Affordable care act

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Yesterday’s post was about adherence to the brand strategy. A great brand strategy is the elixir for marketing success but compliance is the key.

In Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed piece in the NYT today he suggests paying Congress based upon Americans’ health. If healthcare gets better, they get paid more. The problem with healthcare, however, is also adherence. You can lead a grandpa to the medicine cabinet but you can make him medicate.

The way we mete out medicine and follow up with patients to insure compliance is an important part of the Affordable Care Act. Phone calls from docs, more office visits – a preventative approach – is how the ACA aims to improve compliance.  In brand strategy adherence, as I mentioned yesterday, a brand steward or brand compliance officer is a step in the right direction, but a companywide behavior change is even more profound. For that, as with congress, perhaps financial incentives are required. At least to prime the pump.  Long term, company growth will ultimately be the financial incentive.

Let’s incentivize compliance. It’s the American way.






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It is tough when you are in a business selling the second thing a customer wants.  That’s my business — the business of branding. 

Not a lot of marketing-savvy people wake up in the morning saying “My brand needs a better strategy.” Most people who find their way to a brand strategy firm understand an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” is a good thing to have. Anything that can codify “sales improvement” and “organizational operation” is a plus for business. No one disputes that. BUT. As fiction winter Peter Heller likes to say in his one-word sentences. But, it’s not the first thing marketers crave.

First, they want a website with a customer testimonial from the NY Jets.

Or a radio campaign like Winthrop University Hospital.

Or to be able to buy other physical therapy companies and assimilate them in 3 weeks.

Or to explain the value proposition of the Affordable Care Act and be the hero provider.

Or position competitive cybersecurity companies as device-centric.

If brand design or brand strategy helps them get there, all the better.  But it is the second thing, not the first.

And that’s the bane of brand work. It’s also why I love brand strategy.  Once I find the first thing I can sell the second thing. BAM.



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Readers know my branding equation has three variables: claim, proof planks and proof points. The Affordable Care Act has one primary goal: improve patient outcomes. The big honkin’ goal is to make America less sick. If it works, the cost of care will go down. America spends $18-19 of every $100 on healthcare. If we prevent disease we can cut that number substantially.

We are in year 2 of implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the CMS (Center for Medicare Services) and most other number-gatherers are hard-pressed to find evidence of improved population health. We have lots of claim little proof. I understand big data takes time, but frankly, I think we’re not looking hard enough.

Rather than spend hundreds of millions on web site usability, call centers, systems integrators and community outreach, can’t we cut off a piece of that pie and hire 100 data analysts whose sole mission is to quantify health improvements in communities with improved health services?

As more patients have access to physicians and more patients are educated in ways to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease the numbers will improve. Daily. We just have to turn loose some data nerds. The data is there – it’s probably at Aetna, Blue Cross and United Healthcare – we just have to find it. And publish it. And celebrate it.

We have the claim right, now it’s proof time. Peace.


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The Affordable Care Act is working. Reports suggest hospitals are seeing more patients pay for their care. The new focus on tests and meds and outcomes is making it so that projections of overall healthcare spending will slow way down over the next 15 years. The current 18-19% of our GDP going towards healthcare will be a relic of this new healthcare era. Why is this? Good use of big data.

If we can herd all the crazy cats that are the healthcare industry, why can’t we do the same in marketing? I once oversaw an ad photo shoot of a mint on a pillow that cost $30,000 plus. How can one TV spot cost a million, another $40,000? One agency charges a $345,000 monthly retainer, another $60,000 (for the same staffing and creative output). Clearly there is elasticity in pricing in the marketing business. But is anyone tying outputs to effectiveness? Certainly marketers say they are. But are they really? Are marketers using big data tools to track ROI?

Where is the Affordable Marketing Act? Who is watching out for costs and effectiveness? AAAAs? AMA? I McDoubt it. Google is one great big data tool and may at some point have a horse in this race, but it’s not happening now.

Someone needs to turn up big data in a big way to help address the madness that is unmeasured spending. The madness that supports John Wannamaker’s famous line “I know half my advertising is working, I just don’t know which half.” Peace.


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Claim and proof is a common discussion here at What’s the Idea?  Too much marketing is about claim and not enough about proof.  Get the claim right and prove it in an organized brand-centric manner and you will be a successful brand manager.

If you are a student of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you know that the claim is “better healthcare for Americans.”  With first year enrollment complete the proof counting has begun. Pro ACA people are looking for positive proof, anti-ACA peeps are looking for proof that care is worse. As we near mid-term elections the dems are going to be looking far and wide to tame all of the anti-sentiment about the roll out and the act itself.

Here are some of the pro proofs shared today:

          8 million Americans have signed up for insurance.

          128 million Americas with pre-existing health conditions are no longer in danger of losing their coverage

          105 million Americans do not have to worry about losing their lifetime cap on benefits

          8 million older Americans have saved $10B because of lower prescription drugs

One could argue that these figures are not explicit examples of healthcare improvement, e.g., lower flu numbers, reduced incidents of diabetes and improved cardiac outcomes, but it certainly implies such.

In the claim and proof marketing world, the ACA has only just begun its proof phase.  The group with the best, most compelling proof will win. Should be interesting.


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There’s a company here on Long Island named Hain Celestial.  Most know it for its line of teas. Today it is a consumer packaged goods company with wonderful focus. The result of wonderful leadership. The company sells many products in the natural and organic spaces. Space that are outperforming traditional food and drink by a full 10%.  Traditional (read not so good for you) food and beverages are growing 1%, while better for you are growing at 11%.

A spin-off of the craft economy is our attention to eating better.  Eating at home more, so as to better control foods that go into our bodies.  Less sodium. Less saturated fats. Less gov’t-subsidized high fructose corn syrup. Less genetically modified foods. It’s a movement, nee a spring.  A healthy food spring. (But God, I do love bacon.)

Hain Celestial is winning and spending and focusing on what a growing portion of the population wants. Better for you foods. As Irwin Simon, CEO of Hain said recently “Eating healthy is not a fad.”  

From a targeting point of view, those buying these products tend to be a little up market; able to afford the higher price point.  And this doesn’t bode well for lower income communities. Nutrition will and should be a building block of the Affordable Care Act. And of education reform.  And what grandmas pass down through the generations. Poor nutrition fuels the high cost of care in America.  

Keep an eye on Hain Celestial products.  This company will be the healthy P&G in a few years. Bank it. Peace.  


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The Affordable Car Act (JKJK), the Affordable Care Act, has an image problem.  Sure the govie website doesn’t work and sure the all the databases that feed the “accept” button are speak different languages — but that’s not atypical in the technology business. The problem is that the masses believe the beneficiaries of ACA are the poor. And that’s an image problem and inaccurate. I know people under economic pressure, without insurance, who would benefit greatly from the program. Some with preexisting medical conditions. One of these people is so anti-Obama, so anti-government that s/hey won’t look at the website. Image problem. Too angry, too proud, too too…

It doesn’t help that the gov’t has allowed the insurance service to be called ObamaCare rather than the Affordable Care Act.  And it doesn’t help that the image of the act is tied to serving the Medi-s (Care and Caid).  In the future, when this thing works (think dial-up service early on rather than broadband), we will have smarter, more efficient, more effective healthcare…in the most advanced country in the world. Not care ranked 23rd or whatever globally. Embarrassment, at that point in time, will come from the people who were gouging Americans for hip replacement devices, not people who shows a government (state or fed) insurance card.  

The government should have seen this coming,  I’m all for fixing the exchanges and the product experience, but maybe we should have dealt with the image up front; made this thing an aspirational American right, not a political football.  Peace.


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The power of brand.

Tomorrow, October 1st, is the first day of sign-ups for the new Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. It will be a messy day for those organizations new to the insurance business. Nay, new to the customer care business. Think of these insurance exchanges kind of as big new libraries where people can go, learn about, pay for, and sign up for new health insurance policies. Online. Continuing the metaphor, the places will not always be manned by librarians, the card catalog and book aisles won’t be well organized or complete and there will be a lot of people milling around, some semi-literate, some semi-informed.

Enter the brand.

bue cross blue shield

In 30 of our 50 states, there will be one health insurance brand that many people have heard of and trust: Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Even with over 150 policies – way too many – in the Blue Cross portfolio (variations by state) the Blue Cross name will carry the day. It is familiar, known for insurance and BIG. In the midst of all the confusion, it is also trusted. I’m not sure if it was the federal gov’t that made this happen or some smart people at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, but those decision makers understand the power of branding and delivered. Peace!

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