Three Southern Idioms Healthcare Marketers Should Live By

Marianne Aiello, April 21, 2010

I was feeling the love in Atlanta from the moment I stepped off the plane, hopped in a taxi, and headed for the Healthcare Strategy Institute's Customer Based Marketing Strategies conference. My cab driver told me that in his native country, they believe people from the Northeast will go to heaven first because they are the most beautiful. (Sure, I'll buy that.) Then, once I checked into my room, a hotel employee came to restock my mini-fridge (it was empty when I got there, okay?) and gave me a free bag of M&Ms. Also, Atlanta's MARTA metro system always arrived when it said it would—and for a girl who's used to dealing with Boston's antiquated T, that's pretty gosh-darn hospitable.

You can see how it was easy for this Yankee to get into the Southern state of mind and view the content of the conference in that light. There's a lot that marketers can learn from the following three tried-and-true Southern sayings.

Don't go back on your raisin'
Yankee translation: Always remember where you came from.

Tufts Medical Center has always stayed true to its confusingly named children's hospital, Floating Hospital for Children. It turns out that back in 1894, the Boston hospital was actually run out of a boat—Victorians thought the sea air had healing powers. And Tufts has stuck with that name over the years because it has fierce internal brand loyalty and name recognition.

Tim Brennan, Tuft's public affairs and communications manager, and Dan Dunlop, president of Jennings, a Raleigh-Durham, NC-based ad agency, spoke about how Tufts made Floating Hospital for Children relevant to present-day locals in a conference session called "Marketing Niche Products, Affiliations, and Strategic Partnerships." By partnering with two suburban hospitals and launching two coinciding ad campaigns, Tufts increased brand awareness and consumer preference.

Don't put the cart before the horse
Yankee translation: Get all your stuff in order, first.

Laura Harner, marketing manager, explained how Lehigh Valley Health Network did just that in a session called "Sync Operations and Promotion for Maximum Brand Impact." She and Chicago-based Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy President Rob Rosenberg explained the intricate relationship between a brand and service lines. A brand creates a promise; a service line delivers on that promise. A brand creates an emotional bond; a service line creates and intellectual bond. A brand message, by itself, needs support; a service line, by itself, needs credibility.

So the Allentown, PA, hospital developed a new brand identity (inspirational), integrated it across all service lines (operational), and marketed itself under one logo (promotional). "You have to streamline the inspirational phase and the operational phase before you get to the promotional phase," Harner said.

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