Welch nehlen groome

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Fly Paper Strategy

My first brand strategy was a career changer. I was at technology boutique called Welch Nehlen Groome, in Garden City, NY trying to introduce account planning to the advertising rigor. The client we were going after was ZDNet, a Ziff Davis property in the tech space. It began as a portal of all the Ziff Davis technology publications with a few interactive bells and whistles.

Our contact at ZDNet, Michael Della Penna, passed on a PowerPoint deck from a branding shop in San Francisco. The firm clearly understood branding I thought, because it had a cool name. Dog Bowl or Bath Water or some such. Once past the title page of the deck however, I noticed the group was all hat and no cattle. 80% of the paper was marko-babble. Or more specifically, brand-babble.

I don’t remember writing a deck to win the business. I remembered the brief. ZDNet had a good sense of their proof points; they were smart people, as techies often are.  They just didn’t get the poetry side of strategy – the claim side. Their brand planks were what they called the 3Cs: Content, Community and Commerce. ZDNet’s main competition at the time was C|Net, who matched up pretty well with the 3C.

The Brand Idea from the brief was “For Doers Not Browsers.” A strategic cherry and rational/emotional difference maker. We won the business and the CMO of all of Ziff companies called the paper strategy galvanizing (my word, it was a long tome ago).

I was hooked.

 

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When first working on the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System business I thought I was going to dislike the category. Now I’m a fan.  Perhaps I was conditioned to think healthcare was bad and unexciting because the ads were so bad.   My agency,  Welch Nehlen Groome, made recommendations to North Shore to manage the brand as if a consumer packaged good: land on a strategic idea, organized it, stick to it and use the it to manage the client. The approach paid off. In our market “Setting new standards in healthcare”- a promise every healthcare provide would aspire to – was better known than “the best cancer care anywhere” the promise of Memorial Sloan Kettering.

What turned me around on healthcare was the depth and complexity of the sell. It offered very fertile ground for connecting with consumers.  If you did your homework, you could hear great stories about the human condition. Talk about finding the pain?  Stories about relationships, e.g., caregiver, doctor patient, etc. Even stories about heroism.  Then there was the science side of the storytelling.  What the docs did. The role of diagnosis, R&D, the team.  Suffice it to say a lot of info could go into the making of an ad.

The Hospital For Special Surgery ran an ad in the NY Times today that is half brilliant. The headline is “Our doctors work hard to perfect joint replacement. Our scientists work hard to prevent them.” Buried in the copy are no less than 5 awesome stories waiting to be told —  waiting to convince people to jump in their cars to go to HSS. But the stories won’t be read; the headline was either written by a tyro or a beat down writer too busy to connect. Too busy to change or save a life.  When we get advertising right in the digital age, those five stories will be linked web videos. In print, they will be underlined and printed in blue to let readers know there is multimedia attached. When we get advertising right in the digital age, we will write headlines that jab us like a needle. Peace!

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sharing

When I worked on the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System business with Welch Nehlen Groome, system CEO Michael Dowling would meet every Monday morning with new employees and welcome them. The system employed about 30,000 people so Mr. Dowling had an opportunity to go really viral with his mission.

At face value the mission, embodied in the tagline “Setting New Standards in Healthcare,” didn’t sound like much.  Operationalized, it was a brand game-changer.

The brand planks supporting the strategy were unassailable and uniquely North Shore – creating tremendous wealth for the brand. Yet what was missing from the equation and where I didn’t do a good job as brand planner was getting senior management to acculturate the brand plan through the employee world. Had every Monday morning Mr. Dowling shared the brand strategy with his impressionable new employees, imagine how much stronger his brand would be today.

People think health systems are about saving money. Done correctly, they are about redistributing healthcare wealth (clinical and economic).  North Shore had a system for doing this.  It was, and is, its secret sauce.

All companies, big or small, need to share their unique brand strategies with employees. Otherwise, every employee at every company is driven by the same strategy: earn a paycheck.

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