Healthcare Marketing: CAPTCHA as a Marketing Tool

Those annoying CAPTCHAs may soon be a viable advertising medium delivering a captive audience

You know those CAPTCHAs.  They are annoying and time consuming.  And most of the time very difficult to decipher.  CAPTCHAs, Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart, are those squiggly, indecipherable text strings websites require you to discern and type to gain access and provide security.  They protect websites against bots by generating and grading text that humans can read but current computer programs cannot. But now they can become a branding tool.

Solve Media is a new start-up company that is offering the opportunity to substitute those hard to read texts with clear concise words that can be a brand or product name.  So instead of typing in words or a series of letters that mean nothing, you can be forced to type the name of a brand or product. What a captive audience! And what a way to get consumers to type your brand or product, which is much better than just seeing it.

Of course it’s not free.  Advertisers will be required to buy the words on various sites.  The company is currently pitching it to major brands and advertisers.  The anticipated cost will be 25 -50 cents for each time a consumer types in your brand or product.  Seems rather expensive.  The revenue will be split with the website publisher.

The idea requires the consumer to be engaged and actually type the name of the brand or product, which the company claims, will increase recall. It does not provide a link to the advertisers website or a video or an ad for the advertiser.  The value is simply creating recall by the consumer seeing and typing the name.

What a novel idea. What a potentially promising advertising venue.  It’s early, so no one knows if the company will get traction or if brand and product managers will adopt it as a viable option.  But it does point out two things.  The first one is that branding happens everywhere. It’s omnipresent and ubiquitous. Nothing is sacred or off-limits if it can possibly give a brand or product an advantage.  The second is that advertising and branding is only limited by the boundaries of our creativity. New and exciting advertising opportunities appear almost daily.  The proliferation of media is seemingly endless.

Which means, as health care marketers, we must always be open to new opportunities.  And we must use our imagination and creativity to discover new but effective ways to market our brand.


Healthcare Marketing: Marketers Use of Social Media Not Keeping Up With Users Consumption

Some companies are having great success with social media, but overall use of social networking is still very modest. 

Most companies are at least dabbling in social media. This includes hospitals and health care organizations.  The number of hospitals that have Facebook pages and that tweet continues to slowly increase.  But overall, the statistics indicate overall involvement and investment is still very modest.

Social Media and Online Media Report conducted by Econsultancy reveals that almost a third of companies are not spending anything on social media marketing while another third spend very small amounts.  Only about 10% of companies are spending a significant amount of their budget on social network sites.

Several reasons are given for not investing very much in social media.

  • Lack of resources  49%
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding  35%
  • Lack of budget  30%
  • Company culture 29%
  • Inability to measure success  24%
  • Fear of reputation issues   22%
  • Lack of senior buy-in  15%

Although these figures relate to all businesses, we can  safely assume the numbers for health care marketing would be very similar.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ford Motor Company uses social media extensively and very effectively.  In an interview with Ford’s CMO Jim Farley and reported by Mack Collier, Farley stated Ford has effectively used social media to lower marketing costs.   Farley, referring to social media states, “by launching a new vehicle early, getting people talking about it before it goes on sale, we can lower the amount of traditional advertising we do after the vehicle goes on sale.”  He adds Ford  spends 10% of the amount normally spent on traditional media on social media before a launch.

So two very different approaches to social media.  Two very different attitudes.  And these two are pretty representative of the marketing landscape.  Some marketers embrace social network marketing and claim great success while others are still skeptical and limit their use of social media.  It’s the nature of new media.  There is always a period of experimentation and uncertainty.

The lessons to learn are to watch, explore, experiment and learn.  There are ways to use social media that can be effective, but it may not be time to sell out and transfer significant amount resources and budget to a mostly unproven medium.  True some health care marketers have invested significant amounts in social marketing, like the Mayo Clinic.  However, they are generally an exception.  For most hospitals, the investment and effectiveness of social media is limited and varied.

There is still much to learn.  And the learning process will be adventurous, challenging and perhaps exciting.  Stay tuned as we watch what others do, explore new opportunities, experiment with new ideas and learn.  Social media will most likely consume more resources in the future but for now it’s a mixed bag for sure.


Healthcare Marketing: How to Reach Elective Procedure Prospects

The affluent are depending less on magazines for their news and information and turning to other sources. 

Readership of magazines by heads of households earning more than $100,000 annually declined 16% over the past year according to the annual Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Survey.  Magazine readership has been slipping for several years but the previous year was first time the decline was in double digits.

The same research indicated internet usage among the same group increased 12% during the past year and increased their purchases of e-readers and tablet computers.  This group of consumers are obviously shifting to e-readers and mobile devices for their information. “The consumer is getting more and more comfortable with the alternative platforms”, stated Ipsos Mendelsohn president Bob Shullman, in article in Ad Age by Jeff Neff.    He believes “affluents are simply getting their content in a different format. Not doing away with it.”

In contrast, television viewership among the affluent remained unchanged with 17.6 hours per week and internet time increased to an average of 25.3 hours per week.

The survey also indicated, surprisingly, that affluents age 18 to 34 were 13% more likely to be interested in TV ads than older affluents. In fact the younger group were more likely to be interested in every type of advertising except newspaper ads.

The affluent account for only 21% of the population but makes up 60% of household income and 70% of the wealth in the U.S. The affluent are more likely candidates for elective procedures. Are we communicating with them through channels that are most likely to reach them?


Healthcare Marketing: Consumers Can’t Get Enough Media

Americans are watching more, surfing more, texting more and consuming media more!

Americans continue to consume more and more media. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.   Due to a slow economy, ubiquitous broadband, widespread Wi-Fi access, increased multi-tasking and the proliferation of new devices and technology, consumers are living a lifestyle of almost continuous media consumption. In the past 18 months we watched two more hours of television per week, sent and received half a trillion more text messages and spent 1.3 more hours on the internet.  “We’re finding a way to do more of it, watch more of it and take more of it with us”, stated Patricia McDonough, VP-analysis, Nielsen Company.

Beth Snyder Bulik reported in Ad Age some  of the latest figures for U.S media consumption.


  • 116 million Americans have at least one television
  • 55% of households have at least 3 televisions
  • There are more televisions than people in the US
  • Americans spend an average of 35 hours and 34 minutes per week watching traditional TV
  • Another two hours is spent each week watching time-shifted TV, such as DVR
  • We spend an average of 20 minutes per week watching videos on the internet
  • TV watching is shared with social networking  (21%), playing video games (16%), purchasing products online (15%), participating by phone or internet with what’s happening on TV (7%) and tweeting (4%).


  • On an average day, 78% of Americans with internet access go online
  • 62% send /receive email
  • 49% use a search engine to find information
  • 43% get news
  • 38% go online for fun
  • 38% use social media
  • 34% check the weather
  • 26% do banking
  • 23% watch video


  • Only 31% of those surveyed read a newspaper on a given day
  • 65 and older – 62%
  • 50-64 – 44%
  • 40-49 – 39%
  • 18-24 – 20%

E-Readers and iPads

  • 3.7 million e-readers sold last year
  • 10.3 million predicted to be sold this year
  • 15.5 million predicted sold next year
  • 30 million predicted sold by 2015
  • 10 million American’s either already own an iPad  (2.5 million) or intend to buy one (7.4 million)

Mobile Phones

  • In 2009 there were 286 million wireless subscribers
  • 72% of consumers now text
  • There are 153 billion texts sent each month
  • Teens send and receive an average of 50 texts per day – adults an average of 10
  • 42% use their cell phones to access the internet
  • 30% do mobile search
  • 27% download apps
  • 26% use it for buying products
  • 15% use their cell phone to purchase products

Social Media

  • Linkedin has 75 million members
  • Twitter has 100 million members
  • Facebook has 500 million members
  • 40% of Americans maintain a social-networking profile
  • 86% of adults 18-24 use social media
  • 47% of boomers use social media
  • 26% of adults over 65 use social media

It is clear that Americans consume an enormous amount of media.  And it continues to increase.  These figures vividly show the power and influence of the media.  They are tools, when used wisely, that can deliver our messages to consumers.


Hospital Marketing: Strategy First, Social Media Second

Social media is not the answer to marketing woes. But a strong, strategic plan is.    

“TGIF” – that’s Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook. And listening to some people you might get the impression the answer to every marketing problem is one or all of the above.  We just need to use these four tools, use them more often, invest more money and resources in them and we will become the market leader.  There is no doubt these four revolutionary developments have forever changed how we market products and services.  But are they the answer to all our marketing issues?

I think not!  As powerful and effective as these mediums can be, they are not at the core of what makes brands strong.  The most important thing is an effective marketing strategy. Without it, no combination of TGIF can resurrect a bad brand or sustain a good one.  Al Ries, chairman of Ries & Ries effectively made this very point in an article in Ad Age.  He emphasized that better strategies, not better weapons, win wars. And he gave some compelling examples.

Linen N Things didn’t go bankrupt because it didn’t effectively use Twitter. It went bankrupt because it was a knock off of Bed Bath & Beyond and never differentiated itself from the market leader.

DHL didn’t pull out of the U.S. market because it didn’t buy enough AdWords from Google but because it was the No. 3 brand in a category dominated by UPS and FedEx.

Kmart didn’t go bankrupt because it couldn’t figure out how to use the internet to promote the brand. Rather it went bankrupt because it was caught in no man’s land between low cost Wal-Mart and the high end Target.

Coca-Cola didn’t fail in 3 attempts to build a leading energy drink brand (KMX, Full Throttle and Tab) because it didn’t have a Facebook page but because it waited too long after the launch of Red Bull.

The point is obvious.  While TGIF are useful, effective and should be important elements in most marketing campaigns, they will not compensate for a bad marketing strategy. As Ries states, “what wins wars are better strategies.”   We sometimes spend a lot of time analyzing and utilizing Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook and not nearly enough time developing a strong effective strategy.  Without a good strategy, no medium will be effective.  With an effective strategy, just about every medium can be effective.

Let’s do the hard work.  Let’s focus on our brand strategy.  Then we will be prepared to choose the appropriate tactics to win the brand wars.


Healthcare Marketing: Social Media Ironically is about Traditional Media

It’s amazing how much of the discussion in social media originates in traditional media. 

Social media is all the rave. Everybody’s doing it. Everybody’s talking about it. But what are people talking about on social networking sites? It’s ironic how much of what’s discussed is traditional media.  In fact, television still rules.  So much of what’s posted on social media sites has to do with what’s happening on television. Interesting isn’t it?

How much social media space is consumed discussing whom the finalists will be on American Idol?   How many posts were there about which girl should be chosen by the Bachelor?  Or what about Betty White being a huge topic on Twitter the week after her appearance on Saturday Night Live?  What about Justin Bieber being number one on Twitter after appearing on Oprah?  Much political conversation on networking sites springs from what Glenn Beck or Chris Mathews espouses the night before.

In discussing this same issue in an article in Ad Age, Simon Dumenco stated that despite the supposed seismic shift away from broadcast to web video, the reality is that just 2% of TV viewing happens online.  In fact, television consumption has actually risen as social media has exploded. Nielsen has tracked an all time high of 151–plus hours of monthly TV watching in the average American household while spending just 27 hours on the internet.

Even though the use of social is on a sharp incline, it has not dented our passion for TV.  Television is the original social medium. We watch TV for enjoyment but also because we want to experience what other people are experiencing and talking about.   We want to be “in the know” and be culturally relevant.  And we watch television to make sure we are.

As Dumenco concluded, “there’s something deeply, beautifully human about people using newfangled social media to share their awe about great moments on good old-fashioned TV.”


Hospital Marketing: We Can Learn from Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga has proven to know how to build a brand.  And every marketer would do well to observe how she’s done it.

Whether you like Lady Gaga, her music, her style – or not, no one can argue with her success.  She was the first artist to hit 1 billion hits on YouTube.  She has sold over 11.5 million albums in two years and was the 2009 bestseller through digital media with 15 million tracks sold. She has 10 million friends on Facebook and 4.7 million followers on Twitter. She has built one of the strongest brands in the world.

How has she accomplished so much in such a short period of time?  Marketing Profs recently presented an article outlining some of the tactics that make her successful.  Lessons that would be useful for all marketers.

1. She tells a consistent story.

Lady Gaga knows her brand.  She understands and lives her brand. And it is consistent in all she does. Take for instance her appearance. Her costume style clothing isn’t reserved just for high-profile red carpet events. She dresses like this all the time – in the airport, at her sister’s graduation, etc. Every time you see her or photos of her – whether you like her style or not – you know to expect the unexpected.

2. She engages her fans.

Lady Gaga listens to her fans, and provides many touch points for them to be engaged.  She offers quality content that her fans want and keeps them coming back and participating.  She provides multiple venues for connecting with her fans. She understands that to promote her brand she has to do more than concert tours. She does more than just push out mini commercials about upcoming appearances. She provides info that fans want.

3. She reveals herself.

Lady Gaga displays her personality across all media.  She is multifaceted but is open and transparent. She allows her fans to know her and have a sense of relationship.

4. She encourages ownership and participation with her brand.

Her content is spreadable. Her work is contagious and she allows her fans to embed, revamp, comment and share wherever they want.

5. She integrates all the venues used by her brand.

Lady Gaga coordinates her brand message across all avenues.  Her tours, her merchandise sales, and her media presence are all integrated to create multiple points of contact that leverages a synergy across all communication channels.

6. She thinks outside of herself.

She constantly engages her customers in worthwhile efforts that help others and this enhances her brand. One example is when she donated all the profits from her online store over a 24-hour period to Haitian relief and she promoted it through Twitter.

Lady Gaga is a pop-culture phenomenon.  But it didn’t just happen.  She has a plan and is working it. She gives careful consideration to all her options. And most importantly, she creates multiple avenues for fan contact and interaction and presents a consistent brand message across all of them.  Lessons every marketer should learn.  If we don’t learn them, it could lead to a very uh… “bad romance” with our clients.


Healthcare Marketing: Aging Boomers Still the Bomb

As baby boomers grow older they will increase their importance to marketers.    

For years the emphasis of marketers have been with the 18-49 year olds. They were the ones who had increasing buying potential and had not developed strong brand loyalties. Those over 50 were believed to have decreasing incomes, reduced desire for new products and services and developed brand loyalty.  However research is indicating these ideas are becoming more mythical than reality.

Baby boomers are now moving into the older age bracket and there are larger numbers of senior citizens. In fact, within the next decade persons over 60 will reach an all-time high.  This is compared to the younger aged market that will have fewer children, thus smaller households, and smaller incomes. Older citizens have salted away money and have more money to spend while younger segments will find their incomes shrinking.

Plus, baby boomers are proving to not be so set-in-their ways.  New products and changing technology have forced baby boomers to be more open to new ideas and even expect newer and better services and products. Therefore they will be less brand loyal than previous senior citizens.

Also, media will be redefined based on the increased numbers of senior citizens.  Television, was established as the medium of the young. The wheelhouse for television has always been 18-49.  But now the medium age of viewers of prime time television is 51. And that will most likely continue to increase as the large number of baby boomers age.

This change in business and marketing dynamics was referenced in an article in Ad Age by Brian Steinberg. Quoted in the article was Alan Wurtzel, president-research and media development at NBC Universal, “While baby boomers are leaving the demographics that have been favored by advertisers for decades, their value is actually increasing.”

Its true, as health care marketers, the older demographics have always been important because people spend more on health care as they age.  But with these changing dynamics, senior citizens will be even more important.  There will be larger numbers of them, they will have more to spend and they will change loyalties.  Our planning, processes and marketing should put them clearly in our cross hairs.


Hospital Marketing: Ad Adjacency Over Rated

Research indicates readership of ads not dependent on the adjacent editorial content. It has been a long held belief that ads placed adjacent to relevant editorial copy improves the readership of those ads.  And ads placed in the front half of a publication have higher readership than those placed in the back half.  But a recent study conducted by Gfk MRI and reported by Lucia Moses in Mediaweek indicates this is not necessarily true.

The research firm studied over 68,000 ads that ran in consumer magazines over the past 18 months to determine if ad placement affected it’s readershipThe research indicated that ads that ran adjacent to editorial rated better than ads adjacent to other ads. The lack of clutter raised readership from 46% for ads adjacent to other ads to 51% for ads adjacent to editorial copy.

One of the surprising findings was that ads that ran adjacent to relevant editorial (defined as being about the same subject) performed no better than ads that ran adjacent to irrelevant editorial. It has been a commonly held belief that the readership of ads improved significantly if placed adjacent to relevant editorial. Apparently this may not be true.

One big bump was gained by ads running adjacent to the table of contents. Such ads increased readership to 59% because readers lingered on and returned to the table of contents.  Other studies conducted by Affinity found little difference between recall of ads whether they appeared in the front or the back half of publication.

So maybe we are wasting our time trying to match our ads to similar editorial content and fighting to get our ads in the front of the magazine.  Instead the emphasis should be on negotiating placement next to any editorial and not other ads.


Healthcare Marketing: Keep Your Ads Simple

Advertising creative is changing and becoming much more simple and clean.  It’s the product of a consumer driven marketplace.  

Before the 1960’s, creative consisted of pages filled with type and graphics. Dark, serif-faced ads with little white space.  Along came the 60’s and all that changed.  Ads became simple, clean, with little copy and lots of white space.  The “Think Small” ad for Volkswagen was a perfect example of such.  And the change was basically art-driven.  The German-based Bauhaus design movement affected advertising like it did art, architecture, interior design and graphic design ad led to simple and clean characteristics.

The 80’s and 90’s brought more complex ads, with more copy and certainly more graphics.  But now we are reverting back to the simple clean look of the 60’s.  But this time it’s not art-driven.  It’s consumer driven.  Tony Mikes of Second Wind wrote concerning this shift in his “Consider This” blog.  He points out that back in the 60’s marketers controlled the process of marketing. Consumers believed whatever the marketer said, especially when backed up with clever creative to reinforce the message.

But today, marketers don’t control the process.  Consumers do. Consumers are knowledgeable, have access and can state their opinions and thoughts on any of numerous social networking sites. Peer-to-peer reality is an important part of the marketing process.  Consumers depend on comments, ratings and feedback from other consumers to make purchase decisions.

And this has influenced advertising.  Now instead of lots of graphics and lots of copy, the emphasis is on honesty and clarity.  Ads are simple and clean.  No need trying to overwhelm the consumer. It’s more about communicating a simple but pertinent benefit in a very personal approach.  Engaging the consumer in a very attractive but simple manner.

Perfect examples are the ads for iPod and iPhone. Extremely simple and direct.  Just communicating a benefit and lifestyle.  And two other classic examples that use simple clean approaches are the iPad and it’s older competitor, Kindle.  Little or no copy. Very visual but incredibly clean with engaging music. It’s all about honesty and simplicity.

So as we engage in healthcare marketing, the creative should be about transparency and honesty and simplicity.  Astute media buying, cost containment and strategic planning will remain important.  But ideas, creative execution, clear copy points and perhaps most importantly truth and honesty will reign supreme. And they should.