General HospitalJust had the opportunity to sit through a final pitch presentation for a hospital in Florida and experienced first-hand where hospital marketing needs to go.

Consumers are grabbing greater and greater control of the decision making process in healthcare and no longer is it good enough to simply talk about features when trying to market a hospital or hospital system.

The President of this hospital group asked me a question during my “recommendations” presentation this morning.

He asked, “If consumers are in control, how do we affect perception?”

And I said to him, we affect perception by changing where we market, how we communicate, and what we put in front of them – to help them make a “purchase” decision that they feel great having made.

Ads with smiling patients and smart looking doctors are no longer good enough.

During the final pitch presentation, one of the three agencies shared their analysis of the market’s advertising…and it was all the same – looked the same, talked the same, and felt the same.  Pick a hospital ad and put a name on it…and it could be anyone’s.

This all reminds me a bit of when I was in marketing, working for O-Cedar brands.  The category had historically been a very sales driven/feature laden environment.  Pick up a broom and it would tell you about its bristle length and the strength of the handle….which in the end looked no different from its neighbor down the aisle.

At O-Cedar, we saw an opportunity to think like the consumer and speak to the consumer in terms that made sense to them…that made them feel good about our brand and the benefits that could be derived from it.

Now mops and brooms are certainly a far cry from hospitals….but the challenge is very much the same.

As the market gets more competitive and consumers start thinking more for themselves and have greater and greater access to information, the smiling billboards, and serious looking doctors will only half way win the war.

There needs to be underlying reasons for being – part of which needs to be emotional and part of which needs to be functional in order for the hospital in tomorrow’s world, to win.

If you and your agency aren’t there…you might want to start thinking about things in a different way.