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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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04 Feb What Walt Disney Can Teach Finance Companies

We loved this article by Melissa Bell, journalist and co-founder of, which is based on a meeting with the Niemen Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. She talks about many facets of what it takes to be a successful publisher in the modern media landscape from culture to diversity to ad experience to Snapchat.  But this excerpt stuck out to us because it embodies an inherent challenge with brand content publishing:

Walt Disney had an interesting idea about how his brands supported each other. The theme parks came from the movies; the movies came from his animations. The merchandise allowed for stores to be built. Some of the rides have become movies. Movies have influenced the rides. They all rely on each other. I think about that when I’m thinking about our newsroom.

She goes on…

Our Snapchat stories are inspired by the articles that we write on Our videos are inspired by the articles we run on Sometimes our videos are turned into graphics; sometimes the graphics are built into longer form pieces.

What Walt Disney understood is that every great story has an arc that can live across many different media channels and if these channels work in concert there’s a compounding effect that adds up to something greater.  In his world this meant more physical and analogue space, when applying this to our current digital landscape it’s even more critical to get it right.

46% of people managing their finances online switch between devices before completing the activity. - Google

This is important for finance companies to understand because of the nature of who they are and what they do.  Few things are as personal as money.  Due to the rise of technology disruption and the frictionless relationship consumers want with their money, the lines between what is a product and what is a channel to communicate value are blurring. That is to say that the touch points for how finance companies need to now offer services to their customers are correlated with, or at least expanding as fast as, the touch points for marketing those same services.

Summarizing the point:  Finance companies have to exist efficiently and meaningfully across more and more touchpoints to not only find customer experience alpha (the equivalent of Walt Disney’s compounding effect) but to stay relevant and not die.


Are we seeing progress?

This recent data point published by IAB got us thinking there’s movement in the marketplace towards understanding that point:

The report, conducted through an online survey of 120 IAB special-interest council members, found that 58% of survey participants believe cross-channel measurement and attribution will command significant time and attention in 2016.

Call it what you want (cross-channel, omni-channel, multi-channel), but it comes down to how brands are activating integrated communications to enhance marketing performance.

ROI will always be critically important but what brands really suffer from is an inability to craft and plan stories for campaigns across channels.  If they did, they would be able to construct the measurement plan of format and channel to draw attribution conclusions.

In focusing on outcomes first, they’re missing an important point that a strong narrative that drives participation will weave channels together to enable the right measurement to happen. It’s that exercise that often proves to be the hardest for brands and their agencies.

But we should look no further than Walt Disney, the ultimate storyteller and master of driving participation, to show us where to start with a solution.


For the finance industry it starts with narrative first.

We wrote a post titled, “The New Relationship with Money,” about how commerce is becoming a series of touchpoints driven by financial services; that transactions are fading to the background and are now more fluid with how consumers want to live, thereby becoming more human.

This is the starting point for the entire finance industry.  This is the new global narrative that will guide how finance brands should craft their own stories across channels for a compounding effect that drives participation and better performance.

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"The New Relationship with Money"

22 Jan The New Relationship With Money

For the longest time the banks, credit card companies, and payment technology providers dictated the ways in which consumers conducted a transaction with a brand. These institutions are no longer in complete control. The global adoption of mobile devices, combined with over 6.4 billion connected devices in use along with a new host of new business models are challenging the old way. Companies like UBS bank have launched an open innovation competition called “The Future of Finance Challenge” to help them keep up with the changing landscape.

A consumer’s transaction options have gone from a few methods (cash, card or check) into a diverse set of digital services housed on their smartphone. These new transaction services are being integrated into a larger brand experience whether it’s hitting the buy button in Google’s search engine, being one of the 7mm people buying coffee via Starbucks app or checking out in a Disney retail location with the simple tap of a wearable device.

The proliferation of ways people can pay along with the rise of contextual experiences means more potential touch points for transactions than ever before. Brands will initially wrestle with how to design for these new opportunities, but once they can deliver relevant and seamless payment experiences, they will be able to access unprecedented amounts of new data to help build more personal relationships with their customers.

Today’s accelerated pace is creating an entirely new ecosystem for consumers, brands, and the payment’s industry. To stay relevant banks, must be integrated into the tapestry of people’s lives and its done by thinking of Commerce from the human down not the transaction up.

Five ways banks can meet the demands of the mobile first consumer.

Move beyond segmentation to real-time consumer profiles: The age of abundance has created a scarcity of attention. To personalize experiences with changing consumer sentiment brands will need to leave the traditional model of static customer segmentation behind and begin to develop a real-time view of the changing behaviors.

Implement design centered approaches: Mobile payments are allowing consumers to shop and pay for good with little to no interruption in their day. Working from the brand out in today’s consumer-led economy will lead to experiences that do not fit into the flow of how people shop and consume. Don’t just spend time understanding the journey of how people buy from you rather take a look at their whole life to determine ways you can fit at the right moment in time.

Create data-driven experiences: We know more than ever about consumers from what they bought, where they check in and what they like. This wealth of behavioral creates the opportunity to create more relevant experiences, offers, and new products. Data-driven experience planning means that you must move from mass audiences to a tailored experience based on behavior.

Connected Device Integration: 6.4 billion connected devices will be in use in 2016 to do everything from opening your garage door, telling your pharmacist when medications need a refill and ordering something from Amazon. If you allow payments to take place from these objects, it can further embed your brand into the fabric of people’s lives while providing new opportunities for revenue.

Embrace the programmable web: Opening up what is core to your role in the payments ecosystem whether it be security, processing or e-commerce to allow developers to build new business models faster ensures you will stay relevant in the changing payments landscape.

The new consumer relationship with money is more closely linked to brands versus the banks.



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Scrap metal on blue sky background

27 Aug Marketing technology lessons – Avoiding the wasteland


By Catie Starr, Director Customer Acquisition

Credentials: $7B+ in deposits delivered to GE Capital Bank in 21 months

Director, Digital Marketing – GE Capital Bank
Managing Director, Digital – Charles Schwab

According to a recent study published by Ascend2, only 9% of marketers believe that they have all of the tools that they need AND that they fully utilize what they have.1 This leaves the other 91% of us needing more tools and/or more resources to fully realize an ideal marketing technology strategy. Sure, some of the 91% will never be satisfied, but I believe that to be a small percentage. The vast majority of marketers need a clear roadmap to get to the ideal solution.

The ideal stack?

But what is the ideal marketing stack for your business? In Q1 ’15 the marketing technology (MarTech) category had 1,876 companies listed within it. 1,876 companies in 30+ categories. Now that’s overwhelming. How are you supposed to source, let alone run 30 tools in your marketing technology stack?- especially given the ever-increasing pressure on efficiencies in marketing.



The good news? You don’t need 30 and, most likely, that figure includes just a handful, at best. There is a core set of tools that make sense for most companies, but the rest of the categories are pretty niche. The ideal stack all depends on your business, go-to-market strategy, internal capabilities, agency partner ecosystem and the level of investment that you can make. In particular, the investment isn’t so much about how much investment, rather, what does the business case support? The trick is finding the tools that make sense for your business model and determining the priority of bringing them on. But where do you start? My recommendation is to start with what you’ve got.

Start with what you’ve got

I’ve been involved in several different businesses with varying degrees of sophistication as it relates to the marketing stack – from a blank slate to a hodgepodge of systems strung together with duct tape and baling wire. But the most important first step that I’ve always taken is conducting an audit of where and how the data flows between the systems. It’s almost guaranteed that there are quick wins that you can have through this exercise. Before you make another investment in a new tool, look into what you have. You’re most likely to find an opportunity to make your current systems more productive.

For example, most of you will tell me that you have web analytics, right? But is it pulling its weight? Can you track end-to-end marketing efficiency by dollar that you spend? Is it a full closed-loop or are there gaps? The thing that we see the most is that companies have a lot of tools that aren’t properly used. And without closed-loop reporting, you’re flying blind and any tool that you add to the stack will not prove its worth.

Your ideal stack

Once you’ve evaluated your current stack, it’s time to determine if there are gaps in the transparency and optimization capabilities of your data. This is the key to determining where investments should be made and the priorities of those investments. This is a good exercise leading into next year’s strategic planning. Understanding the key business goals and strategies will help clarify where you need to improve and what you need to focus on. Is your business looking to improve it’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)? Maybe you should focus on voice of the customer and social analytics. Is your business focused on the lowest cost of acquisition? Maybe you should focus on conversion optimization and attribution tools? Your investments in technology need to be aligned to your business goals.

This is the fun part. It’s time to envision the ideal stack for your business. It’s time to get to know new technologies, talk to your existing partners and your network. It’s time to build a roadmap to achieve the vision.

Don’t forget about the people

One of the biggest reasons I have witnessed a lack of productivity in the marketing technology stack is a lack of people to run it. Idle tools do you no good. Under-supported tools will be under-productive. You will never reach a state of full utilization without the right people and skills on your team.

When you put together your business case for a technology investment you MUST include the cost of the resource(s) needed to run it. Unless you have the capacity and appropriate skills sitting idle on your team, your investment will also need to include people. It’s an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle that can make or break the productivity of a tool.

It’s a marathon

The process of getting to an ideal and fully-utilized marketing technology stack is a long one. It’s not a sprint. It’s not something that you can accomplish overnight or even over the course of a year. As more and more tools and technologies come on the scene and as your existing platforms mature or don’t – unfortunately in certain cases, it will continue to be an ongoing process of evaluating what’s available and determining if you need it to accomplish your businesses goals.

The keys to making your stack as productive as possible include: Understanding what you have and ensuring it is being utilized properly; constantly learning about and evaluating what is available to you; and surrounding yourself with smart people who are also looking to make sure that their system can stack up.

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

To contact the author

Catie Starr, Director, Customer Acquisition


1 Ascend2: Marketing Technology Strategy – Survey Summary Report

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