Thursday, March 27, 2008

Doctor, Doctor...What Can We Do?

I received a call this morning from the business editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The locals here in Atlanta refer to the newspaper as the AJC.

The editor called me to get my commentary about healthcare advertising in the region.

It’s March, its spring time and here in Atlanta, once one hospital starts advertising, they all seem to jump on board and follow suit.

One of the questions the editor asked is where do hospitals advertise…which one of the following do they use… television, radio, print or outdoor?

The answer… yes… they use all of them.

But they also interact and have dialogue with people on the Internet, their website, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace.

He asked this question several times again…not quite understanding the answer.


The next question asked…”What is the message they say that makes people come to use their hospital?”

I responded back with a question… You were in college in the 1960s weren’t you?

He replied yes, how did you know?

Subliminal Advertising. Remember the letters S-E-X that the author claimed were planted in the ice cubes?

Hello. It’s 2008.

Consumers today know how to leverage their power!

They trust their instincts, explore options, see through the hype and run from canned marketing.

As reported in the recent Yankelovich Monitor…76% of consumers follow their own internal instincts versus listen to the experts. And that percentage is up from 63% in 2002.

The survey also reports that 58% of consumers actively avoid the hype. And again, that percentage is up from 38% in 2002.

We work with a good number of large as well as small hospitals that “get it.”

They understand when we tell them to avoid the four-letter word that begins with a “C” (care). And they also get it when we tell them that the # of physicians they have and the number of rooms is meaningless.

Consumers are fed up with everything from insurance companies telling them what they will pay to waiting hours in a physician’s practice to hearing hospitals tell them that the rooms are clean and the nurses care.

I think what prompted the editor to call is a series of full-page, four-color newspaper ads that a hospital is currently running in the AJC.

The exact same ads are also plastered on billboards across the city.

The ads introduce the public to the hospitals “new” cardiac team…one that had recently expanded with the top cardiologists the hospital hired away from a competitive hospital.

The full-page, four-color newspaper ads illustrate the skyline of Atlanta across the bottom of the ad with the majority of space that then ascends upward into the top of the page that then illustrates stars, clouds, the hospital logo and facial outlines of the physicians.

It’s very, very, very similar (did I say “very, very, very similar”) to the ancient illustrations of the Roman and Greek gods peering down on the mere peoples of the time.

I have a copy of the ad on my office wall and take it with me when I meet with our healthcare clients.

“This is what the competition is doing. This is what we are here to prevent you from ever doing.”

Every newspaper reporter and editor today really wishes that they could be the next Woodward and Bernstein.

This hospital is a good hospital that delivers good service.

But as I shared with the editor of the article…good people also do very, very, very stupid things.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chasing Rainbows Midst The Storm!

This past weekend a tornado ripped right through downtown Atlanta. There are some that I know that say it was destined to hit and targeted.

It hit the CNN headquarters along with the coliseum where the SEC Basketball Playoffs were in progress.

Then it traveled east and touched ground literally across the railroad tracks from our office in an intown neighborhood called Cabbage Town.

It’s too bad that tornados don’t have a name. CNN did round the clock coverage of the damage.

The SEC play-off was moved to an ACC coliseum on the Georgia Tech campus and the University of Georgia game got postponed until the next day. Of course UGA went on to win twice on Saturday and clinch the SEC title.

They won more games against SEC teams over the weekend than they won all season long.

Perseverance and Moving Forward is a personal theme of mine.

The Yankelovich folks that conduct and publish the annual Monitor Report showcased American consumers as being in the “GO-MODE” in their annual report of the consumer mindset.

Here is a quote of what they observe:

“Despite widely divergent developments, and perhaps even because of them, there’s a different kind of energy in the air. An enterprising spirit and mindset. A sense of movement, growth and even accomplishment. No matter how far and wide consumers continue to be pulled, and regardless of age, they are determined to keep moving along. They’re in the GO-MODE and determined to get to ‘next’.”

Yankelovich goes on to report that the desire to “do something new and exciting” posts at 56% in 2007, up from 41% in 2002.

On Monday of this week, the stock market shuddered with the sale of a New York financial group for $2 a share. Yesterday the Dow jumped up more than 400 points.

The drive of the GO-MODE is a lot like riding a roller coaster that never really stops!

Snapshot picture today…

BrandVenture has a client that is building second homes up in the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. We are identifying the best potential customers and developing highly targeted strategies to reach them and move the real estate.

We are planning to do some Coffee House Chats of high potential consumer groups.

When I spoke to the owner of a focus group facility in Charlotte today concerning a quote that did not click with past budgets, she went off on a tangent defending her premium recruitment costs.

First, she told me that the costs were high because they groups were being conducting at a Starbucks Coffee and not in her “beautiful” focus group rooms.


But then second, she said that “with the economy in this horrible recession” that “finding anyone who would think of buying a second home would be impossible.”

Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but when the market rallies back and consumers reinvent, I really don’t think that the market place is all that bleak.

Here’s another quote from Yankelovich…

“Everyday, consumers are bombarded with an entirely new menu of goods to buy, drink, plug in and rev up! They know how to reinvent the wheel – and reinvent it again.”

After the tornado hit Atlanta on Friday, we ended up with another set of tornados on Saturday. I had spent a looooooonnnnnggggg week with clients doing strategy planning sessions and I was more than ready to get up to my log cabin in the North Georgia mountains and just relax.

But…as I headed up on Saturday afternoon and thought that the sky was clear, another tornado formed just southeast of where I was driving. The sky was pitch black and I spotted a funnel cloud that appeared to be heading away from me.

Did I turn around and run for cover?

No. I just continued moving forward on a couple alternative roadways.

About 30 minutes later as I came up over the mountains, there was a rainbow shining on the horizon.

While the press and the marketing consultants may have their opinion sets about the state of the economy and the outlook of the future, are you and your brand in the GO MODE?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Naturally Occurring Neighborhood

Both of my parents are in their 70s and I hope that when I get to be their age, that I am as active as they are.

Terry, who last week rejoined up with the BrandVenture team, and I spent the better part of the last several years branding what is termed a “CCRC” – a Continual Care Retirement Center.

A CCRC is a community of single homes, cottages and villas for individuals and couples age 62+ and a place that supports an individual as they age.

In addition to some very cool housing, there’s a retail center, clubhouse, sports center, restaurants, coffee house and wine bar. There’s also an on-site physician and assisted living quarters if needed.

When I first toured the place, I thought why aren’t there places like this for creative people to dwell. Lord only knows that we could benefit from some assisted living at 2am when most of the best ideas finally gel!

I got to know the perception of our client's CCRC first hand.

My parents have a friend who turned 68 last year and was thinking about moving into a planned housing community. So I set-up an appointment for the three of them to tour our client’s place and have lunch at one of their restaurants.

We had a nice tour and a wonderful meal. But I knew the concept was not going to fit with my parents and their friend.

I had no sooner bid them good-bye when my mother called me on her cell phone. While they thought the place was nice, my mother couldn’t even think of living in a place of nothing but “old people” in a spa-setting. It was “just not real.”

For some people our client is offering a great choice…but for the aging Boomers (one turns 60 every 6 seconds in 2008!) there has to be something different and cooler.

Terry and I were having lunch about a week ago when he told me about a new concept called “NORCs” – Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

I love the sound of the phrase…”Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities” ... it sounds more positive than “Continual Care Retirement Communities.”

It’s an idea where individuals age 62+ do not have to move out of their homes or neighborhoods, but instead join up with like-thinkers in their neighborhoods, towns and communities.

There is a center where individuals gather for meals, events, classes and services. There is a transit service that takes individuals back and forth from their homes and cleaning, yard-work and home-care service. There is a 24/7 physician that also goes out house-to-house.

One of our trends in the 2006 BrandVenture Trendcast was coined “The Emerging Main Street of Authenticity” that highlighted the renewed importance of a place where we have roots and call home.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities is a hot idea. And with just as many folks age 55+ on MySpace as those age 12-24, I bet the idea is going to spread like wild fire.