Emotional connections distinguish healthcare brands
“There is no clinic without your patients.” This conversation with an experienced healthcare strategist dives into what it takes to connect with healthcare consumers and “achieve something special.”
You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.
Stephanie: Hello and welcome to the Core Exchange, a podcast for healthcare marketers. I'm Stephanie Burton, Director of Healthcare Marketing for Core Creative. And the Core Exchange is one way that we connect you to other healthcare marketers in findings from the industry. Today I am joined by Al Chaney, Chief Marketing Strategist with Chaney Marketing Strategy. We are actually inviting you back to the program because we had such a great time the first time you were here. Welcome back Al.
Al: Well thank you Stephanie. I appreciate you having me back.
Stephanie: Absolutely. Tell me a little bit more about what health systems can learn from big consumer brands, the General Mills, the Pillsbury's of the world? What can we learn?
Al: I think one thing is having that consumer or for customer orientation. And your patient is your consumer because they are consuming your service. Your customer is more like insurance companies and all it's... And it may be too much of a fascination with that a lot of health systems are buying health insurers because it's profitable. But you need to focus on the consumer because ultimately they're making a decision on where they go for their care. And that's your source of revenue even though you have valuable doctors, and I heard physicians say, "There is no organization, there is no clinic without us." It's kind of like, "No, there is no clinic without your patient." And almost every industry... It's about share how much of the market do you own?
Al: And if you have more patients coming through your doors, then they're going through the other guy, you're winning. So, really be focused on that. And I think too much of healthcare is focused on the physician and what the physician wants, what the physician believes. A lot of physicians will look at the competitors or what their colleagues are doing in another system and say, "Oh, I like that one. I'm going to do that." And that's what they do. And as you know as a brand creator, as a brand builder, that's not how you build brand differentiation. That's not how people are going to distinguish between Coke and Pepsi. And there it's talk about a product that has similar formulation poured into a glass and tell me which is which. But there is a lot more differentiation between systems, but they don't talk about it.
Al: They talk about the features. And I think in a lot of most goods, consumer packaged goods, consumer brands, they talk about the benefits of their product. It's not about the rubber that they use in Michelin tires. It's about safety and so those things are... that's how you differentiate yourself, talking about the benefits and focused on your consumer, not on what some... they are influential, but I think if you take the tack of helping to educate physicians they'll figure it out.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. How has a toaster strudel like healthcare?
Al: I wish you had let me think about that one for a little while. Let me think about that.
Stephanie: You can think about that.
Al: Well, you got a product and you've got a package and you're set in an environment, though frozen, with competitors. And how did you get the consumer to want to choose... how do you get the consumer to want to pick you? And I think that's where healthcare doesn't do enough of market research. Talking to their consumers about what is it that's important to them? What is it that distinguishes them and what they might like about your system versus another. And so I think the parallels between consumer packaged goods and healthcare are extremely similar. I mean, they're parallel. I mean you can use learning from one... I haven't seen a lot in healthcare that I can take over to the other side except that it's a huge category. I mean healthcare represents over 20% of our GND. It's gigantic.
Al: And as a marketer you love to be in a category like that. But I think a toaster strudel and health care, differentiation. You have to understand... and relevant differentiation. It's not just... the differences between Coke and Pepsi just isn't a blue can in a red can. The stuff inside is very different and how people emotionally are connected with each other are different, and healthcare doesn't spend a lot of time building that emotional connection with their patients. But building that relevant differentiation between an extension and a freighter is important and could mean the difference between really being a successful and just being okay.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And that emotional connection, that's where it's at. There is no brand on the face of this earth more emotional than healthcare, I would argue.
Al: It should be. It should be, but there are a lot of patients out there that go to where they go in spite of the system. I go there because I like my doctor. Their primary care doctor, I like my primary care doctor, and that's who they identify with. And health systems a lot of time want to focus on is specialty care, heart care, orthopedic care. But that primary care relationship is the one where the bond is held and that's where the emotion is. In research that we did 13 years ago, we found, respondents saying, "You know what, the doctor can have a bad day and I don't get it but the staff can. Staff better treat me like gold every single time."
Al: I understand the doctors that... they get it. So they put their doc on a pedestal and they put their doc in a very special place and they have that emotional attachment to their physician. But if your patient doesn't have that emotional attachment to your doc, they're not going to have it to your assistants. So you got to start there. Otherwise they're vulnerable. [crosstalk 00:07:22] delete to go someplace else.
Stephanie: Yes. Yes. So I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you are now working with Chaney Marketing Strategy at your own consulting firm right now out of Marshfield. And there's something interesting on your LinkedIn profile, which is achieve something special. Can you talk a little bit about what that means?
Al: Yeah, a few years ago, and it probably I think I was preparing for a presentation to leadership at the clinic and understanding the value of a brand aid. I came across a quote, by Warren Buffett and that quote goes, "You're premium brand had better be delivering something special or it's not going to get the distance." And having that consumer, packaged goods, consumer branded background, I just identified with it. And to achieve something special, you have to be delivering a premium special brand.
Al: It's not just about hanging a shingle and thinking that you're going to be successful. If that were the case, why do restaurants fail? So many restaurants fail in the first year. If all you had to do with just show up, but no, you have to deliver something special, something relatively special, for your customers, for your consumers, for your patients, or you're not going to get the business. You're going to disappear. And that's even for individual brands, the person that doesn't want to be friendly, that person that gruff, generally people aren't around them. So, you got to project that premium brand and deliver on it. You've got to deliver on it for you to get the business.
Stephanie: What are some of the health care brands that you admire now after almost two decades as a healthcare marketer?
Al: There are two that I really like what they do. Kaiser.
Al: I think what they do, they do unselfishly. I think they... whether it's the foundation driving it or not, and I think it is, they are out there trying to identify and understand those relevant insights that matter to patients, to the general public. And then Cleveland Clinic.
Al: Cleveland clinic is... I don't know if you follow on Twitter?
Stephanie: Of course.
Al: Oh my goodness, the stuff that they... And I think the stuff that they do with fantastic and it's only getting better. I started following them probably... Oh my goodness. I started following it when I had a Blackberry.
Stephanie: That was all a long time ago.
Al: That was a long time ago. And it was one of the... their tweets I look forward to. They're generally the only ones, them and Kaiser, and Kaiser isn't out there as often as Cleveland, but I flag a lot of the Cleveland clinic tweets to go back to and learn more to open up the actual article or story about what they're talking about. And it's comprehensive. It's not just about... a few years ago they were really talking about their heart competency, but now it's just general health and help you to be informed about how to take care of yourself. And they'll tweet about anything that's related to healthcare. But they're doing it.
Al: That's what they're doing.
Stephanie: The content they produce is really on point, and things that we wouldn't think about. As you said, it's not just about your heart or your breathing or it keeping your weight down. I remember seeing a piece about are you going to the nail salon to get a pedicure? Here's what you need to know. And while I had... Cleveland Clinic at that point was otherwise I wasn't shopping for healthcare services, it was a, "Why yes I am headed to get a pedicure. I'm kind of curious what you have to say in this content." They made it relevant to me at that moment and that's really admirable. That's really admirable. It's not about pedicures, it's about content that's relevant to you in any particular moment. How about consumer brands? Are there consumer brands that you admire right now that healthcare marketers can learn from?
Al: Well, I think... I don't know if there's any one of the brands that I admire, but they seem to be doing a pretty good job is it that whole insurance thing, whether it's Progressive, Geico on Liberty Mutual, that jumped on, and it's more from the context that these are big businesses, these are profit motivated businesses that report to shareholders. And so if they're not delivering, they're not doing it, and the longevity of the campaigns that they have been running, and now they could run multiple campaigns to make their point I think is pretty amazing. But the real insight there is that they're doing it.
Al: There's so much in healthcare that's hesitant that's ready to cut their marketing budget when things turned South, and you continue to see, and maybe it's indicative of just how much money they're making, but it just feels that the Progressive's, that the Geico's, the Liberty Mutual's are out there promoting themselves irrespective of the economy, irrespective of what's going on. And I think part of it is because when you think about it, if you don't have any marketing, how else are you going to get customers? The only other way you're getting customers to come through your door is word of mouth. And word of mouth is great, it absolutely is, but you have no control over it. You don't know what people are saying. And if you aren't getting five stars on your Facebook page, if you aren't getting five stars for the kind of care that you're delivering, you've got to be out there promoting yourself to make it seem like that you're a five star organization. You know what I mean?
Al: And so I think healthcare can take a page from that part of consumer advertising is to promote yourself, is to be out out there, because even though it's not retail oriented, healthcare, meaning that I tell this story a lot. You sell fish sandwiches, McDonald's sells fish sandwiches [inaudible 00:14:40]. On Thursday evening, they'll run commercials all night, all Thursday evening long saying that come on in for two for sandwiches for $4. Two for sandwiches for $5, and the next day their stores are full. But I could run heart care at all night long and I won't see any more people in my waiting rooms.
Stephanie: Yes. Unfortunately, it is not that easy.
Al: It's not that easy. [crosstalk 00:15:07].
Stephanie: It's not that easy.
Al: But you have to remind people that your brand is there, your brand is prevalent, and when you need me, when you need us, we are there for you. So you don't have to advertise every night, all the time, but you need to have a presence that breaks through that people know that when I have a choice in where I could go for my care, I'm going there. I'm going over to those guys. And that's what healthcare doesn't realize.
Stephanie: That's right. And I think there are a number of healthcare brands that do get it. And I think that people like you are guiding healthcare marketers, so I think we get it, and our organizations in the right direction. So as someone who worked on the consumer product goods side, you've worked as a healthcare marketer for a number of years and now you are an independent consultant. What is the one piece of advice you would give to healthcare marketers today?
Al: I say to stand up for your convictions and to present your work in a way that builds consensus. That gets people to support you, because they're not likely to hire anyone else, but you got to be able to go in there and let folks know, this the right thing to do and why. Give them reasons why that you have it quantitatively, you have it qualitatively, you have the research, you have the support, you can demonstrate it and make your point that this is why you need to promote, you need to promote this way.
Al: You need to focus on the on the patient and not on us. Not be self absorbed with, that we're the best, because everybody's the best. I mean, Coke doesn't say they're they're the best. Pepsi doesn't stay they're the best. I don't even see Geico or Progressive saying they're the best. It's puffery. It's overused, but you see it a lot in healthcare. You see it a lot. Is a overused and trite word. It doesn't mean much, so focused on what really matters, and that's getting the patients through your door, so talk about and get the research that you can leverage with your leadership so that you've got their support to go do it.
Stephanie: Excellent. And I think that's a perfect note to end on. Al Chaney, it was a pleasure to have you join us again. I'm sure we could talk for hours about differentiation, consumer product goods, healthcare marketing. There's just so much richness in your experience and we are just so honored that you were able to join us today. Thank you.
Al: The honor is mine, and I absolutely enjoyed being back, so thank you very much. And I'm available anytime you need.
Stephanie: Excellent. Thank you.