From Brand Challenger to Brand Leader

Three Strategies for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations to Take the Lead

Picture of triumph on a mountaintop to represent making the ascent from brand challenger to brand leader (healthcare marketing)Like any competitive environment, healthcare markets include two key types of players:

  • Brand Leaders – The most dominant or recognizable brand in the market typically enjoys the greatest market share. Also known as a market leader, a brand leader usually drives the largest profit margins, making this spot highly coveted by competitors.
  • Brand Challengers – Challenger brands are not the category leaders in the market. Rather than simply competing in an existing product or service line category, a brand challenger aims to change mindshare by finding new ways to differentiate or segment its brand from the market leader.

With the right strategies and tools in place, challenger brands have an opportunity to rival long-established leaders by creating and executing effective, data-driven marketing and advertising strategies that help them effectively compete.

According to The Nielsen Company, “Challenger brands have to take a different approach.” In terms of advertising and market messages, Nielsen’s research suggests that for every 10% excess share of voice achieved (which is calculated by subtracting market share from share of voice), challengers only see 0.4% market share growth, compared to 1.4% market share growth for leading brands. As a result, a brand challenger needs an advertising strategy that is at least 3.5 times more effective than the market leader’s strategy to truly move the dial and capture greater market share.

[View our infographic to learn more about the dynamic between share of voice and market share.]

The key to creating and executing effective market strategies is data. When you use data to drive marketing, branding and advertising plans, your healthcare organization will significantly improve its ability to compete in market. Fortunately, the tools and expertise to support data-driven decisions that create healthier brands are readily available. These three approaches combine strategy with data to deliver a competitive advantage:

1. Evaluate your current brand position to reveal new opportunities

What you convey about your brand – and how you hope others perceive your brand – must always align with the experience you actually provide. To continuously build volume, preference and market share, it is important to give your brand a thorough, objective evaluation.

Exploring consumer and employee perceptions of your brand will inform your brand strategy, which should outline your differentiators and brand promise (as well as how to keep that promise), serving as a filter for future business, marketing and creative decisions. In addition, assessing your competitors’ communication brings insight to create a sustainable value proposition for your brand. This ongoing process requires continual maintenance and dedication over time.

[To determine your brand’s health, view our step-by-step brand assessment and strategy checklist.]

Brand building is a complex, interconnected process that requires authentic insight, objective decision-making and careful, sometimes even calculated effort. Insights from brand scout+ empower you to identify differentiators, design key messages and rally your team around a brand promise that will ultimately create a more authentic experience for your customers.

2. Use data-driven insights to guide marketing and positioning strategies

A marketing and positioning strategy is the compass that allows companies to successfully navigate the nuances of an ever-changing healthcare market. A smart and sustainable strategy should always precede marketing tactics. When you formulate a strategy before moving to creative tactics, you enhance your organization’s ability to elevate your market position relative to your competitors. Leveraging the power of information through market research, competitive studies and consumer insights will allow you to make more informed decisions to drive greater market share and brand equity.

Effective marketing and positioning strategies – also known as maps+ – provide key insight into your organization’s market position (including where you are now and where you can be in the future), as well as your competencies and capacity, viable differentiators, opportunities and challenges, and more. From there, you can develop on-point marketing imperatives and tactical plans to improve your market positioning, and grow market share.

3. Analyze competing campaign messages and performance to fine-tune advertising strategies

Understanding your competitors’ market position, share of voice and advertising spend are critical knowledge points to making informed advertising decisions. According to Nielsen, a brand is more likely to gain market share if its share of voice is greater than its share of market. Simply put, increasing share of voice is essential to market share growth – but how do you increase share of voice?

A comprehensive competitive market profile leads to better, more proactive recommendations for your organization’s local advertising strategies. Timely, reliable data and creative samples from competing campaigns and market presence—including key positioning messages, share of voice, media mix, spend analyses and creative samples—are key to gaining traction in your local market through advertising.

A competitive market profile from ad atlas+ evaluates each competitor’s brand position and messaging strategies, matching them against the industry’s top consumer drivers to identify the space they claim in your market. These insights inform and assist your efforts to be more competitive and targeted with your media dollars.

Empower your organization by creating a healthier brand, formulating a smarter marketing and positioning strategy, and challenging the competition. Keep an eye on your competitors and identify new opportunities for differentiation or segmentation in your market. Through the use of data-driven insight, objective decision-making and highly strategic planning, you will be better equipped to reach your targets with pinpoint precision and ultimately drive market share, top of mind awareness and consumer preference.

The Dynamic Between Share of Voice & Share of Market

An Infographic for Hospital Marketers

Share of voice is a critical metric for consumer marketing. Quite often, when hospitals evaluate share of voice and competitive positioning in the context of the full competitive landscape, they find their ad spend is not enough. Why? Because increasing share of voice is essential to market share growth.

For example, if your hospital is the local brand leader, excess share of voice is a worthwhile investment because it supports greater gains in market share than it does for competing brands. Likewise, if you’re competing against a brand leader, your advertising strategies need to be several times more effective than the brand leader’s to grow market share. The following infographic explains the dynamic between share of voice and share of market in more detail:

Infographic on the Relationship Between Share of Voice and Market Share

The key to creating and executing effective ad strategies is data. For the tools you need to analyze your positioning and guide your hospital’s advertising strategies, it’s time to discover ad atlas+.

Breaking Through the Noise

Optimize your share of voice to grow market share

As a healthcare marketing leader, you know how noisy the competitive landscape can be. As the industry shifts toward a consumer-centric healthcare marketplace, it seems every hospital and health system is vying for the same patients—and they all have advertising dollars devoted to buying the largest megaphone.

In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are bombarded by advertising messages at every turn; one estimate suggests consumers are subject to 3,000 to 5,000 messages each day. Healthcare is no exception, so what is your strategy for determining reach, frequency, and key messages to best position your healthcare organization? After all, if you’re in the orchestra, it’s better to play the trumpet than the piccolo.

Amplify Your Voice for Bigger Gains

Clever ads alone rarely produce sustainable results, so the relationship between your ad buying strategy and your market share growth should be treated with care. It is important to understand the correlation between share of voice (SOV) – defined as your organization’s percentage of the total media buying in your industry for a specific time period – and share of market (SOM), which is your percent of the total revenue for that same time period. You probably already know your market share, but your SOV can be more complex. Knowing your SOV relative to your competitors, however, can be critical to your strategic advertising efforts for top-line growth.

The Nielsen Company published research that sheds light on this relationship between SOV and SOM. They found that with everything else equal, you are more likely to gain market share if your SOV is larger than your SOM. This “excess” share of voice is shown to have a very direct effect—an increase of 0.5 percent additional market share when your SOV is 10 points higher than your SOM.

Of course, rarely is the math that simple. The same research found that a lot of factors play into this, including the size of your brand, whether you are the brand leader in your industry or a brand “challenger,” and of course, the level of sophistication in your creative campaign. If you are the brand leader, for example, a 10-point differential can net you as much as a 1.4 percent market share boost.

Even with multiple variables, savvy healthcare organizations can still make this research work for them. Dave Beckert, a media planner, gives this advice:

“Smart marketers investment spend (SOV slightly exceeds SOM) to some degree to deter attack. To show major gains in SOM, you must create or exploit disequilibrium … using advertising spending as an offensive weapon, based upon an analysis of the competitive situation.”

Use the Right Tool for the Job

As the former VP of Marketing for a major academic medical center, I cannot overemphasize how necessary it is to have competitive market data driving strategic recommendations for media planning and creative concept development. In addition to providing the foundation of those recommendations, I needed the competitive data to secure support for the marketing and advertising budgets I proposed. The only problem was that collecting a comprehensive market analysis of competitors was incredibly arduous and time-consuming.

Now, that’s no longer true. The need for robust competitive market data is still great, but the work that goes into creating those market profiles is not, thanks to an innovative product called ad atlas+.

ad atlas+ provides details on share of voice, media mix, brand positioning, message platforms and creative samples across your competitive landscape

Click image to learn more about ad atlas+.

Custom designed for hospitals and health systems, ad atlas+ packages comprehensive competitive market profiles into a single interactive tool, empowering you to view and compare what competitors are saying in your local market with only a few clicks. ad atlas+ lets you watch competing television spots, click through banner ads, hear radio promos, view print ads and more. Additionally, ad atlas+ provides a market analysis of each hospital’s key positioning messages, SOV and ad spend. These analyses provide much-needed clarity and the competitive advantage to aid in capturing a larger SOV for your healthcare organization.

I recommend ad atlas+ because it was designed for healthcare marketers by healthcare marketers, and it offers meaningful insight to guide healthcare advertising strategies. You can finally answer such questions as, Should we be buying magazine display ads? and Will that many TV spots even make a difference? ad atlas+ gives you the power to see your local market differently – and when you can stand up and see who is playing in the orchestra, you can finally decide if you need to pick up a louder horn. If you’re a healthcare marketer, that should be music to your ears.

Julie Amor is the Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare and has more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Healthcare Marketing & the Sandwich Generation

How to Reach Consumers Who Make Healthcare Decisions for Many

The Sandwich Generation comprises Gen Xers and Boomers who are providing care and support for parents as well as children/teens.

My mom, my daughter and me on Mother’s Day 2015

Like most wives and mothers, I have a say in all healthcare decisions for my husband, my teenager, and myself – but my influence doesn’t end there. As my 80-something mother becomes increasingly reliant on loved ones to take the reins for her well-being, I now play a role in her healthcare choices as well. This makes me a member of the “Sandwich Generation,” tasked with caring for a parent as well as a dependent.

It’s a well-populated place, this Sandwich Generation. According to Pew Research Center, nearly half of all U.S. adults age 40-59 fit the definition. Smart healthcare marketers will seek our attention and recognize that:

  • We are key decision-makers as healthcare consumers, given our involvement in multi-generational healthcare needs; and
  • This position we occupy in our families can be stressful, so sometimes what we need most is helpful guidance from trusted sources that bring information to us in easily digestible formats, rather than waiting and hoping we’ll find it ourselves.

Gaining the Attention – and Trust – of the Sandwich Generation

From one healthcare marketer to another, here are some tactics to consider when you want to win the hearts and minds of this influential market segment (the majority of whom are Gen X):

Go digital. Not surprisingly, people in the Sandwich Generation are busy. Pew found that nearly one in three (31%) report “always feeling rushed,” compared to less than one in four adults (23%) outside the Sandwich Gen. Because we are more pressed for time, trying to reach us via traditional print channels won’t bring much return – particularly during the busy work/school week. How and where you will find us online:

  • Social media – target the Sandwich Generation with paid advertising on social media outlets to reach beyond your following. Facebook is Gen X’s favorite social site, and Pinterest – with its small-but-growing user base largely comprised of women (often the household’s primary decision-maker in matters of health/healthcare) – is worth consideration as you plan your social content calendar. Time your posts and ads to catch us in the evenings and on weekends when we have more time to engage and dive in. [Check out these tips for directing the conversation on social media.]
  • Advertise on news websites and blogs – digital display ads grab our attention when we’re catching up on news, looking up how-to’s, etc. Search and/or site retargeting tactics will keep your ads in front of us as we go about our business online.
  • Host your own blog – post relevant, helpful content, such as topics around parenting and managing the health, wellness, and fitness of our children (mostly tweens, teens and young adults), ourselves (42% Gen X; 33% Boomers), and our parents (age 65+).
  • Online videos – whether it’s pre-roll advertising (those :15 and :30 ads that play before the main video), or clips you host on YouTube and include in your blog and social shares, videos can be a great way to expand reach, and even go viral if done well. [Check out these best practices from Advertising Age on determining video length.]

Let us know where you can offer value. Be as forthcoming and accurate as possible about the costs for a given exam, test, procedure, hospital stay, etc. This will be much appreciated by the Sandwich Gen because the dual caregiving roles impose financial strain for some. When asked by Pew, only 28% of Sandwich Generation respondents described their financial situations as comfortable, compared to 41% of non-Sandwichers (and the former outnumbered the latter by nearly 2:1 in the “just meet basic expenses” category).

Speaking for my fellow Sandwichers, we do not want to cut corners when it comes to our loved ones’ well-being. But, as we save/pay for kids’ college educations and in some cases provide financial support for aging parents, we do actively look for ways to avoid spending more out-of-pocket than necessary. If you can offer greater savings/higher value, let us know about it. And, if your organization is in a position to teach us how to self-manage the health and wellness concerns of our aging parents to the fullest extent we are able, that’s value. Make it known.

Be transparent about quality, too. Value is important, but so is quality. We don’t take our role as healthcare consumers lightly, and we want to rest assured that we’re providing quality care for the people we love. If your organization is a hospital, publish your quality rankings/recognition online. If you’re a surgery center, publish your low complication and infection rates, and outcomes data. Help us make truly informed healthcare decisions for the good of our families, and you’ll be that much closer to making loyal customers out of us.

When you let the unique needs, wants, and demands of your target consumer base drive your advertising messages and tactical plan, you give your healthcare company much better odds of getting noticed. And, when your target consumers do take action and you follow through with exceptional experiences at every encounter, you gain their trust and loyalty – and they, being mostly Gen Xers, will reward you with positive online reviews, social shares and word-of-mouth referrals. Content development people like me live and breathe this notion every day. We let the needs and perspectives of our audience lay the foundation for a tactical approach that serves meaningful, on-point content and gets results.

Color Psychology in Healthcare: Choosing the Right Colors to Represent Your Healthcare Brand

color psychologyIn marketing, as in life, first impressions matter. Research shows it only takes about 90 seconds for a customer to form an opinion about a product—and a surprising percentage of his or her assessment (62-90%) is based on colors association with the product.

When it comes to healthcare marketing, color psychology is very important. Pink is often used to represent breast cancer awareness, while red signifies immediate danger or emergency response. Blue represents loyalty and trustworthiness, making it a popular color for many corporate logos in the healthcare space (think Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare and Aetna). But should your healthcare organization choose blue as your primary color just because it is “safe” and universally accepted? Not if you want to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.

So, what color(s) should you choose? Unfortunately, there is no universal textbook answer when it comes to choosing the right color palette for your health organization. Different colors evoke unique emotions in everyone, but a deep dive into factors like which customer segments you want to attract and what you want to convey to them can help you land on the right colors for your corporate identity. Just as physicians ask questions of patients when trying to diagnose a condition, healthcare marketers and designers must ask the right questions to determine the appropriate color palette:

  1. Who is your target audience?

Healthcare marketers must consider the audience they are targeting—men or women, upper class or middle class, traditionalists or millennials. Different colors speak to different groups. Choose a color that resonates favorably with the people you want to reach, and make sure your color palette is culturally friendly—meaning, if you are promoting your services or products to different ethnic groups, it’s important to understand what colors mean in their cultures, which can vary. As a health organization, you don’t want to unintentionally offend or scare away potential customers by using a color that signifies death or mourning, for example.

  1. What colors are your competitors using?

What do your competitors look like, and how can you stand out from the crowd? Avoid confusion with other brands by staying away from your competitors’ colors. This will make it easier for your audience to identify your brand.

  1. Are you using colors that work well across all platforms?

Consistency improves audience recall of your brand. The trick, of course, is to maintain a uniform look and feel across all messaging platforms. What works well on a billboard might not replicate well in newsprint, for example. Choose a color that can be adapted for multiple mediums. Your audience will be better able to recognize your presence and more inclined to engage with your company.

  1. Are you portraying the right personality with the colors you have chosen?

Purple may be seen as an acceptable color in healthcare, but does its association with royalty and sophistication best lend itself to a health system located in an area that’s heavily populated with low-income families? Consider the core purpose of your health organization and business model, and use colors that align with those qualities.

When it comes to selecting colors for your corporate identity, a strong understanding of color theory should be at play. Remember, color has meaning, and it should add to your message—not deflect or detract from it.

Healthcare Marketers: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

To create a healthy buzz, step outside your comfort zone“I solemnly swear to not do dumb stuff around trains.”

Melbourne Australia’s Metro Trains is here to tell you not thinking about train safety is dumb. The campaign, Dumb Ways to Die, pulls no punches and gets the message across loud and clear. Instead of using traditional messages to promote train safety, the creators of the campaign stepped outside their comfort zone to spread a provocative and memorable message—and it’s working. The train line reported a 21 percent reduction in accidents and deaths since launch. Its campaign song reached the top 10 on iTunes charts, and the three-year-old campaign is still going strong, even spawning a line of plush toys, a book and a top-ranked mobile game.

How does this example translate to healthcare marketing?

For starters, let me be clear: I am not saying to call your customers dumb – that would backfire bigtime in healthcare. However, there are ways to step out of your comfort zone, which is more about taking smart, calculated risks than randomly trying new tactics.

When concepting new campaigns, it’s okay to explore approaches that go beyond the coziness and familiarity of your current talking points. Consumer preferences are changing – and in healthcare, consumers are more empowered to choose than ever before – so stale messages have officially become a detriment. ‘Trains are dangerous’ or ‘Your safety matters to us’ wouldn’t garner people’s attention the way ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ has. Ask yourself, are your campaigns eye-catching and getting the most important, actionable messages through to your target audience? Or are you just finding new words to convey the same old story?

Attention-grabbing campaigns in the healthcare space

Because the advertising landscape is already crowded with messages, taking a step or two outside of your comfort zone is sometimes the best way to cut through the noise and get results. Take, for example, the Hot for my Body campaign we created for Midwest Transplant Network (MTN). People are familiar with the idea of signing up for organ and tissue donation, but many hold misconceptions about who can donate. ‘Hot for my Body’ raised awareness of the need for organ donation with messaging and graphics designed to change public perception of organ donors by featuring seniors, adults and teens from multiple races. The concept created a healthy buzz and produced positive results that exceeded industry standards, delivering a nice return on investment for MTN.

MTN also used Facebook advertising and Pandora radio spots, which proved to be very effective in increasing likes and getting people to visit the campaign landing page,, to register as a donor. While some healthcare organizations today are mastering the art of social media marketing, many are not. Where do you fall on that spectrum? Is social media outside your comfort zone as a marketer? It doesn’t have to be…

Healthcare marketing and social media

For many healthcare organizations, venturing into social media is, in and of itself, a departure from the comfort zone. To make things easier, when clients ask us for help with social media marketing, the very first thing we do is work with them to create a social policy that lays the groundwork for using various social platforms, including which social sites to use, what to post and how to handle negative commentary.

However, maybe you are already on social media and want to try a new network. Different social platforms can open up new audiences, share your messages in unique ways and increase your reach. Advocate Health Care is an example of a healthcare organization that has stepped outside of its comfort zone on Instagram. By sharing patient stories, Advocate Health Care has reached more people – the Instagram account, which attracted 670 followers in the first two months of the campaign, now has more than 3,400 followers.

Test your out-of-the-box campaign before launch

Jumping into the market with an edgy campaign is risky. To safeguard from backlash, the campaign needs to be tested. Does the public find it offensive? Does it lead to misunderstanding? Is it motivational enough to not only grab someone’s attention, but also make them take action? If the campaign passes a focus group, that’s great. If not, it’s time to take their feedback and retool it into something that works. Next, you need to get leadership approval. With authorization in place, it’s safe to launch.

Have you wandered into new marketing territory recently? Share it with us below, we’d love to hear about it!

If you missed the other blog posts in our series, catch up now:


A Look at Head-Turning Marketing Campaigns and Websites of 2015

Exploring the creative community At Dobies Healthcare Group, we like to stay on top of all things healthcare marketing. After learning some of our recent campaigns earned national recognition with Healthcare Advertising and Aster Awards, we decided to look at other creative work that’s turning heads in the field of marketing. I gathered the troops – our awesome team at Dobies Healthcare Group – and together we explored standout creative from our fellow 2015 Aster Award winners and other inspired minds.

We looked at innovative websites, hospital marketing campaigns and more. Here are some of our favorites – maybe one or two will inspire you and as you think about your next campaign:

  • Nothing Shall Be Impossible – This consumer-centric campaign eloquently infuses the hospital’s faith-based brand into numerous patient stories about “overcoming the impossible.” It won the 2015 Aster Award for Best of Show.
  • Smarty Pins – a fun way to play with Google Maps
  • The ease of use of the Volkswagen website
  • Made with Code – a Google site teaching girls to code