We all make mistakes. But sometimes it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistake rather than your own. These hospital marketers made some serious mistakes that cost their company big, and left us with three golden rules no marketer should ever forget.
1. Never make false claims.
Making a false claim in any kind of advertising is unacceptable. It seems like a no-brainer, but marketers should be particularly careful when it comes to statements of fact. A statement of fact is something that is objectively quantifiable, such as survey results. Thus, if a marketer wants to tout that a hospital boasts high-scoring doctors in patient surveys, they better have the survey results to prove it.
In 2012, Florida Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville got into hot water after advertising its weight loss center as a “Center for Excellence.” This designation requires accreditation by the American Society of Bariatric Surgery, and is an objectively quantifiable measure. However, the hospital had to pay out $178 million in a false advertising claim after allowing a surgeon who did not meet the Center of Excellence criteria to perform surgery at the hospital.
2. Never make private disputes public.
No boardroom is without drama. Playing out corporate intrigue in the court of public opinion is a slippery slope, and rarely does it engender a positive image for companies engaging in a public war.
In 2013, the University of Pittsburg Medical Center and Highmark, Inc., engaged in a highly public media battle when they could not resolve issues related to their contract for Highmark members to receive care at UPMC. The battle went so far as to involve the state insurance commissioner, who publicly addressed both companies and suggested that the companies were pressuring consumers to make fear-based decisions regarding healthcare.
While the intent was to win the battle in the court of public opinion and gain leverage in resolving their contract dispute, these kinds of tactics tarnish the company’s image in the long run.
3. Always know your audience.
Knowing your audience is marketing 101. Understanding what makes your market tick is the primary job of hospital marketers. Focus groups and market testing are powerful tools that no marketer should ignore.
CaroMont Health broke this cardinal rule last year when they unveiled their new slogan: “Cheat death.” Located in Gastonia, North Carolina, CaroMont Health seriously miscalculated how their conservative constituency would react to the edgy campaign. They quickly retreated from the slogan and had to go back to the drawing board.
Understanding your audience is an integral part of hospital marketing. A miscalculation can result in millions of dollars lost promoting a campaign that does not work. Worse yet, campaigns that miss the mark in terms of audience can alienate patients, making it that much harder to regain their trust and confidence.
By following these three golden rules, hospital marketers can avoid the mistakes these hospitals made, finding greater success in their marketing campaigns and maximizing precious marketing resources.