What’s Really Behind Hospital Advertising?

I have often wondered why hospitals believe “the statistics and awards game” is an effective strategy for their brand, marketing or advertising. Let’s face it, “number one” in this, and “more procedures” in that, seems like a losing battle…especially in the Philadelphia market (a.k.a. the birthplace of medicine).

We have award-winning hospitals that provide the latest and greatest healthcare has to offer—on practically every corner. So, I wonder how much of this “sameness” consumers can absorb before it reaches saturation and they simply tune it out?  When I think about the category, I become dizzy. Here’s a good example of what I mean.


But, I suppose if I were diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, I might change my tune. Then I ran across a Marketplace story reported by WHYY a few years ago. Turns out, a hospital can demand higher premiums from insurance companies based on how well they convince consumers they offer the best specialists, procedures or technologies.

WHYY went on to explain: Everyone wants the peace-of-mind hospitals are selling. Hospitals know the more they can make you love them, trust them, hope in them, the harder they can come down on your insurance company for higher premiums.

The other interesting dynamic is the awards piece. Did you ever wonder what US News & World Reports gets out of this? Well in 2012, they will publish 392,000 of their Best Hospitals edition at $5.99 each. According to my math that’s $2,348,080 in gross sales. Not to mention the revenue generated by provide “opportunities” for hospitals to enhance their reputation and visibility through U.S. News, which I am sure far exceeds the measly 2.3M generated by the special edition.

At the end of the day, healthcare is a business, and it has to make money. So, they throw their awards and statistics at you, offer as many treatment options as possible, and tap into your fear of death. Violà. More patients. Higher premiums. Greater revenue.

I now have a much better understanding of why most hospital brands are so challenged…the “revenue” model leaves little room for differentiation. But, fear not, my friends, there are some hospital brands that manage to do both: make money and create stand out campaigns. Kudos.