Are commercial success and controversy mutually exclusive? If you go by P.T. Barnum’s (attributed) quote “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” then all types of public attention are good and welcome. Ask a PR expert and they will almost certainly disagree with this statement (see here). Publicity in any form essentially puts the spotlight on a company. What that company does with all the attention, and how it responds, are perhaps what really determines whether the outcome will be positive or not.
The same holds true for brands. You simply cannot have breakthrough success without any controversy. It’s been often said that great brands repel as much (or even more) than they attract. Meanwhile, there is a widely held misconception that a brand can be all things to all people and therefore universally liked. When a brand or product seeks to become universal and appeal to everybody, that is the day when it becomes formless, generic, bland. Identity and personality are defined as much by what they aren’t as what they are. In life, people have to take stances on certain topics and issues. It’s called making choices. Ever met (and liked) a person who has no opinions on anything and doesn’t take any stance on issues? The same applies for brands. Seeking to appeal to everybody (without risking alienating anyone) is a fool’s errand and, from a marketing point of view, rather pointless and a waste of resources. After all, if you don’t stand for something, then you stand for nothing in the customer’s mind.
This is especially true for companies in traditionally conservative industries. Take healthcare for example. Health is universal and therefore health and wellness companies should appeal equally to every customer or patient. At least that is the conventional thinking. Many traditional healthcare firms are instinctively suspicious of marketing innovations like social media, fearing that they may attract negative attention or invite unwanted controversy with customers and especially with investors. “We don’t need any rogue or maverick marketers” seems to go their thinking. Their greatest fear is upsetting internal stake-holders, going against tradition & guidelines, or alienating portions of the (theoretically universal) target audience. After all, healthcare companies aim to provide safe, effective and affordable solutions for everyone. Right? A strong personality or brand identity, however, risks reducing the size of the target audience. But is that always such a bad thing? For a growing number of both small and large companies, the answer is increasingly “No!”.
“You are fear-driven when you live every day like you have more to lose than to gain.”
Companies in conservative or highly fragmented industries (especially market share laggards) must attempt to break out of their fear-based approach to marketing. I’ve seen too many brochures, advertisements, and campaigns which were so generic & bland that you could easily swap the company name/logo without anyone batting an eyelid. This is especially true for companies in traditionally conservative industries like Healthcare and Finance. For many of these, Marketing is seen as a necessary (costly) function full of potential prima donnas and cowboys who need to be controlled if not muzzled. Their only attributed purpose is to transfer clinical /technical innovations into the hands of Sales, using scarcely “original” launch campaigns that don’t alienate anyone, satisfy all the insiders and won’t ruffle any feathers. The trouble is that hungrier emerging rivals are happy to address key customer segments in innovative and more compelling ways that larger (universal) players simply cannot or refuse to.
What do you Stand For?
Another common misconception is that if you stand for something, you naturally ignore (or are perhaps against) something else. However, there are plenty of examples of highly successful brands that have developed a broad appeal by successfully espousing a particular cause, style, vision, marcom language or political stance. Think: Audi, Lumber 84, Anheuser-Busch, Lyft, etc… What healthcare needs more of is companies that clearly stand for something and are willing to creatively appeal to some audiences more than others. You can find your “voice” and embrace your difference(s) by adopting any of the following 6 strategies :
Bottom Line: Be different. Be relatable. Be real. Above all, don’t automatically retrench to the “old ways” the minute you run into a hint of controversy or turbulence. In fact, worry if you aren’t generating a minimal amount of controversy or if everybody feels 100% comfortable with your new marketing/branding campaign. Those are telltale signs that you haven’t pushed the envelope far enough.
“Discomfort, unease and trepidation are natural emotions that almost always accompany real, meaningful change. “
That being said, nobody is endorsing irresponsible behavior or taking wholesale risks just for the thrill. Stretching beyond your comfort zone requires taking calculated risks with frequent (small scale & controlled) experiments and accepting failure as a natural by-product of exploration.
Andrew Hyncik is an International Strategic Marketing & Product Development veteran with 20+ years of experience in the Medtech, Healthcare, CPG and Pharma industries. For more Medtech insights, original articles or expert services, visit www.MedtechMojo.com
Looking back on my 20+ years marketing career, I am amazed at how much time and energy was spent on perfecting designs, brochures, presentations, etc… At the time, it felt like every thing had to be absolutely perfect the first time we shared it with others. Almost as if we were going to be judged and evaluated on getting it right the first time around. We probably were.
Somewhere between 2016 & 2017 we will likely hit “Peak App,” almost exactly 10 years since Apple introduced its first iPhone. It’s been an amazing run with an estimated 1+ million apps currently available on the iTunes store and another million on the Android platform. Billions of dollars have been made by a surprisingly small number of high-profile companies and a whole cottage industry of app developers popped up almost overnight. What’s less easy to gauge is the billions that have been spent (wasted/lost?) on apps that never lived up to expectations. So many marketers — including me — eagerly jumped onto the app bandwagon in large part because it was new and exciting. But how many of us actually saw a return on our App investments?
Lately, it seems that no marketing job description or resume is complete without at least one reference to Digital Marketing. Digital Marketing is a popular yet loose term that is being bandied about an awful lot, often by people who don’t fully understand it well. It certainly makes sense in an era when Marketing has undergone so many profound and rapid changes (think of all the web, mobile, social, apps, CRM, etc… in just the past 10 years!). Many, if not most of these, are the direct result of countless advances in technology. But more than a skill, activity or even “thing,” Digital Marketing is really a broad (and continually evolving) spectrum made up of various tools, applications, channels, activities and even services. From the digitized PDF brochure (LOL!) all the way through Social Media, Mobile Apps and beyond, the question is really: Where do you operate on the Digital Marketing spectrum and where do you want to play?
Marketing is once again about to enter a new era. The writing is on the walls and the wheels are already in motion for the next big shift in how businesses will interact with their customers. This tectonic change will bring about considerable transformations in the tools, teams, techniques and technologies employed by both big and small firms.
Many Medtech firms have successfully relied for growth on competitive advantages such as large distribution networks, brand recognition, pricing leverage with suppliers, competitive acquisitions, economies of scale, etc.. In many cases, several major players have been able to entrench themselves with near monopolistic power across various lucrative healthcare segments. While such strategies have provided a certain degree of immunity and revenue assurance, they cannot and will not protect from new, emerging types of threats. This short article touches on three of the biggest threats which established Medtech firms, especially large & mature ones, are probably already facing or about to.
Are chatbots “inevitable” and is their proliferation something we can take for granted? It’s easy to get carried away and to think that their success is a foregone conclusion. Standing in the way of the rise of the chatbots, however, I can see at least 7 major hurdles that will need to be addressed.
Today, there are an estimated 160,000+ health apps available for smart phones. Very few have really made it into the mainstream and even fewer have had a lasting effect on patient/user wellbeing. There are many explanations for this. Following are a few key ones
Modern healthcare is riddled with challenges and stories of the system failing patients. That’s hardly news. What may be surprising, however, is to discover just how inefficient and disconnected patients and care providers really are. In spite of all our efforts to be more patient-centric and to leverage recent technological advancements (mobile phones, apps, IoT), physicians and patients are still incredibly disconnected from each other.
Chatbots are a relatively recent phenomenon that’s creating a lot of buzz in the digital space. One of the best ways to understand their power and appeal is to create one by yourself. Don’t worry, they are very easy to develop. In fact, 3 or 4 hours few hours is all you need to get something up and running.
Here’s a bold prediction: Setting up your personal Chatbot will become as common and as simple as creating a LinkedIn profile. Until then, there is a unique opportunity for resourceful individuals to quickly develop their own Chatbot and learn a few cool things along the way.
If your organization is in the process of developing a new health App, you might want to hit the “Pause” button and consider the following. There are an estimated 2+ million Apps available on Apple and Android platforms. Smartphone users today have an average of 25–30 Apps on their devices. Only 4–6 of these get used on a daily basis. In fact, 70% of the total usage of apps can be attributed to the most popular 200 apps. So why are so many Medtech companies developing Apps like it was still 2010?
The benefit of experience is that you start to recognize familiar patterns in the ways organizations behave. A common one is the borderline obsession companies have with strategy & growth. Weeks and months get invested into creating elaborate & externally focused strategic plans… which rarely meet expectations. How can that be? An over-eager growth mindset can sometimes ignore a latent danger within most organizations: The lack of internal alignment. No matter how good a plan, without proper alignment, execution is doomed from the start.
It’s not uncommon to hear people in the Medtech industry express a growing sense of frustration and helplessness with the number of projects they are juggling at any one time. I’ve personally witnessed or heard of mid/large medtech divisions have over 60 projects in various forms of development on the docket at any single time. How did things get so crazy?
By Andrew Hyncik
At least that’s the opinion of Marc Andreesen as expressed in a Vox article last week. While I don’t personally know the man and can’t vouch for his Healthcare credentials, his reputation for business success and knack for finding the next wave of technological innovation is beyond question. After all, this is the man who founded Netscape and went on to successfully invest in Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Slack, and Lyft to name only a few. Not a bad track record.
By Andrew Hyncik
Alarm fatigue poses serious safety risks to patients and is a major source of nursing dissatisfaction. How did we get here and how can we fix things?
By Andrew Hyncik
Here's an innovative recipe for shaking up the medical device product development process and turning it into a competitive advantage.
By Andrew Hyncik
In an age when entirely new car models can come out in under three years or when new lifestyle gadgets like phones can get released in well under two, why then do new medical devices take so darned long?
Andrew Hyncik and Pascal Malengrez are International Strategic Marketing & Product Development leaders who amplify classical medtech marketing with digital startup thinking.