big data can be very useful.  It does indeed help us sharpen our message and our delivery methods.  But it’s not the golden egg or magic bullet.  Instincts, experience, intuition, creativity, common sense and the ability to distinguish between data and meaningful, helpful data are very mush a part of a successful marketing effort.

Healthcare Marketing: Current Trends in Social Marketing for Hospitals

Best practices for healthcare organizations utilizing social media.

Trending concept.Zsolt Bicskey writing for business2community.com recently gave what he thought were the top trends and best practices for using social media by hospitals and healthcare organizations.  His main points are provided here with some slight editing.

Incentivizing Social Media

Having media accounts is useless without followers. Few patients have a reason to follow their hospital on Facebook — it’s up to marketers to convince them otherwise. Start by asking patients to like your pages and profiles (put your info on a business card, perhaps?) and even incentivize the process with drawings of gift cards for the gift shop or discounted parking, etc. Or, if you’re really into making a splash in the online community, send patients information via social media about upcoming appointments and health information they may find informative. The same idea applies to emailed newsletters, text message appointment times, and other reminders.


Marketers have found that people react better to bright, attractive imagery rather than boring blocks of Web text. When you’re making posts or publishing blogs on social media, accompany them with multimedia like videos, infographics, and images. People are more likely to halt their newsfeed scrolling if they come across something that pops off the page. Think visual when you start out on your campaign and find pictures and graphs that accurately reflect your information.

Website Linking

Websites can be like secondary storefronts for hospitals and healthcare organizations. In terms of social medical marketing, link to and from your website with your social profiles and keep it stocked full of new, original, and accurate information about your hospital and your service lines. As mentioned, the best marketing campaigns set you up as a professional authority in a field. Writing pamphlets, articles, and blogs can help support this idea — all you have to do is link them through to your website.

Enlisting the Masses

It would be impossible for you, a busy healthcare marketer, to do all of this on your own. Instead, enlist help from your staff and other experts. Did you get new technology? Ask a doctor or nurse to write up a few hundred words that you then publish on your website. Don’t be afraid to try new things, either; sometimes the most successful strategies are the ones no one has ever tried before.

Going Forward

The most important thing to do is to keep at it. Don’t give up if you don’t have every Facebook follower in town; focus instead on the long-term goal of creating an online brand and presence. Healthcare is a difficult, competitive field on the Internet. It is your job, and you should employ social healthcare marketing in order to support your organization as a source of valuable healthcare information and to provide patients with information.

Hospital Marketing: 5 Tests to Keep Your Brand Relevant

 A critical view of your brand can make it enduring and stronger.

A hospital’s brand is extremely important.  With the changing healthcare environment brands are in transition with new alliances, new ventures, a host of rating organizations, consumer-driven marketplace and so much more.  Which means it’s more difficult to keep a strong and consistent brand.

It’s crucial for hospitals and healthcare organizations to frequently revisit the brand, reassess and keep the brand as clean and consistent as possible.  Here are 5 tests every brand should ask and consider on a regular basis.

1.    How is your brand perceived in the marketplace?

What is the consumer perception of your brand?  Is it gaining strength or waning?  Does the consumer have a clear idea of what and who the brand is?  Do they know what the brand stands for?  Is the brand relevant to the consumer?

2.    How is the brand communication?

Take an inventory of all brand touchpoints.   Patients, physicians, providers, payers, employees, management and board.  What is the brand communicating to each?  Is it consistent?  Does it reflect the mission and values of the organization?

3.    Analyze your brand architecture.

In many ways this may be the most difficult.  As organizations grow and change, it’s difficult to keep consistent and clearly defined brand architecture.  Do patients understand the different product and service lines and how they relate to each other and to the master brand?  Is there confusion?   A weak brand architecture creates weak brand equity.

4.    Assess the brand expression.

Does the brand have a consistent image, look and feel across all touch points? Can the consumer tell that all parts of the brand are part of the overall brand family?

5.    Examine the brand expression.

How is the brand expressed?  Does it have a consistent tone, personality and message?  Do all the communications speak the same voice and reflect the same character and heart?

In today’s environment it’s so easy to get sidetracked, disjointed and inconsistent.  It’s easy to get going in too many different directions and sacrificing the brand for expediency or politics.  And when this happens, the brand is weakened.   Healthcare marketers should constantly be asking these questions and diligently communicating a consistent, well-planned and strong brand.  Across all platforms, to every audience and with every execution.  I know it’s easier said than done.  But we must always be fighting the good fight to protect and enhance our brand.

Hospital Marketing: Social Media Facts to Consider for 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

Facebook and YouTube are in your face!social media for hospitals

The use of social media continues to grow.  Facebook now claims over 1 billion users worldwide.  It’s not just a phase; online social networking is here to stay.  And because of its use and its staying power, it should be included in the marketing strategy of every hospital and every healthcare organization.  It’s where consumers are.  And for long periods of time.  And consumers expect your presence there.  And other social media sites have impressive numbers of users too.  Here are a few interesting facts:

1.  1 million websites have integrated with Facebook.  Not only are consumers engaged on Facebook, other websites have links to Facebook multiplying and compounding access.

2.  80% of users prefer to connect to brands on Facebook.  Consumers expect to find our brands on Facebook.  They want to use the site to gather information about the brand and if they are brand loyalists they want engagement.  This is particularly pertinent to hospital marketers.  Your consumers expect you to have a presence in social media

3.  25% of Facebook uses don’t set any of their privacy settings.  There’s been much talk recently about privacy.  Facebook has changed the way privacy settings are selected.  But even with that, a full one-fourth of uses have not bothered with their privacy settings.

4.  25% of Facebook users check their account at least five times per day.  Facebook users visit the network a lot.  Returning to it to post or just check their newsfeed happens throughout the day.  Users are checking in on a regular basis.

5.  YouTube reaches more U.S. adults 18-34 than any cable network. Even with the tremendous growth of cable networks among younger adults, YouTube reaches more of them.  Of course one video would not reach as many consumers as a schedule of spots run on major cable networks but YouTube is extremely popular.  It’s time to consider using video in your marketing strategy.  Start simple but don’t miss out on the opportunity to reach a big base of consumers.

As healthcare marketers it seems a bit overwhelming.  The strength and power of Social media and the various platforms and sites and how consumers utilize online social media can become almost too much to get your arms around.  And of course once started the monster has to be fed.  You can’t set it up and watch it go.  It requires time and effort.

But the numbers speak for themselves.  And active social media strategy is important.  Hospital marketing departments can’t be present on all social media sites.  But choose the one (or ones) that fit your hospital’s marketing objectives and do it well.  Don’t overstretch your capabilities. Examine the numbers and see what’s best for your healthcare organization and then make a commitment to be active and to make it as effective as possible. 

Statistics accredited to Belle Beth Cooper writing for the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com).

Hospital Marketing: Social Media Facts to Consider for 2014 (Part 3 of 4)

social media for businessConsumers are linking in!  But they aren’t very active.

As social networking sites grow, healthcare marketers must keep a close watch on which ones could be a useful marketing tool.  Hospital marketers can’t actively participate on all social platforms so it’s important to know which ones are most effective.  Although a primarily a business social network, Linkedin has been growing at a very rapid pace.  Here are two statistics, which are important:

1.  A new member joins LinkedIn every 2 seconds.  LinkedIn is one of the fastest growing social sites and has become one of the more dominant ones.  Mainly a site for professionals who want to connect for business purposes, it usefulness to hospital marketers is probably limited.  Except perhaps for HR.

2.  LinkedIn users are less active than users of other social media sites.

Although LinkedIn is growing extremely fast, its percentage of active users trail other sites.  This makes sense since Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+ are used for socializing, LinkedIn is more for professional use.  So users of LinkedIn don’t visit or use it nearly as often as the other dominant social networking sites.  Credibility is higher on LinkedIn and it’s more useful for business purposes.

For healthcare marketers, LinkedIn is not your first choice for a social media strategy.  The other sites are more useful and efficient.  They are much more for participatory content and engagement.  With that said, as noted earlier, LinkedIn could be a very useful tool for HR as they seek and recruit professional talent.


Statistics accredited to Belle Beth Cooper writing for the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com).