Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hospital Branding: It's time for senior marketers to cure their Digitalitis

You know the symptoms:  your ears hurt when your hospital's branding team talks about digital marketing, your throat is sore when speaking to your media planner about re-marketing, your body aches when you click on your web page and see little continuity between it and your off-line communications.  All classic signs of Digitalitis - that nagging, uncomfortable, and sickly feeling that you're not fully embracing the role of digital marketing and it's causing bloating to your marketing budget and efforts.

After recently attending a couple national hospital marketing conferences, I have learned that Digitalitis is more prevalent than expected.  Roundtable meetings and several discussions with leading brand thinkers in the hospital space reinforced that this condition is occurring even in the most sophisticated of healthcare organizations.

Why the outbreak?

Senior marketing professionals have grown up in an era of traditional, off-line media.  Where brand-building still means creating an emotional bond and a memorable experience with consumers.  Where "vanity" advertising and storytelling are front and center.  The quality and purity of messaging is a primary goal.

This tends to be a far cry from digital marketing, where the quantity of the message, analytics, clicks, and optimization are the primary goals.  Where warm images have been replaced by key words.

Another cause of the Digitalitis outbreak is an unwillingness to keep up with the daily changes in the digital world.  From new social sites to behavioral marketing, the digital world is changing quickly and quite frankly, it's scary and easy to ignore.

Cost is another contributor to Digitalitis.  Most traditional off-line marketers understand the costs associated with media and production.  In the digital world, "how much does it cost" has been replaced with "what's it worth," and that's a tough concept to get your head around.  As one senior marketing person told me, "I get the concept of pay-per-click, but have no idea what I'm paying for."  Or another conversation brought this question; "So I don't actually buy banner ads, they just appear on the user's web browsing after they've visited my site?"  The short answer is "yes," and this hot trend (as of the time of this writing) is referred to as re-marketing or behavioral marketing.

Digitalitis is more common than you think and remains a mystery to many healthcare organizations.  Even those that think they are ahead of the curve admit that they are still trying to figure out how to balance all the different disciplines and channels.

Some suggestions to get you off the couch and back into full swing:

  • Recognize that it's not an "either or."  Brand-building using traditional models and methods still has a place in today's business economy.  Approximately $150 Billion is still spent in off-line media today, projected to grow to nearly $200 Billion in the next four years.  
  • Consumers still have to have knowledge, preference, and an emotional connection to your brand before they buy it, on-line or otherwise.  
  • Recognize that digital marketing is all about transactions.  Once consumers are knowledgeable and feel connected to your brand, digital drives it home.  
  • Explore!  The world of digital offers so many opportunities to try different methodologies and channels in a relatively cost-efficient manner.  
  • Create a digital strategy.  Traditional marketers tend to be more disciplined and founded in strategy than today's digital movers and shakers.  That being the case, create a strategy for your digital efforts.  Go ahead; make that grid that outlines when certain products will be featured in TV, print, and outdoor, supplemented by PPC text ads and banners, and complemented by social media posts.  It won't only make you feel better, it makes great, integrated sense!
Digitalitis is a common ailment among traditional brand marketers.  But the cure is not to avoid it - it's not going away.  If anything, it's spreading like a social media virus or YouTube phenomenon.  The cure is to embrace it, explore, and recognize that it is a complement to the more traditional marketing and media disciplines.  Realize that it's actually a good thing because it drives transactions to your brand, not distractions.  And of course, if you're still feeling blue about it, take two branded aspirin and call me in the morning.


Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com




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