Big risks, big rewards

When Nike made the controversial decision to feature Colin Kaepernick as the (literal) poster boy for its 30th Anniversary Just Do It campaign, it seemed like a risky move. With the buying public divided over Kaepernick’s protests, it seemed that Nike was risking losing the business of more than half of the country.

But that’s not what happened. In just three months, Nike reported record sales since the controversial campaign launched. So, what happened? Did Nike dodge a bullet? I don’t think so. I think Nike knew this move was likely to turn out well for them. Because they were doing what most successful advertisers do. They were tapping into the zeitgeist of the times in which we live. That’s an advertising strategy as old as the hills, and when it’s done well it’s a powerful brand building tool that’s hard for competitors to imitate.

What about in healthcare?

Sound out of reach for a regional health system? It’s not, and I can prove it. The ad below was launched in mid-2016, as the country was gearing up for a presidential election in which a misogynist was trying to anger-monger his way to victory over a much more qualified woman. Have a look.

The central concept of the ad is that the experience of being a woman is inherently different and in many ways, more difficult. With most leadership jobs (both governmental and business) firmly in the hands of men, women aren’t well represented at the top.

It seems like a bit of a risky ad, but when you understand its context you can see that it was, in fact, a calculated move. This ad was launched in the Capital Region of New York State, an area that nearly always votes blue. Knowing that, we could be pretty sure that the regional mood towards women’s rights was in our favor. Additionally, this ad is for one of the small handful of women’s hospitals left in the United States. That means our audience was even more heavily skewed towards women than the typical healthcare ad.

The risk paid off. On Facebook alone, the video was viewed 60,000 times and generated positive comments from people who applauded Ellis Medicine for stepping into this territory and saying something true and powerful. On YouTube, it’s the most viewed women’s health campaign on the Ellis Channel, generating more than 500% more views per year than previous women’s health advertising.

What will you add to the conversation?

Most healthcare providers are reluctant to get involved in cultural conversations. And I understand why. Without good strategy, a deep understanding of the worldview of your potential patients, and some good data to back up the decision, it is a risky move.
But for marketers who want to create ads that really succeed, that build brand value faster and longer, there’s no better way than to contribute a unique and honest point of view to the greater cultural conversation.