Exploring the successes of “Old Town Road,” Oreos, and Comcast for healthcare marketers

If you haven’t heard, “Old Town Road” has now become the longest-running song ever after 17 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. While it is an enjoyable song (for some), it is not the most ground-breaking or inspiring music ever produced (in my humble opinion). So, what has kept it at the top of the charts? What does it possess that classics like, “Candle in the Wind,” “I will always love you,” and the eponymous “Macarena” don’t from when I was growing up?

To answer that question, let’s turn to other products, like the rows of Oreo boxes filling up grocery store aisles. If you happen to be a consumer of “milk’s favorite cookie,” you likely know that there has been an influx of new Oreo varieties that go far beyond the orange creme-filled Halloween edition from the 90s. Oreo’s strategy is showing. If they want to be a go-to cookie, they need to address all of those wonderful taste profiles of smaller markets like Red Velvet, Pumpkin Pie, Cinnamon Roll, and even Watermelon (As a watermelon lover, I still question this one). This allows them to capture a large share of the cookie market, takeover precious feet of shelf space, offer variety and, ultimately, monetize their brand across the most avenues possible.

This strategy doesn’t just show up on the cookie aisle. Comcast has been offering remixes of its products for years – they just call them “bundles.” Bundles are much more interesting than the static offering of Internet or Cable or VOIP phone service or even mobile phones and allow them to be promoted (and priced) in a dozen different remixes. This has enabled Comcast to repeatedly build market share in new segments like Voip and, mobile phones; even though they weren’t known for those services initially. This also allows Comcast to enact two key strategies: first, increase the spending of each household with Comcast overall for services with little to no incremental cost even though Comcast may not offer the best version of a product (share of wallet); second, allow for each consumer to be more committed to the overall brand and decrease their likelihood to switch because the cost of switching each service may be too great (loyalty).

So back to our original question: the success of “Old Town Road” may be attributed to the copious number of remixes it has engendered. From the first with Billy Ray Cyrus to a South Korean rap variant by rapper RM of BTS, there has been a steady progression of released remixes, official and otherwise. This level of remixing is genius because it introduces the song (and the source material) to new niche audiences and gains a following from each new audience partner. This isn’t that different than the collab video strategy of Youtube influencers, where collaborations allow for each creator to “introduce” themselves to the other creator’s audience and like Comcast, it prevents the normal issues of staleness with the original’s song’s content while also pushing out other up and coming songs that may be competing for coverage (like Oreos).

So, what can we health system marketers learn from the marketing strategies of these other industries? As consumerism goes into full swing, health systems will also need to leverage strategies targeting share of wallet, share of attention and cross-promotion.

Here are a few ways that your organization can start making your own remixes:

1.     Don’t think of your products, services or messages as static
How can you combine specialists or messaging to make existing offerings more compelling or more accessible? Whether it is a fixed-price heart assessment or back-to-school immunizations, our value is often so much more than an appointment. Think of how you can remix current campaigns or offerings so that they keep consumer’s attention not by force, but by being increasingly interesting or accessible to new and non-traditional audiences.

2.     Shift your thinking from procedure volume to consumer share of wallet and loyalty
We know systemness is increasingly desired by consumers because transitioning care and information between providers create really frustrating (and ineffective) moments. As health systems continue to grow and cover more and more of the continuum of health, loyalty becomes key to minimizing leakage but also to provide maximum context for any single patient and that informs every level of care from urgent care to surgeries to LTPAC.

3.     Enable influencers to keep the conversation going
Your brand can only speak so many times before it becomes background noise. How do you leverage your natural community connections so that your brand positioning hits home? There is a simple answer, treat internal employees like the influencers they are. If you have a friend that is a doctor or a nurse, there is a good chance that they will be asked where someone should go. Give them the tools and insights about the quality of your health system’s own programs. If not, they can be just as easily influenced by competitor marketing as the consumers they are advising.

Building equity in your brand is not an easy assignment and it is ultimately a question of relevance since the value of your brand lies in what consumers believe about your organization. Remixes provide an opportunity to reach new audiences and reintroduce yourself to existing audiences time and time again, but every remix doesn’t have to be big.

So, find a great free beat and drop some refreshed campaigns. We’re betting it will be relevant to a whole new audience.

August 8, 2019
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