Why Good Brands Go Stale ft Jared Johnson


Season 2, Episode 4

There’s been a long debate in healthcare marketing on whether to focus more on branding or data-driven plans. Jared Johnson heads the Healthcare Rap Podcast and consults with patient engagement and healthcare marketing teams across the US. He has a simple answer: Let’s focus on both!

Chris Hemphill, VP of Applied AI at Actium Health, and Jared break down what it means to support branding initiatives with data. Learn how to plan and launch these initiatives, and equally important, learn the data storytelling that will resonate with leadership.

Video Chapters
04:07 How Brand Connects with Emotion
08:00 How NOT to Think about Branding
10:11 Use the Data!
13:33 Socializing Your Marketing Efforts with Leadership
18:30 Are Our Branding Initiatives Actually Working?

This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health in partnership with the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

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Chris Hemphill

VP, Applied AI & Growth
Actium Health


Jared Johnson

Founder / Podcast Host
Shift.Health / Healthcare Rap Podcast

Shift.Health logo

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Chris Hemphill (00:00):
Hello Healthcare. Our healthcare consumers have an information problem. A hospital service live may have the best doctors and the finest outcomes, but consumers might refuse to even consider it, and who can blame them? How do they have any way of knowing when every health system claims to be number one?

Chris Hemphill (00:18):
With all this noise, people’s perceptions of a health system go beyond marketing copy and one and done campaigns. What really counts is the status of the relationship when people are ready to make their healthcare decisions. How can we be sure what that status is and what might make it go sour?

Chris Hemphill (00:37):
Jared Johnson, the host of the Healthcare Rap Podcast and healthcare marketing consultant is here with us to discuss the ins and outs of branding in the pandemic era. We’ll get into the basics of how we should focus on branding now and how data plays a major role in helping to keep brands fresh. More after the break.

Chris Hemphill (00:59):
Consumer experiences, major disruptors in AI tech are shaping healthcare for years to come. On Hello Healthcare, we dive deep on these issues with leaders who are driving change. I’m Chris Hemphill, VP of Applied AI at Actium Health, and we hope that these stories will help you to create or demand better future in healthcare.

Chris Hemphill (01:23):
Hello Healthcare, we’re really happy that you’re joining us. What we’ve put together is this series where we’re talking about some of the major themes that we’re seeing, and to really help with that, Jared Johnson of the Healthcare Rap Podcast.

Chris Hemphill (01:38):
Jared Johnson has been doing healthcare hip hop for us for years. Not only has he run the podcast, but he’s been in various roles within healthcare systems and within pharmaceuticals. That combined with a lot of the experiences that he’s had has flavored a really powerful perspective on branding, on marketing and ultimately how marketers can measure those differences and better appeal to the rest of the teams that they’re working with. But Jared, would you care to share a little bit of a background that’s kind of led you to this point?

Jared Johnson (02:04):
Thanks, Chris. The part that’s most relevant is the fact that I’ve produced over 400 podcast episodes over the last few years, about half of those are for the Healthcare Rap. So Healthcare Rap is coming up on four years on the air every single week, and as a result of that, I’ve gained a different perspective with every guest that we’ve brought on any of these podcasts that I’ve produced.

Jared Johnson (02:25):
What that has given me is I feel like a perspective that is very much more rounded than what I would have on my own. Every person has brought some insight to my life, to my understanding of what the industry is like, and together collectively by having the opportunity to do that, I have a different perspective.

Jared Johnson (02:43):
It has changed over the years, and so I didn’t necessarily expect that when I first started podcasting at all, is that opportunity to gain a different perspective myself. That has very much led me to different parts of healthcare to understand where things could go, where I could provide more value, and on top of that, it’s just great to get to know people in that same way.

Chris Hemphill (03:03):
Fantastic. Yeah, and I really appreciate you sharing those conversations and those perspectives, because I think they’re helping a lot of other folks grow as well. It’s just been a really good experience listening to those, and where we want to dig in deeper is producing 400 podcasts and doing all of the various aspects of what you do in your healthcare consultancy.

Chris Hemphill (03:27):
One major topic that I’ve seen is around branding. It’s a unique perspective, because we’re talking about branding, but we’re also talking about how to measure the results and success of those efforts. But one thing about branding is if I say that word, it could mean a million different things to a million different people, including if you’re out at the farm and putting a hot branding iron on cows. Don’t think that’s exactly what we mean, but if we can get down to a basic definition, help the audience understand where we’re coming from when we talk about branding.

Jared Johnson (03:58):
You’re right, it’s kind of a nebulous term, what is branding itself? I like to think of it in a couple different parts or components, and one is every way that somebody can experience your brand. So that’s visually, it’s in-person, it’s with somebody who works for that company or that organization, and it’s in a number of different ways that we engage with people digitally now. I say now, meaning the last couple decades. So, it’s been a long time since we’ve begun digitally engaging with brands.

Jared Johnson (04:22):
There’s also an identity component of that. So, a lot of times we think of branding as the visual identity. So you’ve got a logo, you’ve got brand colors, you have fonts, you do have styles related to your brand, and those are done very intentionally. Those have to do with an emotion that you’re bringing out of somebody as a result, but we can’t think of that as the ending point, that’s the starting point.

Jared Johnson (04:46):
So, your visual identity is the foundation upon which you build all these other encounters and experiences, other ways that somebody can engage with your brand. So that could mean somebody meets you, and you’re the only person that they know of with your brand, and so to them you are their brand. How their interaction with you goes, that’s how they associate with the brand.

Jared Johnson (05:06):
So, you have to realize that that’s part of it. You can’t just go out picking colors because they’re your favorites, part of your brand colors, they have to represent something. One way they represent things is by evoking a certain emotion. So if you go look at any of the consumer brands, any of the restaurants, anything online that you buy, any clothes, your shoes, whatever, you’re going to be encountering a brand, and a lot of times that’s the only way that you’re doing it.

Jared Johnson (05:31):
We also have all these other engagement methods, AKA digital ads, digital campaigns, paid search, paid social, you name it. E-blasts, email. We have a lot of different ways to engage digitally, but they all come back to what type of emotion are you trying to evoke from somebody as a result? That emotion can be what leads them to take some action that you want them to, but there’s a lot that happens before they take that action.

Chris Hemphill (05:53):
That’s a really powerful way to think about it. If we couch it in terms of the emotion that we want to evoke when people experience any aspect of our company, healthcare system, what have you, then it kind of opens up the picture on how the color choices, the design choices, interplay with the experience choices or experiences that people have with the people that represent our brand.

Jared Johnson (06:15):
For sure, for sure. It is, they all come together. So, thinking of them in a bubble or in a silo is what’s prevented us from understanding how consumers see our brand, how your target audience sees you. So the more we put all these little pieces together, we realize that’s the full picture of the brand that somebody sees. Most likely they don’t always have all the information about your brand, they haven’t seen what went on behind the scenes, all they know is how they feel, how they’re reacting to the part they’re experiencing. It can be a lot more intentional if we understand how somebody’s reacting to it.

Chris Hemphill (06:50):
That’s a great perspective to have, because our experiences with the companies and technologies and things like that that we deal with, they’re our way of understanding what’s the best way for me to engage my care, or how did this particular organization or provider make me feel? But within healthcare, are there any kinds of misconceptions that are holding healthcare leaders or healthcare marketers back from effective branding strategy?

Jared Johnson (07:12):
I feel like if we’re not careful, we can get stuck thinking that consumers see our brands in the same way they did. Not only just before the pandemic, but anytime over the last few years, because the fact is consumers are experiencing other brands in almost every other aspect of their lives in a different way. So their expectations of how they interact with any kind of healthcare organization, a health system, a provider is changing and they have fewer and fewer other instances of brands in their lives.

Jared Johnson (07:40):
I say they, it’s us too. We as consumers have a lot fewer brand experiences in other aspects of our lives that are as stale, if you will, as healthcare. That expectation has changed so much. It doesn’t take a lot to realize why. At any point in this week, next week, the following week, you’re going to hear another consumer brand that’s entering healthcare, that’s offering something new, or you’re going to hear about the amount of money that has been poured into digital health. So, there’s all these digital health startups coming in saying, “Hey, I figured out one part of that.”

Jared Johnson (08:13):
So, consumers ultimately have a lot more choices and they don’t have to choose between just doctor A, doctor B, hospital A, hospital B, it can be all these other choices. So, I would say just to ignore that could be a mistake. I thankfully don’t see a whole lot of health systems that don’t at least acknowledge that. It’s like where do they go from there? What do they do about that knowing that there are a lot more choices?

Chris Hemphill (08:41):
Hello Healthcare is brought to you by Actium Health. Healthcare leaders use Actium CRM Intelligence to activate patients and drive meaningful engagement. You can make it simple to identify and predict patient needs by using AI-driven next best actions. Learn more at actiumhealth.com. And now back to the show.

Chris Hemphill (09:07):
We have these organizations, like we were speaking about the experience that people have earlier, well, when we talk about the CVSs and Walmarts of the world, there’s other aspects of consumerism, such as the experience that those folks are really good at. So could you talk about, you had mentioned that in a lot of cases healthcare brands may be stale. What makes a brand stale and what are some opportunities that you might see for some healthcare organizations to do better?

Jared Johnson (09:31):
Well, you’re going to love this, Chris, but I really do think it’s not paying enough attention to their data. When I’ve had that role, and we had a bunch of data in front of us and we were being asked what do we do with this? It was a lot more effort I think than I realized at first, in terms of not only understanding what insights we could gain from marketing data and clinical data, a patient population for instance, and being able to put that together.

Jared Johnson (09:51):
But then once our small team figured that out, it was a whole nother project and a whole nother process to socialize that among the organization, among all the stakeholders who needed to understand what that insight was. It can even just take something as simple as some of the digital ads we were running and understanding how frequently consumer behavior changed.

Jared Johnson (10:10):
I mean, take the first few months of COVID. If you just looked at Google Trends, the probably best place to start for that. If you just looked at Google Trends for how often people were searching for COVID-19 and coronavirus, which tells you how long has it been since we even referred to it as coronavirus anymore? But in the early days, those two search terms just went through the roof and then health systems kept putting out a ton of COVID-related content.

Jared Johnson (10:31):
But then there was a point, I want to say it was three or four or five months in, there was a point where that all of a sudden just went all the way back to where it was and health systems weren’t necessarily looking [inaudible 00:10:42]. They were still creating just as much COVID-related content, just because they thought consumers were still up here at this peak, and yet it dropped off super quick. There was just a month where it just went all the way back down, people were tired of hearing about it.

Jared Johnson (10:55):
A perfect example of how quickly things can change. If you’re not looking at the data, know what to look for to even see what are people engaging with, what are they searching for? You can’t assume that what it was weeks or months ago is the same as it is now. I think that’s just the biggest learning for me is how quickly it could change. So you’ve got to pay attention, you’ve got to understand what you’re actually learning from your data as well.

Chris Hemphill (11:18):
That’s a powerful point too. One thing that that makes me wonder about is we can learn from data. I can go and do research, even launch surveys, understand perspectives on how people interact with my brand or their perceptions of me in the market, but then there’s the question of what do we do once we know it and how do we get others on board?

Chris Hemphill (11:40):
Because it can very often be the plight of our marketing friends and other friends who are obsessed with building a great consumer experience, that they encounter resistance or it’s not necessarily believed that they should make efforts to improve their experiences. So I’m just curious about what people might be able to focus on, how to help them overcome some of the organizational barriers to kind of the data-driven initiatives that they hope for?

Jared Johnson (12:06):
One thing that we really found useful was meeting with the people one-on-one. In our organization’s case, we had account managers in the marketing department who were responsible for different parts of the organization. Some were certain service lines, certain centers of excellence, and some were other parts of the organization,. We’d meet with them one-on-one and share data that was just relevant to them and their service line, instead of just setting up a huge team meeting, which we tried this too, and it didn’t go so well.

Jared Johnson (12:34):
Bring everyone in there so you get all the exact same data, and as soon as somebody saw one graph that was not related to them, you could see them, they were checking their phone right away there in the meeting. So, there was actually a science in her mind to how did we socialize this within the organization? It was just as important as the insights that we gained, because if nobody else internalized those and knew how to act on them, then it was as if we didn’t ever discover that insight.

Jared Johnson (12:58):
It was something as simple as the difference with CPC between Facebook Ads and Google Ads, one quarter was so markedly different than it was the quarter before. Once we got the account manager to understand that, they’re like, “Oh, okay, well, we need to put all our money here.” We’re like, “That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you.” So, it took a lot more effort. We wanted to say let’s just give you this data, this report, and you’re going to understand it and comprehend it all. Well, we definitely learned from that process.

Chris Hemphill (13:23):
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, don’t even put a spreadsheet at me, because I’ll come out with a completely different interpretation, unless the story that you’ve told and the context that you’ve given around it is relevant and understandable. I think that’s a huge piece of advice for people that are excited about data, but don’t necessarily know how to get the action from it, is to have a champion within the audience that you’re going for.

Chris Hemphill (13:46):
You might be wanting to present the entire board or leadership team or what have you, but it sounds like it’s better to work one-on-one with somebody first and let them poke the holes in it so that you can make a better presentation, better case for what you’re trying to do more broadly.

Jared Johnson (14:00):
Yeah, like I said, that worked for us and I think we learned just how people had different levels of understanding of data. It wasn’t something that people like to come out and say, “I don’t understand any of this,” you’d just get a lot of head nods in the meeting. So, everyone would leave and you’d think, “I’m sure they understood everything that we shared,” but that acknowledgement went a long way once we realized that, that everyone came at this with a different level of understanding of what the data was telling them.

Jared Johnson (14:26):
I think that’s kind of where this notion of a data enthusiast kind of came about was in some of those meetings where we realized, yeah, we’ve got a data scientist on our team at that time. You don’t have to be a data scientist to understand these insights that we want to share with you and how to act on them. So, this concept of being a data enthusiast was, yeah, that’s not my primary area, it’s this, but I understand the value of data and the insights that come from it, and that’s what I’m going to use to fuel this thing that I’m responsible for.

Jared Johnson (14:56):
It went a long way just to realize that you didn’t have to be the expert expert, you just needed to understand the value of it at the end of the day. Then you were going to come to these meetings and figure out, “Okay, hey, what do you guys have for us this time?” The questions totally changed at that point.

Chris Hemphill (15:09):
Fantastic. Yeah, I like that data enthusiast concept, because if you’re looking for who that champion should be, that person you’re going to work one-on-one with, go with the person who’s going to be enthusiastic about, “Oh, well, the data has given this insight?” Go with the person who’s going to look at the data, look at the results, understand it and actually act on it, rather than just trying to bury it and then go back to whatever their original bias and original conceptions were.

Jared Johnson (15:34):
Yeah, exactly.

Chris Hemphill (15:35):
Cool. Well, we’ve talked about a lot here. So, we started about branding and now we’re into data storytelling. We were talking about it from a perspective of how do we get our organizations to act, but let’s say that our branding initiative has taken off, we’re making enhancements to the consumer experience, as well as considering how our visual identity and other parts, sonic identity, et cetera, are creating an emotional response with our patients and our consumers.

Chris Hemphill (15:57):
A few months down the road, a few years down the road, et cetera, how do we know that what we’re doing is working? How do we know whether or not it’s working or whether or not we should hit it?

Jared Johnson (16:06):
I feel like there’s not one clear KPI that’s all you have to focus on. Like you said, use the word data storytelling, and that’s key here. Understanding what it’s telling you when you look at it, when you pull out not just one little data point, but understand where things come from.

Jared Johnson (16:23):
So, you can look at something like Net Promoter Score. Would you recommend this to somebody? Would you recommend this product or service? Pretty common KPI that tends to fall under branding. That’s where it falls, that’s where it makes sense, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, that one thing.

Jared Johnson (16:36):
That may be the part of the iceberg you see above the water, but there’s a lot of data underneath that. I would rarely just share that one thing, I’d always want to say, here’s how we got there, here are all these other things. We’ve also learned that it was here, that you always got to look at things over time. So, hey, our Net Promoter Score was 7.9 and now it’s 8.3. If you just say it’s 8.3, people don’t know if that’s higher or lower than it was before that. So hey, it went up. So, you have to always think about it over time and you have to just consider what other things are coming into play.

Jared Johnson (17:09):
So, I feel like just connecting the dots between a lot of your data and not just giving the one KPI. Yeah, still rally around that. Ultimately that does tell you a lot, but there’s all sorts of other little stories that can be told in between that. So, hey, did one segment feel differently? What caused that to go up? Was there something we could attribute it to? Was there some other correlated data that said we can’t prove one cause to the other, but they happened at the same time? Maybe that’s it.

Jared Johnson (17:37):
All that takes a lot of time, but that’s the level of storytelling that needs to happen to understand really at the end of the day, I attempt to bring this back to branding, how do people engage with your brand? Well, a lot of times your digital campaigns are the front lines, so how are people engaging with your digital campaigns? That usually does tell you quite a bit about what they think about your brand.

Chris Hemphill (17:59):
Well, that’s a really powerful way to look at it too, because there’s something sneaky that happens if you start going to this perspective of looking at change over time. If you’re expected to just present one KPI as a one-off, there’s a bias called cherry picking. You’re probably going to pick the KPI that makes these efforts look great and choose that, but if the organization and the team that you’re dealing with is committed to looking at this consistent stats, consistent KPIs of metrics over a weekly period or monthly period, or what have you, you can start seeing those real adjustments, it eliminates the opportunity to cherry pick.

Chris Hemphill (18:33):
Then rather than trying to present something as great or not great, it just becomes the opportunity of where and how can we improve based on what happened in the most recent time that we looked at it at epoch?

Jared Johnson (18:44):
So, true. That is, it’s just part of the story that you’re trying to tell with what you’ve got in front of you. Sometimes that does mean looking at things in a different way and presenting something that isn’t the story that you want to tell. People say data doesn’t lie, but you can make it tell almost any story you want, so it all depends on how you frame it.

Chris Hemphill (19:01):
Yeah, when people say data doesn’t lie, I can’t help to say yes, it does, and people can make it lie as well. But with that, Jared, you brought a really fascinating perspective, not just to this conversation, but for years and years over time with the presence that you have with Healthcare Rap and what you’re doing on LinkedIn and Twitter. Just wondering what the best way for folks who want to continue this conversation and learn more, what’s the best way they can reach out or interact with your brand?

Jared Johnson (19:25):
Oh, well, thanks for asking. Definitely on LinkedIn, I’m always there. I’m @jaredpiano on Twitter. J-A-R-E-Dpiano. Yeah, and Healthcare Rap, we’re on every week still. As long as people keep listening, we’ll keep putting that out. Yeah, it’s not hard to find me these days.

Chris Hemphill (19:41):
All right, appreciate that. Happy to enter the podcast space with Hello Healthcare with you and Healthcare Rap. With that, we thank everybody who has joined us today and listened to this conversation about branding and then data storytelling. With that, hope that you can enjoy the [inaudible 00:19:58] series.

Jared Johnson (19:59):
Thank you so much.

Chris Hemphill (20:00):
Thank you.

Chris Hemphill (20:01):
Thanks again for tuning into Hello Healthcare. If you like what you heard, we appreciate a review on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening. You and your feedback fuel us. This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health. To get the latest on what these healthcare leaders are saying, subscribe to our newsletter on hellohealthcare.com or join us for our weekly sessions on LinkedIn. Thanks and when we see you next time, hello.

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