Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hospital Branding: 2014 - The Year of Less


Happy New Year!  As is always the case in hospital branding, 2014 is sure to be filled with many adventures and marketing challenges.  But, based on new studies about social trends, best-selling lifestyle books, and well-read business publications, it will also be a year with less.   Perhaps in contrast to the past few years, where the focus has been on more - technology, choices, services, information, and so on - the arrow is pointing toward "less" in 2014 as consumers attempt to simplify and streamline their lives.

Here are a few key areas of trending in 2014 where the focus will be on less, but will offer more opportunities for healthcare marketers.
  • Immersive Experiences - The new JWT study identifies this topic as its number one trend.   Brands will envelope us with a full and immersive experience like hot brand Sonos does with its wireless speaker systems.  On a recent trip to Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA, I took a tour of the new front entrance space and it was, quite simply,  beautiful.  A hotel-like reception area with uniformed ambassadors, brand and consumer-friendly colors/lighting, and less!  Less clutter of wheelchairs in the hallways, less hassle with a separate waiting area for valet parking, and less lines with streamlined admission areas.  Kudos to my friends in marketing and Laura Harner, Director of Guest Services, for creating a true brand experience that really envelopes visitors with the right sights, sounds, and well, less.   
  • A visual world - Our world is visual.  From on-line videos to Instagram, from Pinterest to Snapchat, consumers want less explanation and long-copy, and prefer ideas to be presented visually.  The implications for marketers are endless in terms of advertising, signage, social media, on-line communications and so forth.  In short, be visual and less verbose.
  • Impatience - It's just not for kids anymore...our entire society is becoming very impatient.  We want less in terms of wait times, administrative runarounds, lines, hold times, and for those brands that can achieve this, it will pay off in terms of more gratification and brand loyalty.  Audit your brand and customer service initiatives to determine if it meets your patience criteria.
  • Going Mobile - No surprise here as more people will streamline their on-line activity with fewer devices and a greater focus on mobile technology.  The consumer has definitely been the winner in the cell phone wars between Apple, Samsung, and others - as new devices offer many more features, apps,  and amazing synchronization between them.  Evaluate your on-line strategy to make sure web pages and social media channels are optimized for mobile technology.  In  addition, this is the year to offer services and information, such as ER wait-times, via text strategies and/or mobile portals. Beep beep.
  • Less Anonymity - Let's face it, it's hard to go stealth these days.  From re-marketing digital ads  to government monitoring of emails and social posts, "big brother" is definitely in the house.  As a marketer, you can do more with less such as encouraging consumers to share safe information on landing pages, websites, and social media channels.   We're used to it!  You should also think about doing less in this regard, too.  For example,  I recently learned of a hospital that ceased publishing birth notices in the local paper for fear of arming potential baby-nappers with too much information. The trend toward less anonymity works for and against marketers and should be treated with caution.
  • Less Tradition - From new marriage laws in many states to over-the-counter marijuana being sold in some states, old traditions and practices are being turned upside down.  The opportunities for marketers are endless in terms of engaging the new consumers and recognizing that differences exist among them.  As written months ago in this blog,  the "modern family" of today is diverse, interesting, and not sitting around the dinner table at 6 p.m.  This is truly the time to "skate to where the puck is going (thanks, Wayne) in terms of looking at your business and consumer base, and leaving your caution zone behind.
  • Mindful Living - More stress has caused the desire for less toxins in our lives and consumers are seeking out more zen and less gluten.   From healthier eating, wellness initiatives, and more engagement in social communities and groups, marketers of health-related products and services have an enormous opportunity to support the concept of mindful living.  It is not as much about getting healthy as staying healthy - mind, body, and soul -  and healthcare organizations can surely take the lead.  
These are just a few examples of 2014 being the "year of less."  As marketers, it gives us greater opportunity to develop brand promises and service strategies that are more engaging and in line with today's visually-driven, less anonymous, less traditional, more mindful and mobile customer with less patience.  And who could ask for more!

Here's to a wonderful, healthy new year.


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