patient testimonials

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: Testimonial Ads Under Scrutiny by FTC

bubble speak

Many hospitals use testimonial advertising, and rightfully so.  They can be very compelling and very effective. But more care must be given to the type of testimonial used.

The Federal Trade Commission has changed the rules regarding use of endorsements and testimonial advertising. Since 1980, advertisers could use testimonials which describe “unusual” results as long as “results not typical” was disclosed. Now the FTC says testimonial ads must clearly disclose typical results of consumers using the product or service

One area of particular concern for hospitals is using testimonials for weight loss services. “Typical results” can be very difficult to determine due to many patient variables. Other ads where patient testimonials reflect a result that is better than the typical patient would be unacceptable unless the typical results are clearly disclosed.

And the guidelines are not only for traditional advertising, but includes social media, the internet, and television/ radio talk shows.

Traditionally bloggers must disclose if they are compensated by an advertiser. And celebrity testimonials must disclose if they are being compensated for their endorsement.

Testimonial advertising can still be very effective for hospitals but should be used with care when a patient talks about results and outcomes. The results and outcomes cannot be better than the typical patient without proper and clear disclosure.


Hospital Marketing: Patient Testimonials Connect

patient_testimonialsPatient testimonials that are genuine and authentic can effectively build a hospital’s image and brand.

The research is clear. Consumers trust their friends and neighbors when it comes to making healthcare choices. Consumers are generally skeptical. They don’t believe everything they’re told. Especially in advertising. But how can they argue with the testimony of someone they know, or live down the street, or share a common experience? 

Over the past year, I’ve observed several focus group sessions as randomly selected consumers discussed their feelings and opinions about healthcare. It was clear over and over that consumers are skeptics about hospital advertising, but it was also clear that they trusted the advice of friends and family members. So it seems obvious that patient testimonials can be very effective in hospital marketing.

However, there are a few issues.

  1. The testimonials must be authentic and real. A voiceover telling a story might be effective, but how can you argue with the patient’s own voice and own words telling their story? It’s not just slick words that tell a story, but real credible storytelling. No one can argue with another’s own personal story. It resonates with the audience.
  2. Using patient testimonials are hard work and time consuming. The patient with the compelling story must be identified. They must agree to be featured in the hospital’s advertising. Interviews have to be conducted. The patient must approve scripts and ads. A convenient time for the patient has to be set to film and record their story.
  3. And the way to tell the story may not be in perfect sound bite s or in a: 30-second time frame. Editing can be more difficult and time consuming. All of this is not easy and is very time consuming. But it can render outstanding results. It puts a face on the place.

Testimonial advertising is not the hottest creative approach. It is somewhat limiting creatively and visually and is not the hit of advertising award shows. Some creatives would even say patient testimonials are bland and passé. But if they speak to the consumer authentically, they are then believable and credible. Patient testimonials can create a bond with other consumers that can effectively build a hospital’s brand.

Testimonials also align with the current trend toward social media and consumer-controlled marketing. The patient testimonial starts a conversation that can be very beneficial to the hospital. 


How to Use YouTube to Market Your Hospital

YouTube logoFriends have probably sent you links to funny videos. Your kids have probably posted some of their own. Perhaps you went to YouTube to watch a movie trailer. 

YouTube however is not just for entertainment as it can be used as a tool to promote your hospital.

YouTube is a video sharing website where users can upload, view and share video clips. The site uses technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging and short original videos.

Unregistered users can watch the videos, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos. Accounts of registered users are called “channels”. YouTube is also a search engine. According to ComScore, search volume is second only to Google.

Some ways that YouTube can be utilized to promote your hospital:

  • Establish a channel for the hospital first
  • Upload commercials produced for television or cable broadcast
  • Include patient stories on your channel. Testimonials can be more powerful and compelling than a third party. These can be expensively produced or “raw and real” and shot simply with a camcorder
  • Post videos of select procedures (What does that new, non-invasive procedure look like?)
  • Include videos of interviews/discussions with physician on relevant topics
  • Produce and post a tour of your hospital’s facility (again can be produced or just shot “raw and reel” with camcorder)
  • Present new technology or equipment with a video
  • Improve your hospital’s recruitment efforts– feature an outstanding employee, let them tell the story about why someone would want to work for your company. This doubles as a great form of retention too!
  • Embed your hospital’s YouTube videos other social media sites. For example, you are using Twitter for your hospital, so send out a tweet that references a particular procedure with a link to your YouTube video of the procedure/equipment.

To take full advantage of the opportunity that YouTube presents your hospital, the rules of search optimization must be applied (keywords, search terms, descriptions, links, etc). In addition, metrics on your videos can be tracked.

Who’s watching? How many times has a particular video been viewed? Also, your YouTube channel should be promoted in traditional media advertising, on your hospital’s website, and in your other social media marketing efforts.

As with any social media, it is best to enter as a spectator first. Watch, listen and learn. Check out what other hospitals are doing. Start with creating a channel and uploading commercials you already have produced and grow your channel from there.