Friday, December 30, 2011

Hospital Branding - A Top 10 for 2012

At the beginning of each new year, there's a Top 10 list for just about everything - from dieting to garage storage tips. So, while we're still in January, here's our list of Top 10 "Keep In Minds" for hospital marketers to improve their organization's marketing performance based on what we've read, discussed, heard, and pondered about. We hope 2012 brings you great success in the market.

1. Start with strategy. There are still too many organizations jumping right into execution and not enough focusing on "big ideas" when it comes to establishing a unique and strategic brand position. Building a successful brand is more than promotional - it includes five key steps; developmental, inspirational, promotional, operational, and cultural. These steps ensure that your brand delivers on a meaningful promise that you're making to the market.

2. Be consistent. Once your strategy is determined, stay the course! Why are so many organizations eager to change or vary their strategic direction after a brand launch? The old advertising adage still applies, "just when you're getting tired of it, the public is only beginning to see it."

3. Internal audiences first. Make sure your internal stakeholders understand what the strategy means for your organization and how they fit in. There is nothing worse than a friend or neighbor asking an employee what your new tagline means and their reply is, "oh that - just some expensive television commercial." Boom!

4. Social media is your voice, just on a different channel. This one is half pet peeve and half "keep in mind." Social media channels should be supporting your brand message, personality, and strategy. If your brand platform centers around 'scientific medicine," then you shouldn't be promoting physicals and flu shots on your Facebook page. Enough said.

5. Social media is the voice of your organization, not a staffer. Okay, not enough said. One more point to keep in mind. The personality of your social media channels should be that of the organization, not a staffer assigned to tweet and post. Have them keep their personal posts and thoughts on their own pages while keeping your channels focused and in support of the brand strategy.

6. Your website is still a viable "central source." While there's so much attention being paid to social media, don't lose sight of that "dinosaur" known as your website. Facebook posts and Twitter tweets are excellent sources to draw friends and followers back into your website for more information beyond 140 characters. Micro-sites and landing pages are terrific ways to bridge social media channels and support a specific promotional effort.

7. And, traditional media is still viable. Targeted communications on television, print, radio, outdoor, and other traditional vehicles are still pulling their (media) weight for most brand promotions. Think of these media as your "air strikes" while social and digital media make up the ground attacks. These media options still provide an environment whereby emotional and tangible connections can be made to your brand.

8. Brand engagement is a dialogue, not a monologue. Creating a unique community for your brand, and positioning your brand in your community requires a transparent dialogue with your customers. The days of just talking to customers and hoping they'll listen and buy are over (and have been for some time). Look how calls-to-action have moved from "for more information" to "like us," - now that's engagement!

9. " Veja Du" - look at your market differently. This is a wonderful concept we heard at BrandManage Camp last year. Today's organization's succeed by looking at a familiar marketplace and seeing how things can be done or positioned differently. Mix it up this year!

10. What happened to market research? On-line surveys, studies, focus groups, and analytics save time and money. But do they provide the same robust insights that customized research typically generates? We have found that the combination of the two sources usually provide the most effective data. When testing new messaging or creative concepts, there's nothing like sitting across from consumers, or behind the mirror, and hearing them talk firsthand about your brand and react to different ideas. That's insight you just can't buy on-line.

So, there you have it. Our 10 "Keep In Minds" for 2012. We got these in just under the wire, as we're ready to head into February. We look forward to sticking to these resolutions all year and hope your organization does the same.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Insurance Branding Pays Big Dividends and Offers Premium Learning

2011 has been a very good year for brand-building. "Backbone" companies such as Ford and McDonald's have recovered and performed well during the economic crunch. We've seen many brands effectively use and blend social media into their marketing strategies and their success is being measured not only in new buyers but in new "friends," "fans," and "followers" as well. And, many brands seem to have re-discovered the power of the "big idea" and not just the "big execution." The most memorable ad campaigns, according to Ad Age and Adweek, seem to be grounded in strategy and not just above the clouds in terms of production value.

With all this in mind, I've picked the industry that I believe deserves the "Big Dividend Award" in 2011. Drum roll, please...and the winner is, The Insurance Industry. Yes, that boring, stodgy, and price-driven category that we support every month in several categories including life, death, health, home, disability, casualty, and motor vehicles.

Why the insurance industry? Here's a closer look at some of the key players and why they have earned "Big Dividends" this year.

Across the board, the brand work in this category has been brilliant. Think about it. We have more famous spokespersons in the shape of ducks, geckos, Flo, and Mayhem than just about any other category. The advertising has remained interesting, memorable, and oftentimes entertaining. These brands have remained consistent and trend-setting in traditional, social, and digital media applications.

Year-End Report Card:

Allstate A+
  • Enjoy the television commercials and apparently I'm not alone. While the company has 42,000 Facebook "likes," the Mayhem page has over a million. Good work by iconic Chicago agency Leo Burnett.
  • The "viral" nature of Mayhem is spreading; over 17 million views of his commercials on YouTube.
Geico B+

  • Even though advertising is all over the place, from geckos to cavemen, from the "little pig" to a "guy under a rock," it's all fun and creative. The consistent use of "15 minutes can save you 15%" is classic brand work.
  • YouTube subscribers exceed 16,000 and over 36 million combined views.
  • Twitter and Facebook pages have unique personalities for each of their, well, personalities.
State Farm B
  • Nice competitive position of "rolling it all together," from home and health to auto and other." Like a big burrito! Catchy jingles and consistent use of "A better state, State Farm."
  • Strong positioning of the Agent (long a State Farm key attribute) as an expert who can help you navigate through the industry and is there for you - versus saving 15 minutes.
Progressive A+
  • "Flo" had Halloween costumes in her likeness and her own Facebook page has a fan base of over 3 million.
  • I like the use of the fictitious insurance "superstore" to position the company as comprehensive and consumer friendly.
  • Great use of new tehnology and mobile applications - its VIN Capture lets car shoppers take a photo of up to three vehicle ID numbers and compare quotes. Snapshot is a device that records customers' driving habits and rewards them with a 30 percent discount if they make the grade.
  • Results - for first 6 months of 2011, revenue is up by $400 million, according to Adweek.
Not only have these become iconic and integrated branding efforts, but add to the mix Blue Cross Blue Shield (emotional advertising and interesting on-line applications), Farmer's (strong ads), and Travelers still showcasing its red umbrella (not to mention the great dog-burying-bone spot accompanied by Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble") and you have a sleepy industry that has created a lot of noise in 2011! Aflac!

What can hospitals learn from this year's "Big Dividend" award winners:
  • Differentiation - Branding still has to help your organization stake a claim and own a unique position. Geico and State Farm are excellent examples of this approach.
  • Consistency - Whether in digital or traditional media, the name of the game is consistency. Look at how Allstate has integrated social media into their branding mix and how effective it has been. Reminder: Social media should support your brand promise and not be a distinct voice.
  • Creativity - Thankfully, it's not dead. Push yourselves and agency partners to differentiate with meaningful and relevant messages that engage consumers, not just sell products.
  • New technology and mobile applications - Look at Progressive and how the company has leveraged new technology to increase revenue by $400 million. Your hospital should be evaluating iPad (and other tablet applications) as well as new media technologies to showcase your new technologies in clinical care.
These are just a few of the lessons learned from an industry that has really stepped it up this year and put many new faces on their products and services. Even the Jolly Green Giant would turn a darker shade of green.

Make 2012 a great branding year for your organization. Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at