Saturday, March 21, 2015

Are hospital marketing campaigns aligned with the culture?

Here’s one for you.  Has the healthcare enterprise ever done a reality check of marketing campaign messaging with the real culture of the hospital before launching?  For example, I saw one campaign courtesy of Jake Poore founder of Integrated Loyalty Systems, in his seminar on Aligning Inpatient and Outpatient Experience Across the Continuum of Care at #ACHE2015.  (My thanks to Jake for the blog topic from one photo he had in the presentation.)

It seemed harmless enough with the usual hospital marketing campaign and meaningless fluff around “we specialize in smiles”.  I won’t start on a tangent about this kind of hospital marketing because it drives me crazy, and the industry isn't really interested in providing useful information for consumer decision making at this point anyway. But I digress.

As I was saying, it seemed harmless enough until you encountered the culture and found a wide experiential disconnect for the healthcare consumer and patient, because it wasn't true.  When one creates a campaign it affects three things: the brand; the creation of the expectation of something to happen; and the actual experience. So when the reality of the culture in which smiling to the healthcare consumer or patient doesn't take place all of the time, it’s a disconnect.  It is a failure of the brand promise.  It is a failure in the experience.  It is a failure by not fulfilling the already established expectation.

That is why it is so dangerous to run these types of brand campaigns.

No doubt about the creativity of the campaign. I am sure everyone loved it from the marketing team to physicians, senior management, the Board of Directors and beyond.  But in the end because no one did a culture check to see if smiles where happening, it’s a busted brand promise, experience and expectation.

Today in our social media driven world, culture impacts marketing because it is always on.  The culture of the hospital or health system is 24/7. It’s always, I mean always on. Culture impacts the brand, the brand promise, the expectations of the healthcare consumer or patient and the experience. And when going out to market with these types of fluff campaigns a new reality check is needed.
It’s not hard and is asking only one question, is the brand promise being made in the campaign supported by the reality of the culture of the hospital or health system? If the hospital marketing campaign is not aligned with the reality of the hospital culture, it is a prescription for disaster in the making. Pun intended. Walgreens and other medical retail giants figured this out a long time ago.
Now the challenge is for hospitals and health systems to learn the same lessons.

Healthcare is becoming a consumer driven retail operation. So while everyone’s focus is on reducing cost, improving quality and figuring out how to survive in a world shifting from volume to value, marketing becomes far more important than cute catchy phrases and seemingly harmless brand promises.

The easy way around this is to go to market with campaigns that differentiate the hospital or health system. A campaign that is based on providing meaningful and understandable information along the dimensions of price, outcomes, and experience that defines the brand, and establishes reasonable consumer experience expectations.  It focuses on a brand promise can be delivered on always by everyone, no exceptions to that statement, in the healthcare enterprise  24/7.

Like Jake states in aligning the inpatient and outpatient experience, “It’s really simple, but really hard”. 

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