Archive for the 'Brand Loyalty' Category


A case for social media in healthcare communication

Organizations that go looking for reasons not to engage in social media are going to find some, especially those in the healthcare arena. With an uncertain regulatory landscape combined with the loss of control of messaging, taking the social media plunge can be a scary step. Despite the lack of direction from regulators, many healthcare organizations have taken the step into the unknown with great results.

Johnson & Johnson’s social media campaign to promote the Acuvue disposable contact lens is a smart one. With a Facebook page dedicated to the brand and more than 25,000 followers, the corporation can speak directly to people who wear the contact lens as well as provide them with product updates and health information. To add to this Johnson & Johnson uses a Facebook application to remind wearers they need to change their lenses on a regular basis. By setting up these auto-reminders, wearers will not only have a better product experience, but they will have to re-order more often. Building the relationship with current clients will help Acuvue build its client base and expand it.

Glaxo Smith Kline’s product Alli, a FDA-approved weight-loss drug, uses an integrated social media approach with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube working together to provide health information to potential customers. Here Alli is really using their customers for consumer insight. By providing a space for feedback, offering surveys and encouraging users to share their stories, Alli gains understanding of its customers and their interests. This information helps Alli target its outreach. By creating messaging to address client concerns and posting information directly related to these concerns, the pharmaceutical company shows customers it cares about them. This leads to increased sales for Alli.

Another example of the healthcare industry using social media to its benefit is the Eating Disorder Center of Denver. By promoting better body images and using its patients’ self-affirmations, the Eating Disorder Center of Denver has been able to speak directly to those in need of its services and offer them a solution to their problem.

The bottom line of social media, and communication in general, is that you need to be active where your customers are engaged. And the best way to find out where they are online is to ask them. If your customers are on Facebook, than you need to engage them on Facebook. You need to find ways to create genuine connections and whether it’s helping them through a tough day or reminding them to change their contacts, you are creating something greater – brand loyalty.


Steve Hayden: Product Focus groups are Silly

Last night here in Denver, while listening to Steve Hayden’s talk From Big Ideas to Big IdeaLs… (that’s an entirely another blog on another day)…Steve talked about a campaign for Shreddies, the Canadian version of Shreaded Wheat here in the U.S., that used a focus group to learn more about the new Shreadies product, DIAMOND SHREADIES. As you’ll see, people in focus groups are very polite people and will provide the desired response even if obviously wrong. This “focus group” video was then posted on YouTube and was viewed by almost a million people, that’s a lot in Canada, and sales ‘went way up beyond expectations’ after this and the new “Diamond Shreadies” campaign broke. I agree with Steve. It is silly to use focus groups to gain insight into the effectiveness of an ad or when your questions in the focus group lead the people to the answers you want to hear.

See for yourself.

Focus Group Video

Shreddies Commercial

Also, 81 Facebook pages and over 280 discussion groups have been started on this topic of Diamond vs. Square.

Steve Hayden is one of the most revered advertising copy writers since the mid 1970’s. He’s most respected for his “1984” commercial for the introduction of Apple’s Macintosh computers… an ad that only ran once during the 1984 Super Bowl, and most recently the “Real Beauty” campaign for Dove.


“It’s the database stupid.”

COLLOQUY published a report earlier this year titled, “The Consumer Inside.” The report, made available on the American Marketing Association’s Web site, focuses on the importance of building brand loyalty among customers in the business-to-business market segment.

The author, Rick Ferguson, introduces the report by explaining the origins of the now infamous Rolodex. “This information allowed salespeople to fashion themselves as walking versions of the ultimate B2B value proposition: I both understand your critical business needs and know something about you as a person.”

He continues by declaring “it’s that latter part of the equation that’s still missing from most B2B marketing efforts. Particularly in the small-business market, loyalty-marketing efforts that focus solely on the hard-benefit side of the equation still predominate. What’s missing is the human element.”

So how do we as marketers develop CRM programs that focus on the latter? How do we help our customers prove that they know something about their customers?

Ferguson suggests that we start “by building a loyalty platform on a strong foundation of customer data—and leveraging that platform to identify, understand and influence the consumer behind the account number.”

Identify. Understand. Influence.


Ferguson brings up a point we commonly experience in client strategy meetings. The importance of identifying key decision-makers, and how there is not an approach that will work the same for every business-to-business customer we are attempting to contact.

Ferguson offers three different techniques for identifying these decision-makers:

1. Give them some face time.

2. Launch a B2B loyalty program.

3. Use Web 2.0


While it may seem commonsensical, business-to-business marketers must truly understand their audience before they can create messaging that appeals to their customer’s unmet desires in a vendor. According to Ferguson, “It’s the database, stupid.”

My enterprise software sales experience taught me to appreciate the value of customer information. And that value goes far beyond knowing their mailing address and job title!

But, how do we create a database that has the “right” information for a particular business-to-business segment?

Below are three keys to creating a quality database:

1. Treat you database as an asset.

2. Thou shalt not live on transactional data alone.

3. Become a data conduit.


Now that you have identified decision-makers and created/improved your customer database, it’s time to influence your audience. Ferguson suggests that “behavior change typically manifests itself in one of three ways: you encourage them to buy more often (frequency), buy more stuff (value) and stay longer (retention).

Ways to enhance your influence:

1. Implement the Gemini Effect.

2. Leverage the power of the network.

3. Seek strategically-aligned partners.

Ferguson and COLLOQUY put forth a tremendous effort creating this resource. It really rang true for me because we are constantly looking for ways to improve our clients’ relationships with their customers. My previous enterprise sales experience may have created a bias, but I believe most business-to-business companies will need to focus the majority of their efforts on identifying and understanding their audiences. Being influential in a prospect’s life should be a natural progression after a company masters the first two steps.

I highly recommend that you read the full version of the COLLOQUY report, and that you share this with your business-to-business colleagues.


Franchise Marketing and Public Relations: Local Programs Should Drive Profits

Executing national franchise public relations and marketing is important to drive brand awareness and promote national campaigns. It also helps increase awareness in order to sell franchises. But as franchisors, regional franchise associations and local franchise owners begin to plan and budget for 2010, I encourage you to include a focus on local programs in order to drive business to individual stores.

Start by thinking about what gets people to buy your product or service. Is it offering a food or drink sample and getting consumers hooked? Is it your ease of scheduling?  Is it through word of mouth recommendations? Is it because of your well-known quality of service? All of these things should be considered when planning and implementing local campaigns.

Here are some marketing ideas to drive local business:

Have ambassadors talk about you where and when it counts. For example, if you are a salon franchise, ask your clientele to post referrals on local blogs, in their twitter posts and on their Facebook pages. Ask for testimonials that you can post on your social media accounts. Monitor what is being said about you on local social network sites, and be sure to respond.

Plan events tied to someone else’s promotion. Is there an ongoing farmers market or one-time festival that takes place near your business? Maybe your business is not “part” of the event, but it’s “close-enough.” If it is, leverage this proximity to market your own event that day. Communicate to your current clientele the specials you are offering on event days and how easy it will be to access your business from the event.

Partner with a local nonprofit to increase awareness and exposure in the media. Even if your franchisor has a dedicated nonprofit tie-in, try to do something locally like a fundraiser. How can you make an impact in your community that will help increase customer loyalty?
Many local franchise owners tend to rely to heavily on their national franchisor when it comes to marketing and public relations. This may be detrimental to the local franchises, as it doesn’t always enable them to get to know their community. And, as we all know, being an integral part of a community can significantly drive brand awareness and sales. If you’re a local franchise owner, I strongly recommend that you get out and start meeting and partnering with your community members. It can only be a win-win on all levels.


franchise public relations. integrating national and local pr efforts.

From my experience, franchises implement public relations programs across their systems in a variety of different ways, depending on their needs and budgets.  A few PR scenarios I’ve encountered include the following:

1.    The franchisor has a national PR agency and hires, like many franchisors do, locally-based agencies in order to have boots on the ground in specific regions.
2.    The franchisor has one agency that manages national PR but has no local support.
3.    An agency creates PR support work that franchisors provide to local franchise businesses with implementation instructions.

I understand the purpose and need for all of these PR scenarios. But I wonder if, in the age of integration, how relevant each of these scenarios are or if there is a better way altogether to implement effective PR for franchises. I don’t know that I have the answers right now, but this is something I will continue to look into and I will determine best practice scenarios. What I do know is that franchisors should be paying attention to where they are spending their PR money and what results they expect to gain from those tactics.


Man speaks in megaphone

Here are some things to consider:

National PR: National PR was traditionally used for brand building and reputation management.  Now, unless you are in a crisis or trying to rebuild the image of your business, your PR company should no longer be doing national PR for brand building and reputation management only.  PR pros should be helping you become the thought or service leader in your industry. The agency should be developing programs that get people into your stores or using your service. The people working on your account should be creating online dialogue opportunities and events that drive people to local franchisees. We are not currently in an era where many companies have the money to spend on merely “getting your name out there.” PR should be just as much about sales as advertising is.



Dunkin' Donuts Twitter Messages

Dunkin' Donuts Twitter Messages

I love what Dunkin’ Donuts does from a national communications standpoint.  They Twitter all day, and their posts make me want a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a donut. If they would just come to Denver already…

Local PR: Whatever is being done nationally needs to be focused like a laser in your local market. How are you communicating with your customers on a local level? How are you retaining them and increasing their loyalty to your brand? The local PR program needs to help position your brand as the most important and the most valuable to your target audience. And it needs to get people talking.

Yesterday I found an entire string of Twitter communications about Fantastic Sams. Unfortunately, Fantastic Sams is not currently responding to them on Twitter a la Dunkin’ Donuts communication style. Participating in this dialogue can help increase and retain customers.

Picture 4

Twitters about Fantastic Sams




Local PR Support Tools: A few questions for franchisors providing these PR support tools (i.e., templates, recommendations, etc.): do your franchisees use them? Do they implement them? Do they care that you provided them? If they do, then job well done. I, however, see these as propaganda from the franchisor -“We provided you the tools you need. You can’t complain that you don’t get the PR coverage you want.” This is bogus. Move some of your national or regional PR funds to help support local outreach where it’s needed. When you have national conferences, train the franchise owners on what they can, realistically, implement on their own that will get them results. Remember, most of your franchise owners are not going to have the skills, the time or the inclination to implement PR programs on their own. Or, alternatively, work with an agency than can provide discounted rates to your franchises and implement nationally approved programs.

What is your franchise system doing that works? What isn’t working? What changes would you like to see made in your franchise PR (or marketing) programs. If you could get some PR support on the side, what would you want?








Franchise Brand Management: The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders’ Way

Country Music Television is about to air, for the third season, a show called “Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team.” The title pretty well explains the plot of the reality show. Last fall I saw an episode that I will never forget. They cut one of the girls who made it to the training camp because her, err, derrier did not look good enough in the tiny little uniform.

At first I was shocked.

But then I thought about it.

Click here to view the 2009 promo

Click here to view the 2009 promo

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (DCC) is a brand. A very well-know, well-crafted, well-managed brand. The coaches know that every detail of the brand is important. And let me remind you that for the DCC, their uniforms (and their kickline, of course) are key to the brand image. The uniforms are not forgiving. So in their effort to uphold the brand, I applaud the standards set and maintained by the decision makers in Dallas.

I recently had a conversation with a client about the importance of protecting their franchise’s brand. Over the last year, I have seen franchise owners breaking brand standards in both big and small ways. I have witnessed everything – skewed logos on Web sites, print ads out of sync with the national campaign, outdoor signage in  non-brand colors, franchise owners refusing to participate in a national campaigns and even non-corporate business cards. These brand-rogues are not OK. They are never OK.

Eroding the brand hurts your business. It hurts the ability of the national office to sell more franchises. And it hurts your reputation as a business owner. Protecting the brand in everything that consumers see or hear about your company is important to managing your reputation and building a strong position in your industry.

If you are a franchisee, I would like to remind you that you purchased a brand, not just a business model. Uphold your investment to the highest standards.

If you are a franchisor, I encourage you to begin slapping penalties and fees on franchises that break brand standards. It’s time to take back control of your image and your reputation.

I am currently working with someone that is the brand manager for a Fortune 500 company. Her job is to enforce the brand. She has this position because her company spent time and money in developing a brand that is powerful, makes a statement and that people recognize. I think all franchises should have an enforcer. Have your agency play this role if you don’t have the bandwidth internally to manage this. Because if you don’t have your brand integrity, you don’t have anything.


How Sarasota Memorial Hospital is leveraging social media to build better relationships. Q&A with Shawn Halls.


Recently, Weise Communications sat down with Shawn Halls of Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) to discuss social media’s impact on SMH and the way in which they communicate with the community. Below is our Q & A session.

Weise: How long has Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) been using Twitter?

SMH: We registered the site in November 2008 and promoted a $49 cardiac disease assessment special we were offering in December. But we didn’t start actively posting or following anyone until March 2009.

Weise: How has SMH’s Twitter account been able to add value to your patients’ experience?

SMH: When we first started we were like a lot of organizations, just trying to figure out how, or even if, Twitter could be part of our larger communications strategy. We tweeted our hospital promotions and a few stories from patients who had called to praise our care.

Then in April we were contacted through Twitter by a former patient. She had a somewhat negative experience while in our care, but actually had more of a negative experience trying to figure out who she should contact to discuss the issue.

Suddenly, Twitter, and social media in general, became not just a platform to communicate to patients, but a tangible way for our community to communicate directly with us as well.

Since that first patient contact, we have been Direct Messaged through Twitter by other patients with various questions. In our experience, more often than not a patient’s frustration is not about the care they received but the challenges associated with navigating healthcare.

Many people still prefer to call us directly, but increasingly customers are using Twitter and other social media platforms to initiate contact. It’s an interesting dynamic.

Most recently we had a patient’s family member find us on Twitter and ask for the name of a local florist so they could send flowers and ensure delivery prior to the patient’s surgery. This was a really easy one to handle, and we were able to communicate back to him within 10 minutes of his initial contact.

(SMH’s Twitter account)

Weise: Were there any reservations about using Twitter to communicate with the general public? If so, how did you overcome/justify establishing an online presence?

SMH: We did encounter resistance, because there are still a lot of unknowns about Twitter and other social media platforms as they relate to business. All social media platforms are blocked in our healthcare system, so we had to petition the chief information officer to allow our team access to Twitter. There is a valid concern that spending too much time online may distract employees, but we believed a balance could be struck. An organization with quality managers who engage their employees on a daily basis greatly reduce the risk of distraction. Certainly there are some who might abuse the privilege, but there are ways to prevent abuse that do not include a blanket policy to block access for all. Remember the era of codes to access copy machines? The idea was companies would lose too much money if employees had free access. Copy codes seem absurd in 2009, but we’re facing a similar issue with social media access today.

Weise: Do you think all healthcare providers should establish an online presence via social media? Why?

SMH: We do believe it’s important to have a social media presence. While social media won’t replace other avenues of communication, it’s important for providers to encourage communication through avenues people are using. With 200 million people on Facebook and nearly 10 million on Twitter, healthcare providers are missing an opportunity if they do not have a social media presence. Increasingly, healthcare is about building relationships with our customers. In this era of choice, patients choose which doctor to see, which outpatient lab to use, and certainly which hospital they choose. Social media helps us foster relationships with our customers by humanizing the healthcare system. We’re not just Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, we are 4,000 individuals who are part of our larger communities, and we enjoy communicating with our customers because they’re also our neighbors and friends. Certainly there are challenges for healthcare providers in establishing their social media presence, but we believe the benefits outweigh the challenges.

The one caveat, I’d say, is don’t create a social media presence if someone is not directly responsible for maintaining that presence. As effective as social media can be, an unanswered contact or an infrequently updated Facebook page could have n opposite effect, leaving prospective customers wondering if other aspects of their care would be hit or miss as well. At a fundamental level, social media is an extension of your healthcare brand, so it’s important to treat it with the same level of attention as other communication strategies.

Weise: SMH also has a Facebook fan page. What value is your page creating for the hospital and your community?

SMH: Hospitals and healthcare providers are brands people typically prefer not to interact with. Most of the time, people only use our services when they are sick or otherwise vulnerable, and healthcare is one of the few brands that can literally have life and death implications.

As I mentioned above, increasingly healthcare is about fostering relationships, and while Twitter is excellent for communication, Facebook allows for a more intimate interaction with our community. We are able to post photos of community events and share information that may not necessarily be hospital business but impacts the community in which we live and operate.

We recently posted information about eight students who received educational scholarships from us because they are going into the healthcare field. There isn’t really another format where we could have communicated that information, but it’s perfect for Facebook.

(SMH’s Facebook page)

Weise: Does SMH have any plans to adopt more social media into their marketing strategy? Perhaps, creating a YouTube channel to show video testimonials, events, interviews with doctors etc.?

SMH: Each market is unique, and Sarasota is no different. What’s splashed across the media today may not be the same next year. Since social media is so dynamic, we let our customers dictate which platforms to use based on their adoption of it. We are in the process of coordinating our first Twitter surgery broadcast – an amazing brain mapping procedure where the patient is awake during the entire procedure – and we’ll use YouTube to archive it. We’re also actively developing our Flikr, MySpace, and Delicious accounts and believe there are tremendous opportunities in those applications to help with patient education.

Weise: If you had one piece of advice for someone new to Twitter, what would you offer?
SMH: Don’t be afraid to bring a little personality into your tweets. It’s a lot more engaging for your followers and a lot more fun for you. ☺

About Shawn:

Sarasota Memorial’s Twitter feed is managed by Shawn Halls. Shawn is the market research manager at Sarasota Memorial and is responsible for measuring and communicating consumer insights throughout the organization. Before joining Sarasota Memorial, Shawn knocked ‘em dead at the University of South Florida as a senior statistician who had the unusual skill of being able to communicate complex statistical findings to statisticians and non-statisticians alike. Shawn holds a master’s degree in applied sociology from the University of Central Florida, proving you can actually get a job with a sociology degree.


why do hospitals need to attack their competition to gain market share?

Gienna Shaw recently authored a story for HealthLeaders Magazine that has brought to light a recent dispute between to competing hospitals in New Jersey.

Shaw begins his story by focusing on environmental factors that are causing healthcare providers to turn-in traditionally passive advertising campaigns for those that aggressively aim to steal market share from their competitors.

Shaw cites some of the cutthroat activities hospitals are engaging in by stating:

“A smattering of hospitals put up billboards within view of other hospitals’ front doors. Hospitals started creeping into new territory—opening freestanding clinics and critical care units within spitting distance of their competitors’ facilities and expanding their referral share by gobbling up physician practices. Hospital CEOs started arguing in the local press about quality claims and awards, telling reporters that the data was meaningless, flawed, or bought and paid for.”

Furthermore, Shaw discusses a recent legal dispute between Virtua Health and Cooper Health System. In short, Virtua claimed that the most “Top Docs” are at their hospital. Cooper took them to court and won an injunction that required Virtua to pull the advertising.

Ultimately, both organizations created a lot of buzz online, but not the kind they wanted. According to Shaw, “Online comments on news sites and blogs were uniformly negative—bordering on nasty—toward both organizations.”

I think that Cooper did the right thing by challenging Virtua’s advertising. However, I don’t believe they needed to take Virtua to court. Cooper obviously had the data to back up their position on Virtua’s claim, and I think that a well-crafted campaign could have saved Cooper from the negative comments about their organization.

Cooper should have focused their time identifying and creating a dynamic campaign centered around their strengths/unique selling point.

Has your hospital encountered a situation like this? How did you handle competitor attacks and what was the end result?

Please share your thoughts with us.


stealing market share?

Increasing your company’s market share usually consists of tough, get-your-hands-dirty marketing strategy that includes product, pricing and promotional changes. However, every once in a while, a competitor drops an opportunity in your lap.

Post currently finds itself in the aforementioned position with its Shredded Wheat Brand and is taking advantage of the opportunity to steal market share from Kellogg’s. For those of you who are new to The Side Note, we reported in April on Kellogg’s run-in with the FTC for their Frosted Mini-Wheats advertising claims.

Those at Post acted quickly and are drawing attention to Shredded Wheat’s unchanged recipe. I was surprised to learn that Shredded Wheat has been made the same way since 1892. I think this is a good attempt at comforting any mothers who may have concerns about a cereal that is similar to Kellogg’s version of Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Post has accompanied the new print advertisements with a Web site- – which pokes fun at being “anti-progress.” This is a very good use of digital media. I like that Post is mixing in facts with humor. My favorite video is the “Speech On Progess.” (Below)

The ability of Post to respond quickly and strike while the iron is hot, further demonstrates the importance of knowing your competitive landscape and creating an appropriate angle to promote your product.

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