As part of our series with marketing expert Jason Brown, CEO of BPD Advertising, a partner organization of the Optum Consumer Acquisition Services solution, we sat down to discuss how consumerism is changing marketing practices and what health system chief marketing officers (CMOs) should be thinking about as they prepare their 2020 marketing plans.
What are some of the latest trends you’ve seen in health system marketing?
When I think about it, it really boils down to two concurrent trends that revolve around consumerism.
The first trend I’ve noticed is the development of marketing programs that are better able to communicate with consumers in a more segmented and precise manner. Health systems are starting to see the tremendous value of being able to communicate and engage one-on-one with consumers through precision marketing.
The second trend is the realignment of progressive health system operations to deliver on a consumer-centric experience. A recent study by Optum shows that consumers control nearly 40% of the overall health care spend. In order to thrive, health systems need to pay attention to consumers in a way that other industries have been doing for years.
We’ve also started to see the rise of nontraditional competitors entering the health care industry. These new entrants, such as Amazon, are well-funded and built on a consumer-centric platform that health systems don’t have. You’d be hard-pressed to find a health system CEO who isn’t concerned about companies like Amazon or CVS syphoning off patients.
To combat the nontraditional players entering the market and to seize the vast market opportunity of more consumer-centric dollars, we’ve seen the most progressive health systems begin to organize themselves in a consumer-centric manner. This includes reorganizing the way they package and deliver services, and of course, the way they engage with consumers.
Have you looked to industries outside of health care for inspiration on innovative marketing tactics and advertising campaigns?
The good news is there is no shortage of marketing inspiration outside of health care, but there are three points of inspiration that we talk about daily. Particularly, when you look at the most successful, web-based companies and how they’ve been able to redefine the notion of convenience as the new consumer mandate or luxury. In the old days, we used to think of Ritz-Carlton as the definition of luxury and consumer-centric experience. In the new economy, companies like Google and Amazon have completely redefined the consumer experience with on-demand convenience and the capability to deliver whatever the consumer wants whenever the consumer wants it.
Another place we look for inspiration are the purpose-driven brands of the world that attract devout customers that act as brand ambassadors. One of the most popular brands that comes to mind is Patagonia. It does an excellent job of incorporating its purpose-driven mission into its advertising and sales by making sure the consumer is aware of its environmental footprint. It has built a loyal consumer base and has seamlessly tied environmental consciousness into its overall mission.
The third place we look is the retail space. In today’s world where hyper-personalized communication and precision targeting is becoming the norm in health care, we look to retail for inspiration. As I was watching the Super Bowl a few months ago, I was inspired by T-Mobile’s ability to cultivate and advertise different types of offers and partnerships within the retail space — like free Taco Bell every Tuesday or free Lyft rides for subscribers — just by selling wireless service. Applying formulas like that in a highly creative, highly differentiated, highly targeted manner within the health care space is a consistent winning tactic.
What guidance can you provide CMOs to help them be leaders in their market?
CMOs have different needs based on their respective markets, but in my view can be distilled into three parts.
First, we help them develop a clearly defined organizational purpose. We want them to have a strong understanding of their mission and vision and how they can influence it.
Second, we want to make sure the organizational purpose is activated in their own ecosystem. When I say ecosystem, I mean every consumer touch point throughout all the communities and geographies that they serve. Whether it is virtual, over-the-phone or in-person, it is critical to have a consistent brand experience that lines up with that organization’s mission and purpose wherever the consumer goes. That is what the great companies do, and that is what the most sophisticated CMOs practice day in and day out.
Lastly, we take the purpose and communicate it to the outside world. For example, look at Apple under the leadership of Steve Jobs. Apple’s purpose was to challenge the status quo, which they did extraordinarily well. Apple built an incredible internal culture and a tremendous base of avid followers that would camp out to be first in line for products upon release. Their purpose drove their products and services.
This is the typical philosophical run we have with health system CMOs. It is the combination of purpose and precision that will help them achieve returns on their marketing investment far beyond anything they have seen in the past.
What should health system CMOs be thinking about as they plan for the future?
CMOs should be considering several factors over the next year and a half. First, they need to consider whether their brand is truly differentiated in their market. Health systems are not just competing against other health systems in their market anymore and now must navigate a wider set of competitors that are more sophisticated and disruptive.
Second, they need to consider how they are driving volumes to their key, high-margin services. Are they doing it the same as they always have? Alternatively, have they been able to explore all the new advancements in data, technology and expertise that have emerged in the past 5–10 years? CMOs need to be thinking about how they are going to fund the long-term defense and growth of their organization through more efficient and cost-effective means that are in line with existing service-line volume mandates.
Lastly, CMOs need to ensure their marketing department is set up for the next five years. By 2025, marketing will be much more central to an organization’s success. Marketing operations and technology will become two of the three pillars (with the first pillar being marketing communication) that need to be built out for your organization to be successful from a purpose and precision standpoint to ultimately achieve returns on your marketing investment.
About the author
CEO, Brown Parker & DeMarinis Advertising
Jason Brown is co-founder, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer of Brown Parker & DeMarinis Advertising, an internationally-recognized healthcare marketing agency that works with healthcare systems to generate brand lift, boost patient volumes across service lines, improve the payer mix and develop new physician-referral patterns.
A pioneer in hospital marketing, Jason believes healthcare systems should be the most beloved brands in the world. (He knows they aren’t…yet.)
Since the agency’s founding in 2002, Jason has worked with more than 100 healthcare brands, including regional and national healthcare systems, community hospitals, academic medical centers and Fortune 500 companies.