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Author: Rick Shaughnessy


18 Jul Why “Brand Purpose” Today Must be Different

In developed markets, the scarcest commodity is not water or food, it’s someone’s attention.  We’re bombarded by on average, 5,000+ advertisements and brand exposures per day depending on one’s media consumption habbits1.  These aren’t just ads – but passing by labels in a grocery store for example or the fact that Facebook has 50 minutes of your time each day and is game for more. Using the broader calculation of what constitutes advertising, such as viewing the label of a brand in a grocery store, the figure grows exponentially to 20,000+ exposures. Interestingly, the average number of “ads only” that deliver engagement equates to 12. Statistically, that’s an incredibly poor rate of return on advertising and brand performance.

So how do brands fit into the consumer equation today?  The branding establishment is grounded in the basis of how a brand differentiates a company or product from a defined competitive set of companies and/or products.  It’s a classic dictum:  To audience W, brand X is Y and supported by Z1, Z2, Z3.  And it’s not wrong. The company or product does need to understand its alignment and relationships within a market space.  Having said this, what we find interesting is that in this age of internet of things (IoT) that people are forgoing products and instead increasingly buying experiences.

Also important is that people are more comfortable with the interconnectivity of experiences – that everything is connected to other things – to make occasions more anticipatory, intuitive and rich with other machines and other people.  So what separates a brand in positioning is probably less important that what brings people and things together in a collective experience.  For example: whether your Nike + syncs correctly with your phone and whether you’re able to connect with a running group this morning, matters immensely and represents the collective value of the brand experience.

In today’s world, the brands that scream the loudest will no longer command the most attention; the ones that offer useful information or things, such as seamless cross device integration, will instead.  In our business, we advocate and construct brands to foster co-participation between people and companies in a shared narrative theme that drive multiple story opportunities.  The themes derived are themes of participation and connection, not differentiation and separation.  And the stories generated are for story’s sake, providing information and utility, value and authenticity, not the “bait and switch” of sponsored or even native content for example.  If a company can provide something useful and facilitate a great experience, there’s reason for a person to reward the company with his/ her attention.

Perhaps more important, based on significant research for well recognized brands, we’re typically able to uncover larger themes of participation that ladder back to a company’s established and entrenched attributes. We never advocate abandoning brand attributes or positioning but note that there are certain themes that foster participation over others. Ultimately, the purpose of a “brand” must be to foster connectivity between the desired outcomes, community of advocates and the experience. We’ll leave you with a few names of companies that achieved success in redefining the purpose of a brand vs. well entrenched competitors.

Brand Comparison

In the end, if you look at your own brand through this lens, the questions you have to ask yourself are quite simple. What is the purpose of our brand and do we connect the experience of the brand to the desired behavior in a way that’s uniquely ownable?

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

1Source: 9/14 Media Dynamics, Inc.

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black leather doctor's bag with stethoscope hanging out

09 Mar An Approach to Content: Healthcare’s Next Big Need

For a long time, healthcare direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC advertising) mimicked its counterparts on the consumer side of the aisle.  DTC healthcare advertising worked and still works in the duopoly of print and television.  It’s a broadcast first approach that leads the efforts and spend with collateral while having key opinion leaders follow behind to target providers.

Up until recently, this approach to reach the health consumer felt normal and in step with other brands across a variety of categories.  All that has changed.  Non healthcare brands have adopted their means of reaching consumers and are riding the wave of socially powered, omnichannel and on demand marketing.  There is no longer only TV and print.  Add to that, four social platform programs, a story world app, detailed analytics based email, over the top (OTT), which is content distribution across the Internet without the need for traditional networks and multi-channel event opportunities – you get the idea.

Increasingly, healthcare advertising and DTC healthcare advertising looks and feels out of step to the health consumer.  The conversations with healthcare brands aren’t behaving the same way as non healthcare brands when people are considering a particular drug therapy, insurer, or provider.   This is being combined with a change in the very nature of the health care business; the shift from volume to value, from sickness and treatment to health and wellness. The notion of “population health” has put the consumer at the center of a traditionally fragmented ecosystem and consumer behavior is becoming the binding force.

Non healthcare brands have followed consumer behavior and gone from having a digital strategy to strategies for a digital world.  Most of this new world is powered by various forms of content in a flow that’s continually optimized to reach various targeted consumers in their lives; a way that provides a return on attention for brand and business goals. As health systems are now incentivized and rewarded based on how consumers behave in their daily lives, outside of hospital boundaries, we think its time to really look at the way content plays a role in this future.  A properly designed publishing plan can shift marketing from big television to data-driven, always-on digital engagement that influences behavioral change.

Going from campaigns to always listening and communication takes serious work.  Our team has been working in highly regulated industries and helped to design publishing systems that take into consideration the regulatory and company compliance guidelines.  HIPPA compliance and medical regulations are comprehensive but there are ways to work through these environments, to find new always-on systems of health consumer engagement.

In healthcare there is no purchase funnel. The health consumer could jump from being a completely passive and healthy individual to a patient looking for the best doctor, the best hospital, and numerous kinds of treatment therapies in a flash. And there’s the flip scenario, where this same consumer could be in a state of awareness and proactive health management for a very long time before the need for any part of the health system arises.

We see a future where timely, relevant information coordinated across media channels and formats is seen less as “marketing” and more as an integral part of a therapeutic offering of the patient engagement with a doctor or hospital.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner


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22 Feb The VR Maker’s Guide for Marketers

Establishing Context

Virtual Reality, (VR)  involves a powerful approach to storytelling and sharing that can create immersive experiences for viewers.  So, what’s new about VR in 2016?

  • Mass distribution capabilities (Samsung’s Gear, HTC’s Vive, Oculus VR – acquired by Facebook)
  • Inexpensive VR viewing tools such as Google Cardboard
  • Better optics, better controls, better spatial audio
  • A burgeoning ecosystem of hardware (cameras, game consoles, exercise equipment, etc.)
  • Volume and quality of content being produced – driving adoption


Developing a Strategy

Thinking about VR as a marketing solution, beyond the “gee whiz” newness factor, ladders up to two approaches (note: if you are creating a digital game-like world, additional options exist).  One is where you are trying to change perceptions about someone or something, driving real understanding of that particular situation for a viewer. The other is to provide a more tangible, palpable, feel-able sense of place in a location or environment.  They can both be combined (and are in the former) to work together. The key is to understand your product or service as it relates to the experience of VR. If it can be accomplished in a linear format of traditional video, then VR probably isn’t the right format, nor the right investment for the projected rate of return.

Creating Story Lines

Story lines are absolutely critical in VR – yes, there important in any video format, but significantly more important in VR. Without an effective story line, the power of 360 degrees can become confusing and overwhelming to the viewer. Think of VR without a story line as you would a movie without a linear plot – the end coming in the middle and the middle being the start – incredibly confusing. With this in mind, let’s move on to what’s needed in order to make a story line effective in VR. Story lines must include these tenants:

  • Leave your world and visit theirs
  • Twist perceptions in an unanticipated direction
  • Make something be at stake if you can, create struggle to participate
  • Have the story do the work without relying on supers


Through each of these tenants the brand acts as an ancillary participant – a part of their life, a part of the total experience, yet not the focal point.

VR is going to be the “most social platform. It's the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want.” - Mark Zuckerberg.

Facilitating Empathy Creation

If you are looking for a way to create real emotional triggers and desired responses / outcomes, placing a viewer right in the middle of the action where they feel as though they’re truly a part of it – then VR is a powerful medium.

Creating the Experience: Staging, Blocking and Shooting

For those who haven’t experienced VR production, linear films are, by their very nature of cuts and camera angles, a non-linear filmmaking process.  VR is more like staging a sequence of small plays. In these small plays natural or choreographed action can and does happen all around the camera.  The multi-lens camera rig placement is critical because it places principal and secondary action in a proximity perspective for the viewer and offers guidance to the weighting and emphasis of the scene. If you’ve overseen linear video production, your first VR shoot will be a learning experience – one that forces you to change conventional wisdom.


The Post Production Process

There really is very little visual editing in VR sequences, only “in” and “out” points of the sequence.  The only time visual editing is used is in fades between sequences for connection.  However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include time for post-production work. There is a need to stitch all of the footage together from each camera, which is both an art and a science. It’s also critical to determine how you want to reinforce key emotive events (e.g. a super of a thread from Snapchat with a teenager in their room). From a sound editing perspective, music is important as a driver in scenes, but not so much to affect or cue a mood, the visual experience and voice does plenty.  Using 360 sound rigging is a worthwhile investment because it enhances placement and perspective/distance for what the viewer is seeing.

We’ve recently completed 5 VR shoots and the viewer feedback surveys have been absolutely “off the charts.” If you’re contemplating VR, ask yourself how the experience will impact the viewer and what your desired outcomes are. If they can be accomplished by other means, then it’s worth reviewing the approach in order to take advantage of all this medium has to offer.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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Two attractive women walking in a big city centre at night

08 Dec Elements of Journey Mapping

If you’re attempting to map patient experiences over time in a way that extends to “tactical” planning, you’re going to need to make sure you include:


Primary Roles: This one is pretty obvious, identifying who is involved in the most critical aspects of the journey over the time period you are mapping.

Environment: Really understanding where things happen plays a greater roll than just a surface level description. For example, when mapping for cancer patients community hospitals are significantly different that university centers in terms of treatment workflow.

Needs/Behaviors: Here we’re identifying what the patient needs at a point in time and what behaviors they are exhibiting. We’re also identifying desired end-state behaviors over time that we expect to occur.

Narrative: This is different than most experience design maps. We, as humans, all participate in the story we call our life. And each of us are conditioned to understand story as an organizing principle. So in patient journey mapping you must look to major narrative arcs like the hero’s journey, destroying the monster, rags to riches, etc. – things we know and understand as a framing device to lay over the journey/experience chronicled. It helps to make sense of the flow.

Circle of Influencers: Map friends, relatives, co-workers, social influencers, etc. as a significant component of what can impact parts of the journey over time. Accounting for these points of influence can better describe particular aspects and actions of the journey.

Content: The types of content assets people consume provides insight into their state of mind. And that’s not just the subject, it should include format and device. It also provides us with an opportunity to examine what else can be provided in a timely and contextually relevant format.

Once you’ve mapped this out you can begin to look at patients more like participants in life. Remember, people don’t live to achieve a desired task of a brand. People seek meaning and value in their lives. Once we understand how people are living we can then use this information to better understand what they really want and ultimately need. In the end, delivering meaningful stories/information to them in the right format at the right place and time, not “selling”, not “advertising”, but simply adding value to their journey.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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Students in a class seen on the back

09 Nov The Power of Empathy

Empathy is a soft metric, but an important way to think about human behavior and motivation. The word comes from the Greek em – in, pathos – passion or suffering. Empathy is by definition the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathy is different than sympathy. When somebody feels sympathy for another person it means they can identify with certain feelings the other person may be feeling. Empathy differs from sympathy because it means being able to share the whole experience of another individual. Sympathy is more about feeling sorry for someone, while empathy is about trying to understand what it is they are going through. Unlike personal distress, empathy is not characterized by aversion to another’s emotional response.

This ability to feel what others are going through has been seen in neuroscience research. First in the discovery of mirror neurons and claims that these neurons, which fire both when the individual performs an action and when it observes its execution by others.1  There have also been observational studies that demonstrate that empathy recruits similar neural networks as the direct experience of the emotion one is showing to another individual2. In other words, we are able to understand and share the emotions of others by, (partially) processing them with our very own emotion system(s). And there is a spontaneous sharing of affect or emotional impact provoked by witnessing and sympathizing with another’s emotional state that is also consequently pro-social or altruistic in action.

Trade has partnered with a health education company as they work to recognize and plan for empathy as a behavior change driver. This health education company has accomplished this through small-group working sessions that cover topics like medications, health condition monitoring and healthy eating. Topics have included:

  • Examining common myths and facts about a condition and how it affects the body
  • Strategies for managing conditions and reviews of various medications available
  • How to perform tests, interpret results and create plans of action based on those results
  • Healthy eating and diet
  • Staying active and exercise


In group sessions, shared empathy though shared story happens. Group discussion helps overcome stress, vulnerability and helplessness of what might have been considered a solitary condition based existence. In a group discussion, bonds are forged and people are influenced, sometimes deeply, by others acceptance, feedback and related stories. It’s a trust that’s based on shared circumstance and similar themes or experiences. Threats become shared. I becomes “we.” The personal sense of resource availability is also expanded.

The question always arises about using the internet as a support group tool. There are a variety of support groups and conversations about health conditions happening all the time online. The internet medium and designed guided response can drive empathetic behavior through time shifted shared story. This is much like any good story – when you read it the story taps into an empathetic response. Although there is something to the time commitment required for in-person that suggests people willing to drive to and from a location may want to get more out of it. Yet as societal norms become more digitally enabled, so to will forms of patient support. This holds especially true as those comfortable with digital living, while not native to it, age into ongoing health condition management.

We live in a world now where these little things really do matter. Each encounter, no matter how brief, is a micro interaction that makes a deposit or withdrawal from our subconscious. Whether that interaction can tap into powerful empathetic response is a function of story and design. The sum of these interactions and encounters adds up to how we relate to our health condition and should also add up to how we feel about a particular product, brand or service that claims to help us.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

1 Singer

Preston, de Waal

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Healthcare Gamification

08 Sep Gaming Healthcare

One’s health isn’t a game. However, some of the most effective learning has a gaming component, but you have to think beyond World of Warcraft. Think about the fact that you are building a system of patient engagement. This is a system built to serve patients, providers and system partners. Smart phones, tablets as well as analog media and events can enable these engagements. And the events within the engagements are focused on “in-the-moment” tasks learning.

To make it successful, you have to deliver to individuals, personalized context. In today’s data intensive healthcare environment, using a combination of data, coupled with predictive models and outcomes, aligned to behaviors measured through digital platforms drives these gamified experiences. Using data as the core of a gamified experience, the depth, breadth and relationship of the experience to the individual changes over time, delivering more effective outcomes.

Game mechanics work because there is an achievement of ROAI – a return on attention investment – for the individual. Game frameworks solve learning challenges. Start with defined expectations for activity that are presented in a clear way. There are the familiar cues that come with game play, the genres, the familiar game player story arcs, even the characters, they all drive people to engage with the game structure. This engagement is also where people derive satisfaction in their participation and feel a sense of accomplishment when successfully completing assigned activities and tasks. And if the engagement is going well, there’s opportunity to move an invested audience even deeper into a gamified experience and help the audience to share and draw in others’ experiences.

Gamification - Healthcare_Fotor

In healthcare game structure, we looked at the patient needs across a sense of control, feeling or finding hope, subjective loneliness and finding some kind of resolution and meaning. We also review the business case of brand ask or as a second line ask, the classic adherence problem, working through a drug’s adverse effects and the cost coverage issues. In healthcare, it’s important to note that making the business goals the game objective usually ends less successfully. It’s hard to make lower A1C’s the objective. The goal has to be the behavior you’re creating. If you create the right behavior, the outcome will be your business goal – not the other way around.

For chronic conditions, we have found that the most successful game design structure must make patients feel knowledgeable because, unfortunately, good information is harder to find than it should be. Making people willing to act involves having the right information in the right context. Enabling a person’s determination involves bringing forward a person’s sense of empowerment-based knowledge. Support is often ill defined and underutilized so finding ways to harness what is largely untapped is important. And success involves helping a person find a way to whatever a “normal” life may be and the meaning in that life. This provides a backbone.

In our work helping design patient education architectures for a patient health engagement company, we experienced the power and limitations of analog group session. There is nothing quite like the moment of in-person, shared empathy between people, especially over a shared chronic condition they’re facing. It’s why programs such as AA work so successfully. There’s a wealth of information passed around and along in patient advocacy groups but the sharing is mostly an oral tradition and not aggregated. There’s also confinement to specific time and place. We see logistical deployment of these programs at scale continues to be limited by costs and the overall perceived lack of interim steps and associated outcomes, which are available via game mechanics.

On the other hand a person can be deeply influenced by someone just like themself and their feedback Turning this into a primarily digitally enabled gamified experience has some conditions. First it has to be the right audience that is already using digital platforms for social participation. There has to be a “want” within the particular condition community for connection through advocacy groups or with healthcare professionals in ways not possible or convenient today – they have to want to participate and come together over shared circumstance. And there has to be the courage on the pharmaceutical, insurance provider or hospital network to fund exploration and development.

Creating game structure can create empowered patients. The threat of the condition becomes shared, “I” becomes “We” and the sense of resource availability is expanded. All through learning to change behaviors through means that are approachable and even enjoyable.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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Patient Journey - Diabetes

05 Aug After the Journey Mapping – Now What?

So you’ve completed a process that maps a particular set of patients’ experiences through a system of care. Some things were expected. Some things may have been surprising. Either way, it has the potential to be a very powerful research output. And it should be a starting point.

There are usually three potential next steps that follow the creation of patient journey maps. These include:


There are only two reasons to open up completed patient journey mapping (okay there’s more than two but let’s assume you have a good research product). One reason some of the experiences may need more vetting – for example, we defined seven key experiences, each with two to five events and multiple communications tools leading to numerous combinations in starting a turnkey obesity treatment practice. And that’s not including the EMR and coding. All this illustrates is that there may be a need to do more work looking into a specific sequence and workflow. The other area might be looking at the raw date from the journey map in a different way – layering journey mapping with behavioral economic drivers and design thinking. Both of these cuts of the data usually drive at greater insights from observed activity to improve next steps.

Communication to Participation

One of the critical next steps post journey goes beyond defining touch points. While important, touch points suggest an inside company out to health consumer approach. What to look for is less about where it’s convenient to communicate and more about where people are already participating in the health conversation we want to have with them. There are high-level points of empowerment where conversations are occurring across the patient perspective. What can be uncovered includes participation themes like better condition understanding, connection to others with same condition, organized condition support and life’s meaning after adverse events among others. Within these themes are specific topics and experiences that a company can meaningfully listen, participate in or lead the conversation with a health consumer.

Experiences: Detours on the journey

In research there is always a moment in a journey mapping exercise where you want to understand if you’ve covered it all. And that’s just it. You’ve covered the known, observable behaviors within a system of, in this case, health. The answer to the changes in attitude or behavior you’re seeking might in fact lie outside of documented touch points, in the interval between touches within the system. And on top of that, the touch point may need to be created to fit into an existing human workflow. Take for example a provider and patient dialog around obesity, now reimbursable education in the US. This dialog did not exist before, beyond doctor mentions of “doing something about that weight” to a patient. Now there can be an experience inserted into an exam room visit that reinforces obesity as a medical condition, gives the doctor control and helps the patient take ownership of the condition.

Journey mapping is a valuable tool. But in many cases it should be looked at as a mid point and not an end point.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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Much has been written and spoken about a person’s behavior and its impact on chronic disease. It is one of the major socio-economic opportunities of our time. It seems so simple; changing or breaking bad habits and creating better, healthier, new habits. Like most things, easier said than done. Yet, the facts are right there. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health1 say behaviors account for 50% of the factors contributing to health and 40% of the factors contributing to premature deaths.

08 Jul Chronic Disease and the Hero’s Story

Much has been written and spoken about a person’s behavior and its impact on chronic disease. It is one of the major socio-economic opportunities of our time. It seems so simple; changing or breaking bad habits and creating better, healthier, new habits. Like most things, easier said than done. Yet, the facts are right there. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health1 say behaviors account for 50% of the factors contributing to health and 40% of the factors contributing to premature deaths.

There are many forces that establish bad habits, some out of our control. Ask any dietician or diabetes educator regarding diabetes type 2 behaviors and they will rattle off a list that includes big agriculture corn syrup to false expectations set on Biggest Loser and cultural biases that impede change in African American and Hispanic communities. This bad behavior has significant costs. For example, an American Diabetes Association study2 calculated a healthy person’s annual medical costs at approximately $2,500, a person with diabetes at $13,700 and if the person has diabetes and cardiovascular problems (as 74% of diabetics do) the cost is $44,500.

Changing behavior for the long-term requires the right kind of cognitive programs to be in place for success. Often this goes beyond a person’s visit to a doctor or specialist for a quick consult accompanied by a prescription. People need to be guided to and through their own behavior change process. Is this society’s role? Probably not. One could argue it is society’s role to stop blaming the chronically obese diabetic or heart disease patient for their condition. Instead, we need to look more at Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey,  because if these people are going to change, we need to understand that framework as the path forward.

Modifying the classic model in summary, answering the call becomes “I will change to improve my condition.” Tests and allies become “Who can help me?” and situations that challenge resolve. Ordeal, death and rebirth include relapse to bad behavior and situations where all looks lost to a person with a chronic condition. Reward, seizing the sword then becomes “I have things I do that are working.”   The road back is the never-ending road to maintain the best current health state, using tools that will help the person stay on the hero’s path.

What we’ve found through our work is that you can create a platform that enables the hero’s journey for people with chronic conditions digitally using storytelling and sharing.

We have found that to change, people need:

  1. Better understanding of what’s going on with their body
  2. Control, or a sense of control over their condition
  3. Support in a way that is organized
  4. Connection to others with the same condition
  5. Resolution to situations and challenges that occur
  6. Meaning in what life is now after fundamental change

To meet these kinds of needs, we’ve developed approaches that can enable the journey through:

  1. Resource libraries and links to the latest research and findings after diagnosis
  2. Discussion guides that help people ask the right questions of their doctors
  3. Curated guides by the those with the disease / ailment that are most social and include special situations and advice (braid your long hair before this type of surgery)
  4. Shared stories that allow people to post and share their journeys and find resolution in their lives
  5. Tracking tools with links to the right sets of resources that get people back to living


Sometimes these programs already exist in pieces in large health care organizations and need to be knitted together. In other situations, it becomes the role of large pharmaceutical or insurance companies to support these additional service efforts in lieu of advertising spend. Regardless, a hero’s journey needs to be structured and supported. It takes organized encouragement and support from friends and family and an understanding from society at large.


Source: 1;

2 American Diabetes Association / Health Partners

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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26 Jun The Digital Evolution of the Patient Journey

The healthcare system is big on patient journeys (or journey mapping or any other number of names). These are basically used to record patients describing their interactions with care providers, specialists and the hospital system. This research has been useful in knowing what drives patient sentiment and what else may drive the primary care or specialist prescription writing over time.

On top of this are the branded and unbranded marketing organizations at pharmaceutical companies, the marketing done at hospital networks and insurance companies. Their goals respectively include:

  • Prescription volume
  • Patient volume at lower costs of care
  • Improved customer service at a lower cost of care

Now add to it all a world that has become customer centric. In every other category, people are being given what they want or need, from entertainment to products, whenever they desire. New expectations for service delivery are being established outside of healthcare.

What’s becoming clear (or at least clearer) in healthcare is that the traditional silo based and “dictatorial” advertising approach of old, while it may have hard or soft numbers backing it, is out of synch with how Gen X on down are consuming information and making decisions. Enter the humble patient journey map. Now with the potential to be transformed into a more useful tool for health care organizations and their marketing services agencies.

This is an evolution in both form and purpose. Start by reframing the idea of patient as a health consumer. A healthcare company objective at the most fundamental level needs to evolve from basic economic transactions with their health consumer. Some kind of relationship to the parties within the healthcare value chain (e.g. providers, health consumer, HR executives, C-suite number crunchers) needs to be formed. We see the evolved journey map as a way for brands to identify and define additional worth for consumers in ways that can be differentiated by how products and services deliver value through human contact and use. By using quant and qual research methods to focus on the improvement of particular health experiences inside and outside of the healthcare system and applying design, science and theory to deliver it, patient care can be fundamentally impacted.

This additional worth can impact any particular point in a patient journey in a number of ways. Is it the right duration and are we initiating, continuing or concluding? Is it the right intensity born out of reflex, habit or something new? Should the interactions be passive, active or interactive and what are the triggers in senses or symbols? And is their meaning and significance embedded in this point that needs to be considered? Does the organization have a regulatory ability to contact a health consumer frequently with new and compelling information?

To get there requires fieldwork to define the journey and its architecture. Then one can work on a particular point in the journey (e.g. ER discharge or health plan enrollment) or within the entire sequence. What begins to emerge is an evolved patient journey, more of what is a human experience, designed in current and desired states with links to corresponding healthcare organization operations. Underpinning this can be a narrative storytelling engine of variable frequency.

It is from these new journey/experience exercises that opportunity planning can arise. And this kind of planning can unlock what were undiscovered or seemingly unimportant points in a person’s interactions with a particular player in the healthcare ecosystem. These points then guide channel based communications activities with the potential for significant improvement in results.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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18 May Effective Content Marketing – Part 2 of 2

3 Steps: Readiness, Relevance and Results

In readiness, we are thinking about how an organization becomes truly fit and ready to manage content marketing efforts. This is an assessment of capabilities and some kind of roadmap forward regarding opportunities and improvements if there is an appetite. Readiness usually impacts technology platforms, governance models and sometimes changes to how an organization operates. Stories are different than ads. They may take a different structure.

For relevance, we’re focused on publishing what’s valuable based on known behaviors and need states as well as context. What’s going on here is almost folding a direct response work todays responsiveness into an editorial plan that’s aligned to aforementioned themes and place in lifecycle. This also takes a governance structure organized to act quickly on real time or near real time measurement data.

Results are really about improving performance of multiple points in market. Not all individual results will be stellar when you press Go. Have the right measurement models in place that help understand performance of themes, stories and media channels. This allows for optimizing each story topic, theme and digital destination based on effectiveness and waste.

Assessment Workshops

The way we benchmark performance is to break story organizations down into operating components: storytelling, contextual planning, multi-platform publishing, technology integration, governance and data.

Evaluating storytelling means we are looking at theme design and stories as sharable conversation. It’s about how well the editorial calendar aligns to human intent and business goals. There should also be a review of the rapid ideation and visual storytelling capabilities.

Contextual planning looks at how well the human experience and interaction with brands is understood. This is about how well the persona is crafted as a story consuming human. There is a review of the experiences, has participation been defined and to what end.

For us, multi-platform publishing is more than  the CMS. We look for an omni-channel editorial calendar with clear roles for each touch point defined. There is a wish to see an editorial planning that’s merged with traditional media amplifying paid as well as driving earned and owned media efforts.

Technology is evaluating your stack across the whole workflow. The generative side includes content managing and publishing as well as editorial asset tag management and flow throw a system. On the measurement side, we’re looking for the right mix of cross channel analytics for your business performance.

In governance we look at the rules and people behind the operations. How stringent is your editorial policy; how many reviews by whom? How fast can you react to an event in the world that impacts your organization – minutes, hours, days – and is this the same for social? In the end, it’s a right resource and capacity management review.

All of this is nothing without data measurement. Listening and monitoring tools assess performance are key. From that data how fast can the organization optimize around positive data sets. And then can we actually quantify monetization of certain assets and artifacts created.

Every day the game changes. Twenty percent of searches on Google are brand new phrases. Organizing by story, adding a story layer that knits together new platforms, content providers, and brand communications with themes will keep you relevant and motivate people you are interested in having a relationship with.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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18 May Effective Content Marketing – Part 1 of 2

How is this whole content thing actually working out?

Almost all of us are doing it now. The Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2015 report showed that 83 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing. They also reported in their B2C Content Marketing 2015 report that 77 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing. And 70 percent of marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago with more than half saying they’ll increase spending over the next 12 months.

So how do we know what we’re doing is working? What side of the following reporting do you fall on? It turns out that 49 percent of B2B marketers and 51 percent of B2C marketers are challenged in their measurement of content engagement. We can tell what they viewed, read or registered for to download. We can see visitor numbers, time on site and traffic. But we need to understand more.

Creating and producing engaging content is a perennial challenge for marketers with half the B2C marketers saying so. B2B marketers rank high quality content creation as a top challenge. We can concept and ideate. We can listicle, infographic design, make videos or produce long form pieces with all of the above, but we need to do it better.

Effectiveness Checklist

How do we know what good is or, more important, what good will be? How can we see it in the data? It’s doable. It’s a process.

Start by answering the right questions. Who are we doing this for? We need to understand our audience as a story consuming human, an archetype. Not a demographic, just the people that share trying to find meaning and value through content about health, finances, family, leisure time or the future. Where does your story meet them?

Why are we doing it? Is this attached to a hard business goal like lowering acquisition costs? Why we are doing it determines the types of content and places of participation within the customer relationship cycle. Some content can be better in pre-commerce, some during light or serious consideration and other content near the purchase decision. Having the right data can help make that determination.

How are we making it engaging? Are we riffing on ad copy? Engagement is related to what’s searched, what’s observed. It’s different. It’s a brand derivative story, not so positioning specific. In story, the highest order of storytelling is theme. What we’re reviewing is the observable data of story or content preference and laddering that up to thematic ideas. After the theme comes the topic generation and ways to measure performance that can take the shape of an editorial calendar.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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07 May Adding Story Layers to Events

In the age of time-shifted experiences, it can be challenging to get the most out of the substantial marketing dollars invested in consumer experiences at large events. These dollars are going mostly toward the non-time-shifted (have to see it in person) kind of experiences, so marketers must find new ways to create memorable interactions.

There is an opportunity to add layers of story to an event. The idea is to use story as a way to activate and enhance places and events with mobile and social technologies. These story frameworks can extend your company’s event experience with new kinds of topics and behaviors that help achieve marketing goals.

Think about human flow through an event and what else people may want to do. In its simplest terms, events can be divided into pre, during, and post phases of time. In the pre-phase, people may want to learn more about your products, share information with friends, or invite them or participate in more exclusive packages. During an event, people will share information they found or interact with the event using digital tools. Post event, people share more stories and images and often memorialize their participation, send feedback to organizers or continue on a journey built by the event or brand itself.

What’s needed is a platform/service designed for an organization to infuse events and experiences with more connective and relevant stories/content to increase consumer dwell time, which can take many forms. On one end it could be a small newsgathering and publishing organization that “covers” the event. On the other end it could be a story that drives one creatively through multiple media, organically embedding story experiences, like Oculus Rift, in the event itself. Both are valid and can become almost a white label offering that can be customized for each event season to compliment core experiences in a way that drives differentiation and on-site conversion.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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09 Mar Event + Story

Is it finally time to reimagine event experiences as less a one-off linear occurrence? It would seem so. A traditional event production objective, especially at the behest of brands, normally puts someone into direct interaction with a product in some way. The power of event, and it is powerful, lies in its ability to basically bring forth a product value proposition in a low distraction and non-time-shifted or shift-able linear experience. A compelling moment in time for all parties so to speak. Think VIP list with a dope DJ for a new spirit launch, the racetrack test drive for an auto or VR goggles of extreme adventure for an outdoor company field marketing.

These kinds of events have utilized other media, be it social, publishing, even paid advertising and light technology for lead management in a support role. The function of these media blog post, tweets, ads, placed stories or new databases has been to market the event. So in this construct, the event and its unique contents have traditionally been treated as a separate entity. A new “product/experience” to be marketed, something to attend for any number of reasons, within one or many of the above mentioned forms of communication.

From a narrative perspective, you’re still generating another story about a “product/experience” and trying to reach people to attend. What’s sometimes lost is the reason we’re having the event – the brand itself. The event, the brand it’s driving engagement for, and the marketing of the event are all from the same company to the attendee. The brand or product is the important part. Participation in the story has been separated between the event and the marketing of it.

We see it a little differently. These consumers are people living their lives. They have life and experiences pre event, during the event and post event. Event attendance is not the sole reason for their existence. What we’re working on at Trade is how to connect pre and post experiences to the event experience within a larger thematic that allows people to participate along a continuum. This can be done through well-structured ideas that exist over time and output sitting on appropriate technology platforms.

In a practical execution, it means pulling a narrative layer of story and meaning through both marketing and event, tying them together for better results. That’s what then drives all experience points of participation pre, during and post event. The event itself, how you find out about and what you do afterward, should all be part of the same ongoing narrative, be it education, edutainment or pure entertainment. This narrative relates back to the actual brand/product value proposition or attributes in a direct way or more than likely, an adjacent way.

What we’re suggesting is to do a little bit more borrowing from the immersive story worlds created for entertainment (think The Matrix). They drive their product, the entertainment story, across all forms of media in a participative structure (in this case multiple features, web properties and a videogame). It does require thinking about the product, the event and the story as a whole versus one set of things built only to market another – and that other really isn’t even the product itself and a transaction but an event. Think about supporting a spirits launch through an ongoing narrative that also connects it to regional on and off premise accounts or knitting together auto brand attributes with narrative that connects shows to ride/drives and the dealer in a meaningful way. It requires cooperation. It requires commitment. In the end, various marketing functions in event and around event become a larger participation architecture that moves people to a desired business outcome in a way that people can experience on their terms. It’s about time.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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02 Mar Think different to stay relevant

In 1997, Apple told us all to “Think Different” and they have certainly been practicing what they preach. Did you accept their challenge? My guess is probably not. There aren’t a lot of people who love change. And many have a hard time figuring out what different actually looks like. Not to mention, thinking different usually equates to taking risks, and well, that’s just plain risky for most of us. Especially if you’re a marketing executive who feels like your strategy is working.

What if, though, by making minor tweaks to your marketing strategy, you could create deeper meaning and stronger relationships for your brand? Would you consider looking at your strategy differently? Sure, your ad buys are solid and social media is top of mind with an aggressive plan in place to increase followers. But have you thought about those followers and who they really are? Are you converting them from followers to brand loyalists? Do you understand their personal narratives and how your brand narrative fits in with theirs?

Last summer, Levi’s took their brand to the next level and opened temporary workspaces in Brooklyn, LA and London. The pop-up commuter spots, with a bicycle focus, complemented their bike commuter line of clothing, and offered free wi-fi and workspace, as well as bicycle tune-ups and tailoring services for Levi’s apparel.

Many brands take their marketing to the next level by creating online magazines and blogs to not only promote their products, but also create a community for their consumers. H&M Life, an online magazine, resides within the mega retailer’s website as the editorial arm of H&M. The publisher promises to give you “daily updates and inspiration from all over the world.” They even have H&M playlists in Spotify you can follow to hear what they are playing in their stores. The H&M brand is now more than just a clothing store.

Red Bull knows how to get a consumer’s attention and create loyalists. They have become a powerhouse publisher, making films, championing extreme sports long before most brands considered it, and some might say they are community builders. Did I mention they make an energy drink? And it’s the most popular energy drink in the world.

In this fickle day and age, thinking differently isn’t a challenge; it’s a necessity if you want to stay current and relevant. Consumers are requiring brands to keep up with their fast-paced lives, new gadgets and favorite trends. Most want brands to understand who they are and what they want – and the more organic and less invasive it feels, the better. Social media has made people want to feel like friends with their favorite brands, not targets for companies to push their products on.

When once the brand was telling consumers to think different, now consumers are telling brands to not only think differently, but also thoughtfully and quickly.

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Retro Van

17 Feb Good Stories Invite Participation

We live in a story every day. It’s the story of our own life. Combine this with the fact that now every form of media can be consumed from a screen. Now we are or should be far more media savvy, interpersonally connected, and able to express ourselves than any previous generation.

That’s because from each of these screens, we can read articles, watch movies, record ideas and make videos. We can play games, listen to radio and perhaps most importantly, use any screen to research every brand/product that interests us. We as a species now effortlessly watch series on our iPads, tweet on iPhones, collaboratively build in Minecraft on our laptops…we use all media for all purposes already.

So if you are a big corporation, how do you evolve marketing models where the narrative is based on linear story flow, the medium is independent of other media and the narrative only runs in one direction? Where is the bit of structure, some guidelines and some assistance when it comes to creating for this convergence?

Let’s begin by remembering humans are no longer consumers, they are participants in your narrative because it somehow relates to their own personal narrative. Your narrative needs to be accessible to them through the above-mentioned array of media platforms, and the story(s) must be designed to play to the strengths of the platform at hand. So there is (or should be) a real necessity for dialog and feedback. But redundant information is not the idea here. These are not merely the copies of each other on different media but differ in style and substance. 

The stories should support each other over different platforms and base themselves in a common narrative framework, or if you’re really creative, a story world.

Then you need to think about these people, our participants, and how they participate in life. Especially considering other parts of life that go beyond simply transacting with your brand. The fact is no two people experience or consume their life exactly the same way. Some may opt for social check-in first thing with the AM Intelligentsia coffee, others check out downloaded programming over Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

We can only tell what people are doing through usage data, their observable behavior. And that data comes after the fact. It takes preparing and probability to govern an approach to proactive planning. Preparing means knowing you will need to factor in multiple media channels as potential outputs for communications consumption. Probability means the ability to understand the observable data, infer intent and develop possible workflows that show scenarios over time.

What follows is a new approach to redundant messaging that has so shaped the brandscape of our times. What’s required in a non-linear time shifted approach is story, but one that is more dynamic. This best kind of dynamic storytelling is designed to adapt to the social-connected, multi-platform world where stories are shared, co-created and relational, adapting and evolving through the audience.

It’s what you should shoot for. In this type of storytelling, you are looking for places to tell more backstory or expand moments of narrative into larger, deeper stories. Entertainment properties fit that bill. A constellation of media is developed for a fan base that wants to dig deeper. In the brand world, these are more like adjacent paths. These adjacencies can be discovered in tangential search data.

A brand storyworld is created by our combined and individual understandings of what the brand means and usually some other positive, often searched, attribute. Social technologies allow a brand to encourage and benefit from their customer-storytellers, further integrating the brand story with that of the participant. It helps if the core story has an aspirational or philanthropic component to its structure.

Stories are then expressed in what people sitting around conference tables in bad light call touch points. Remember this in execution: a touch point is not a channel and a channel is not a touch point. Being a point of contact with a brand is not enough. Adaptive Path defines touch point as a point of interaction involving a specific human need in a specific time and place. These interactions are conversations or some kind of interface control. They are supporting a human need and the context surrounding that need. In that respect, every touch point should justify its existence through its own value proposition. We suggest taking touch point a bit further. A touch point is a story object wrapped in an interaction. This story is one shared by participants that is both meaningful and can build greater empathy.

A good story invites the participation emotionally long before bells and whistles of elaborate tactical content. It’s worth planning for. Companies that get this first – being genuine and authentic, being able to foster equal participation with people – will reap the benefits. There is an audience thirsty for it.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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03 Feb Marketing in perpetual beta

Nothing is done. Admit it. No product is perfect anymore. A product is no longer free of improvement. Everything can be made and done better (okay, maybe barbed wire, rocking chairs, bubble wrap and paper clips, tea pots and fly swatters can be excluded).

Forget if this happening is good or not. First ask why is this so? Turns out that improvement is part of our very nature. You may have accomplished multiple goals, but do you have six pack abs? Are your boobs round and perky? Have you read every classic in literature? Do you know every great musician from classical to jazz to punk and rock? Are you debt free? Gluten free? This idea of going beyond merely being adequate is part of what drives most of us.

Since it drives how we think about ourselves it also drives how people measure the companies they have a relationship with. We now live in a world where people want to tell you what’s working and what’s not. Not only do they want to tell you, they will tell you on your blog or through any social channel. They will rave and highly rank a book or a shirt, a skateboard or a plumber. And they will also give resonate voice to dissatisfaction with the aforementioned items. Just about every product and service has a set of friends or, regrettably, foes in the form of online response.

People do this because they trust friends and family and reviews written by others way more than the companies themselves. Trust is combined with a willingness to pay for something more custom or improved to the specifications written within the improvement comment. And this, of course, makes the companies more inclined to listen and listen intently. In the online context, innovations are usually freely revealed. The idea of open source ideas flows from software. By freely revealing information about an innovative product or process, a user makes it possible for manufacturers to learn about that innovation. Manufacturers may then improve upon it. The information becomes a “public good.” This adds to the commenter’s sense of self worth and purpose.

As the psychologists Marco Yzer and Brian Southwell put it, “New communication technologies do not fundamentally alter the theoretical bounds of human interaction; such interaction continues to be governed by basic human tendencies.” So having established a norm in asking for feedback means a company will get just that. For the most part, humans act consistently within the space and situation. A tailgate is a different set of behaviors than a bris. The same holds true with feedback.

So what does this mean to marketers?

The medium may change but people do not. Positive social proof (in the form of suggestions) matters. The kinds of suggestions and the quality of the source matters. Why? This actual and substantive discourse, in an “always on” communication system, between the most committed of audiences and those that supply them with goods and services, really matters.

So now an increasingly important part of a marketer’s role is to bring these suggestions, this user generated content, to the attention of the product and operations teams in a meaningful way that instills action. It’s easier than it sounds. Every day, companies solicit feedback from customers, yet only a few translate that feedback into meaning. An even smaller fraction of companies actually close the loop with the customer and let them know their voice was heard and acted upon. Demonstrable change, even in a promise form of some future state, is the most powerful currency to reward consultative customers. The marketer needs to find ways that make this feedback part of the product and operations process beyond a meeting and a power point. People want to be heard and respected and to have their guidance incorporated into vision and strategic planning. It has to get real.

To get there a marketer needs a process in place beyond escalating social media trouble spotting and solving. Start by understanding that these comments are usually things people actually want the product to do versus what they are trying to do or the product does now. That they are not motivated by 20th century values like ego, status and power, and more from 21st century values like reputation, community and sharing. It also requires operating in multiple digital modes and the ability to deliver targeted follow-up via cross channel platforms. This is the best way to connect with people and cultivate a feedback culture. This also gives a company a story field that can be mined for starters and become an operating company theme as it grows over time. Going to market is less about talking about yourself – your products – and more finding and celebrating customer input into a new version.

Reframe the mindset most recently entrenched in the awareness, consideration and conversion of hand-to-hand customer acquisition marketing combat. Instead, move into the realm of product and operations armed with the data and the knowledge about how to get feedback implemented. That’s a marketer’s job now. Let people know they’ve been heard and heard in the most authentic way possible. Understanding the whys are important but how to engage, respond and improve is more important.

Having a process to accept and employ real time feedback is the goal. So get Betapreneurial.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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