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By: Abraham Kasbo

If the most successful brands on the planet live at the intersection of delivering consistently exceptional experiences and authenticity (the latest in industry speak – will address later), then Ireland, yes the entire country, is indeed well within great company, and from my perspective ahead of the class.  There’s no need for brand training, public relations strategies, or messaging in Ireland because on our most recent vacation to the Emerald Isle, it appeared that the entire country, from the minute we landed in Dublin to our departure from Shannon, was “on brand,” “on stage” and seemingly well prepared to orchestrate an exceptional vacation experience.

At first, I thought that there must be some centralized, formal training scheme at work because it’s impossible, or perhaps naïve to think that every Irishman and woman we encountered – from executives having dinner at the next table to pub dwellers, shop owners and keepers, to people we met on the street – and I do mean everyone we met, happened to be genuinely nice and helpful.

From pubs, restaurants, historical sites and shops, to the streets of Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork City, Killarney, Kenmare and

The Kids presenting a gift to Third Fire Officer Gerry Myers of the Cork City Fire Department

The Kids presenting a gift to Third Fire Officer Gerry Myers of the Cork City Fire Department

Bunratty, everyone – did I mention everyone?  - we met along the way was “on” the Irish brand of hospitality. Both my wife and I got the feeling that the Irish seemed to be deeply connected with and invested in not just their town and local heritage, but in other areas in Ireland.  They freely shared their experiences about other areas of Ireland complete with specific recommendations of restaurants, hidden gems, what roads to take and avoid, and so on. They also asked questions about America, New Jersey (where we live), and our work in ways that made us feel like we were engaged in a normal conversation and not a tourist transaction.  On our way to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, we got lost.  A cabbie surprised us when he pulled up while we were examining our map and said, “You seem lost, can I help you?” After a friendly chitchat, he pointed us to the right way and quietly went off into light Sunday morning traffic.  That goes a long way when you’ve already walked about 3 miles with 9-year old twins.

It got exceedingly better at the Guinness Storehouse and not just because we had the opportunity to indulge in the good stuff at the Gravity Bar. It seems to me that the Guinness Storehouse is reflective of how the well Irish tell their story to make it meaningful and connect with people. Isn’t after all the purpose of branding?  To make meaningful and lasting connections with a product or service?

Nothing could have been more surprising as what happened over the course of the next days. For the next leg of our trip, we were heading to Cork and reserved a car through Hertz. When we got to Hertz’s offices on South Circular Road, we noticed the street was closed because of a marathon route planned for that day.  Our taxi dropped us off at the intersection where we walked the rest of the way. When we arrived at Hertz, I was informed that we would have to wait another 2-3 hours for an automatic car because truck carrying automatics could not enter the street because of the marathon. The clerk offered us a manual shift BMW, and off we went. Mind you, having only driven a manual car once before, 10 years earlier on a visit to Ireland, my kids and wife were a bit nervous about my driving skills…so was I.  I must have stalled six or seven times in traffic coming out of Dublin backing up traffic several times. Embarrassed, frustrated, and at times angry at my inability to get us out of first gear, let alone Dublin, I realized what I was feeling was directly related to another deep experience. The incorrigible brand of cutthroat driving in the New York, New Jersey area, where if you don’t step on the gas within a millisecond of the light turning green, you’d be bombarded with beeps, shouts, and unpleasant gestures.  On my way out of the parking garage in Cork City I stalled on a ramp backing up business commuters two to three floors deep for about 10 minutes, seemingly forever to me. Through the stalls and back-ups, there was not one beep, not one horn, in four days of my dubious attempt to drive a manual vehicle across the Ireland from Dublin to Cork City, Cork City to Kilkenny, Kilkenny to Killarney, from Killarny to Kemare and on to Bunratty and Shannon. Not one horn or beep from my fellow drivers. The silence of those horns spoke volumes about the people in the cars.

On our stroll to dinner in Cork City, we misread the map and got lost. As we walked, we saw a couple of firefighters in front of the firehouse and asked them to set us straight. That’s when we met Gerry Myers, Third Fire Officer of the Cork City Fire Department and his colleague.  We ended up chatting with them about the States and our itinerary in Ireland. They recommended areas of Ireland to consider visiting “next time” and then pleasantly surprised us by offering to drive us to a restaurant they recommended as having better food and prices than the one we selected. The kids were obviously elated to find themselves in an official fire department vehicle!  The next day, we went back to the firehouse where the kids presented Officer Myers a gift of an American Silver Dollar and Mr. Myers reciprocated with pencils and fire department pins, and more importantly, an unforgettable experience.

There’s the Disney Experience and then there’s the Irish Experience. The former is precise, systematic and formal business process. The Irish Experience, is organic, credible and engrossing. The business community should take notice of keen lessons to be learned from the Irish Experience. In an era where authenticity is a hot topic, Ireland transcends authenticity – which in many ways is an overused and hackneyed industry mubo-jumbo.   its incredible natural beauty aside, Ireland seems to tap deeply into its most precious resource.  By harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of its people and how they represent their country, Ireland’s brand as experienced by us and other visitors stands strong and credible. After all,  authenticity is perceived but credibility is earned. For Ireland, it’s well earned.

Abraham Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide. Follow him @akasbo.


Several weeks ago I posted about the comeback of the American consumer and its impact on the financial services market. Since then, I’ve engaged in the same discussion with healthcare device makers and distributors who are also wondering how a stronger consumer will impact their business.

The obvious reality is that every sector in the United States ought to be positioning itself in light of strong consumer sentiment and data.  Let me quickly set the table by restating a few key points from my previous post about market conditions and business climate that are relevant across industries, but are certainly applicable to healthcare equipment makers, manufacturers, and distributors:

  • The stock market is at or near an all time high
  • The business media seems to be whistling a happy tune about the comeback of the American Consumer
  • Earlier this year, according to Bloomberg.com Macys’, Target and Gap reported sales that topped sales estimates in January, 2013
  • This past February, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment climbed to 76.3 from 73.8 in January
  • Ernst & Young cited stronger global markets and calls the US markets “very positive” in its most recent forecast.
  • With property values rising and the job market strengthening, Americans seem to be poised for an uptick in wealth

So, what does the comeback of the American consumer mean to Healthcare consumption? From 10,000 feet, two things: 1) The American healthcare consumer will have more money and more confidence to spend it and 2) that confidence and willingness to spend will be tempered by impact on the collective psyche still felt from the 2008 market crash.

Who will benefit from this consumer wealth effect?  Consumer medical specialties, like dentists and cosmetic dentists, plastic and cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, fertility specialists, bariatric surgeons, and those companies who are selling to them, as well as hospitals and surgi-centers who will deliver care in these service lines. We believe that other specialty areas will also see benefits such as certain areas of orthopedics, We see a healthy return of discretionary income spending in the aforementioned areas. At a recent meeting of Plastic Surgeons in New York City, a Baltimore based doctor said: “we’re seeing people coming off the street and dropping a $1,000 to $1,500 on procedures, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.”  As I write, there’s a strong bi-partisan push in the senate to repeal the medical device tax. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I am a device manufacturer or distributor. Just as a reminder, the 2.3% excise tax is on the gross sales price of taxable medical devices. Regardless of whether the medical device tax is repealed or not, companies who better position themselves in this climate relative to the American consumer, will have a whopping advantage over those who don’t.

Here’s how healthcare device companies and distributors can better position themselves in light of the coming wealth effect:

1. Down-line Education – Three pronged approach: 1) Get out in front of the market by arming your buyers with the information they need to make an informed buying decision for your products. Include information on what the wealth effect could mean for both their business and patients.  It is likely that they themselves are feeling the wealth effect personally. Of course, buying certain equipment will put your buyers in a better position to serve the needs of their patients who will now feel more comfortable in spending discretionary dollars on healthcare services. 2) Consumer down-line education through web and digital strategies will provide fertile ground to drive consumer education and show buyers your commitment to their success.  3) Peer-to-Peer education for buyers of healthcare devices and products. Down-line education must have a strong digital component, especially with the rise of mobile and the coming of Google Glass, which will once again revolutionize mobile. [A quick aside: I was one of the privileged few to recently accompany a Google employee on a Google Glasses tour and indeed healthcare must be prepared for the coming revolution, but that's a post for another day.]

2. Brand Like You Mean It – This is a great time to get back into the market with a healthy respect for your customers. Communicate with them on a level that they come to expect and specifically communicate value.  Your visuals must be stunning, your value lasting.  Now, I have been on the record and continue to be by saying that branding is “not what you do,” it’s a “result of what you do.” For those companies who have been lacking in promoting their products and services to exceed market expectations, the time to start building a foundation for your brand has never been better than right now. This is especially true now because some of your competitors will inevitably continue to rely on the same strategies, thinking the same old ways, or their size, or whatever will produce results in this environment. Good, let them. For companies who consider themselves brand leaders in their space, don’t rest on your brand laurels, because your customers will now need more information to make buying decisions, and have more access to information about your products and your competitors’.

3. Mobile & Digital Will Drive Marketing Strategy Linkedin just surpassed 1 million doctors and nurses worldwide. Our own proprietary research shows that as of January 27, 2013, there were 500,000 people who have identified themselves in the United States as “dentists” on Facebook and 33,000 in the same category on Linkedin. There were 2,918 people who identified themselves as “general dentists” on Linkedin. Combine that with Healthcare topics being the most consumer-searched subject online in the United States, and you now have an idea of how important the digital environment is to your business. Educating the consumer and the market about the value of your products in the digital world is crucial to building consumer awareness and driving demand to your customers (doctors, dentists, hospitals, surgi-centers, clinics). Web and digital content must meet the expectations of the market, and if it doesn’t your company risks brand erosion. Positioning your products juxtaposed against value – remember, your customers and the consumer is once bitten and twice shy by now – will go a long way to making the case for your products. Your digital reputation and your customers’ must be spotless, because it is your reputation. So, move away from creating social pages and posting to meaningful digital strategies. Location strategies relative to how you sell should play a critical part. For example: if you’re selling an intra-oral camera, or gastric sleeves, you may want to share with your customers who else the in the area is using your technology via a mobile map application.  The very least you ought to do is mobilize your websites to make it easier for your sales force and your clients to access your products and services.

4.  Be a Category Creator – In Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator (Harvard Business Review, March 2013), the authors found that “category creators experience much faster growth and receive much higher valuations than companies bringing only incremental innovations to market.” Researchers found that category creators, while only 13% of the companies studied, accounted for 74% of the group’s growth. Consider the dental industry’s fore into sleep medicine. It was a blue ocean strategy, which opened up a new market for dentists and provided patients with yet different way to utilize and view their dentist. Whatever category you choose to create, and at the risk of overstating the obvious here, it has to be both ethical and make sense for the patient. So, be creative, you may surprise yourself.

It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare. Being nimble and entrepreneurial and taking advantage of selling into the current climate no matter size of your company is a virtue and highly accretive to growth in this environment.  So, jump right in, the water is fine.

Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide
Follow @akasbo or facebook.com/verasoni


For distributors and manufacturers, the dental market is now moving faster than ever before and with a greater emphasis on efficiency and market penetration. It’s perhaps the understatement of the decade to say that companies are now trying to position themselves in this seemingly hyper competitive space in order to better gain market share in an industry that’s forecasted to deliver about $70 billion in sales in 2013.

However, the unfathomable speed that is moving technology and media is creating a dangerous intersection for CEOs and CMOs who may be left feeling like they are drinking from a fire hydrant when it comes to marketing communications; so are now seeking more clarity on the subject than ever before. Strategic integrated marketing decisions in this space, and acting on them or not, will obviously affect brands and sales outcomes, but only if one can sufficiently separate the hype from the realities.

Below is our take on some of the realities and what dental companies and distributors can expect in 2013 in the marketing communications space. Here are our predictions for the New Year!

PREDICTION #1

Companies Will Be More Mobile or Will Lag Behind

According to Hubspot, in 2012 more people bought more smartphones than PC’s. Fifty-percent of US adults own a smartphone or tablet and 66% get the news on those devices.  In the second half of 2012, tablets outsold PCs.  By the end of 2013, we predict mobile will play a more strategic role with companies in the dental space, including the adoption of mobile branded content platforms, mobile ads and location based marketing.  Naturally, dentists have already moved in that direction, as their behavior typically follows the consumer market.

We believe the strong attachment to mobile devices will mean that those companies who move in a measured and meaningful way will also position themselves to own the mobile device behavior of their clients and salesforce.

PREDICTION #2

Editorial Branded Content Will Prevail

Research tells us that branded editorial not only drives organic search to your website, but also influences the reader.  Editorial content must be married with a mobile and social distribution to your company’s relevant network. Everything else is simply fluff.  So companies will seek to better align their mobile and content strategies to keep their products more in reach and top of mind.

We’re never wild about business terminology, but we just came across one that fits this prediction: “Newsjacking”!  Simply put, brands and companies must generate their own news and become their own publishers.  Sales professionals and dentists are a smart bunch, so companies who position their content in a way that they can be perceived as a resource will win over time.  Last but not least, companies will create once and publish everywhere!

PREDICTION #3

More Digital Bounce to Engagement, Branding & Sales

According to a 2012 study cited by Hubspot, one-third of CMOs say more than half of their budgets have shifted from traditional to digital marketing in the past year, yet the same study showed companies with 50+ employees spend almost 20% of their marketing budgets on tradeshows.  Where’s the intersection?  Companies in the dental space will begin to integrate digital strategies into their tradeshow presence to carry relationships formed at tradeshows well beyond that event.  Companies will go beyond email, to engagement on social and through peer-to-peer activities and brand story telling via mobile microsites. Companies who engage in this space will also see more earned media as a result of organic search.

PREDICTION #4

Company Website Shall Be Responsive or Be Gone

Since all data is pointing towards the supremacy of mobile search going forward, dental companies who are seeking a competitive position in the digital space – and who isn’t? – will make their websites responsive. Since mobile devices vary in screen sizes, users will grow increasingly frustrated in viewing a traditional website on a mobile device, and if the experience is frustrating, research tell us that they will find an alternative in about 4 seconds.

PREDICTION #5

Move to Big Data in Dental

Companies will look for strategic edges through integration of big data. Companies in the dental space will demand more access to fragmented data either to help access a market or make better decisions on how to drive sales.

PREDICTION #6

Social Media Will Break Out of Its Silo

Brands will understand that likes and followers mean very little unless they are engaged. Companies in the space will capture mindshare by recognizing that will no longer place their brands in social media silos but develop a more integrated approach to telling their stories and engaging their audience. Companies in the dental space will use social media to drive inbound marketing strategies and not simply for branding purposes.  Mobile will drive access, meaningful content and the platforms will drive engagement.  Social media will evolve in the space to serve as a key platforms for brand KOLs and media engagement.

PREDICTION #7

Advertising Still Useful, Not Dead, Monetize to Digital

The era of branded print and digital advertising is over in our opinion, but that doesn’t mean that the medium is dead. In fact brand print and digital advertising can be quite useful if integrated with their digital cohorts.  Successful companies in the space will drive print to web, drive print to social, and drive print to mobile and more.  The integration will deliver more data to help CEOs and CMOs make better decisions as they look for growth in 2013.

Finally, No doubt technology will continue to transform how brands communicate their value proposition in 2013 and beyond. It’s important to note that, regardless of technology, the basics of integrated marketing communications strategies still apply. That’s one prediction that we know will last through 2013 and beyond.

Abe Kasbo is the CEO of Verasoni Worldwide a fiercely independent marketing and public relations firm located in Montclair, NJ. Follow the company here: @twitter or facebook.

 

 


Transparency is here to stay and corporations and governments are grappling with this reality. From Bank of America to the Arab Spring, to Jamie Dimon’s JP Morgan, to China’s on going focus on web censorship, the digital universe not only has transformed the way people relate to each other, but to businesses and governments as well. I’m going hit on three salient points relative to transparency: 1) uncovering crusaders, 2) crisis management, 3) social responsibility.

Uncovering Crusaders

The searing affect of our new interconnectedness is the ability to effectively mobilize people on vertical issues without the involvement of the mainstream media. Obama’s campaign, perhaps better than anyone, understands the power of our new interconnectedness through its micro-donations campaigns. Micro-donors in themselves may generate a money-bomb, but the $3 donation actually sheds light more about particular issues or platform than it is about the money. From the campaign’s perspective, the received $3, but more importantly the money helps identify people who are motivated and allows them to stay connected to them. These are the campaign crusaders.

Crisis Management & Public Relations

From Washington to Wall Street, the game continues to change. Jami Dimon and his team inherently understood how the new interconnectedness could have driven even a bigger wedge between Wall Street and Main Street and took to the airwaves and the web at the same time.  In a classic case of crisis management, he admitted the problem at hand, issued an immediate apology, answered questions at – a very friendly – Congressional Hearing.  In his testimony, Mr. Dimon was contrite and forthright both in his demeanor and answers (even though it seemed like some members of Congress were apologizing to him).  Kudos to him and his crisis management team on taking the reigns and getting out front in managing the crisis.  JP Morgan seemed to understand the consequences from Main Street (remember it’s in the retail banking business now) if its approach would have been aloof like BP or indifferent / dear in headlights like AIG.  No matter what happens going forward in the house of JP Morgan, from this point on, dare I say that Dimon and his team delivered real value to shareholders and the markets in the way they handled the crisis.  But Dimon and JP Morgan et. al. be forewarned, while your communications strategies seemed to save the day, people will watch your deeds more than your words.

Social Responsibility

It seems that after every crisis companies pump up the volume on their social responsibility campaigns. Yet, in their efforts to show contrition, social responsibility campaigns seem to be “turned on or rolled out” after a crisis rather than smoothly continuing as part-and-parcel of existing integrated campaigns.  Transparency is an essential ingredient to any social responsibility initiatives. As well intentioned as they may be, they will always need to be deeper and more meaningful in the coming days because of hyper digitization of our lives.  Social responsibility initiatives must transcend “talking points” and deliver meaningful programs that drives value to both the community and the corporation or government sponsor.

Talk is cheap, but transparency is golden.

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Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide, A Marketing and Public Relations Firm based in Montclair, NJ.


Social Media Marketing Companies? Social Media Lines Are Being Drawn!

By: Abe Kasbo

Facebook stock began trading on May 18th. Not a Googlesque performance by any measure, the stock sputtered and continues to do so as of today. Yeah, it’s early, but Facebook’s stock seems to be exuberantly valued and trading at a premium, even today.  We have not learned much. The gold rush in social media, head-fakes and hesitation dribbles are by no means over.

It seems that enthusiastic lines in the sand are being drawn between social networking professionals and its skeptics. In his is recent column in Marketing Land, Ciaran Norris decries GM for pulling out of Facebook pointing out that the global advertiser dedicated a puny $10 Million out of $1.8 Billion to Facebook.  Apparently, GM did not like that Facebook would not let it advertise the way it wants to, using heavy banner ads. He points out, and we concur, that Cost Per Action rather than clicks is more valuable.  “What TV does, better than almost anything, is to create brand connections, and emotional reactions that result in us choosing one product over the other. And Facebook is working to prove something similar — that social connections, not hugely flashy banners, can do the same,” said Norris.

Social media relevancy in our lives in undeniable, but still begs questions: what value does it deliver to advertisers?  Ultimately does engagement the way it is defined in the social world pay off for an advertiser?  The answer may be that no one truly knows…yet.

The main stream business media is awash with anecdotal evidence about how some business transformed itself from a sleepy enterprise to a top selling juggernaut using social media.   Though empirical evidence over time is much harder to uncover – yes, of course, we only go back to 2004.  Yet, if social media enthusiasts are willing to tout its exponential growth, they must be willing to address its gaps.  If Dunkin Donuts is giving away donuts, they’re going to get a gazillion fans (6.3 million on Facebook and about 146,400 on Twitter), a small fraction of which seems to be or may be ”engaged.” D&D’s social strategy is exceptional and thoughtful, but the value of social media outlets to business, we believe, cannot be sustained by major brands alone. The shift to mobile is a key reason why.  Unless, businesses invest enough in creative campaigns to make it compelling for customers to engage in their brand.  That’s no small investment by the way, so once again we’re back to the big guys.

Yet social media outlets recognize that user generated content drives their raison d’être. Its that content that keeps people interested and engaged. People showing interest in people and the things they love, and brands are certainly a big part of that.  The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on how social media outlets are partnering with celebrities to drive traffic and interest. “We have a business model based on advertisements and as people spend more time on Facebook, we monetize that,” said Jason Osofsky, director of Media Partnerships for Facebook. The article cites celebrities like Ryan Seacrest, Shaquile O’Neil and Jessica Alba.  Ms. Alba’s following includes 3.2 million on Twitter and 4.5 million on her Facebook page. “You have to have a social-media presence if you want to have a successful business, scalable business,” Ms. Alba says in the WSJ article.  Yet one has to wonder that if Ms. Alba wasn’t a high profile celebrity, would she have those millions of followers?

The Los Angeles Times‘s story on why GM pulled out of Facebook quotes Chris Cedergren, president of Iceology, a West Los Angeles consulting and research firm that works with the auto industry, who said “social media has yet to be time tested as an advertising tool and that research has shown that ‘people don’t really pay attention to the advertisements.’” With network television viewership dwindling, the emergence of consumer generated video, which itself is highly fragmented, search appears to be a stronger and more reliable contender for advertiser dollars right now. At the risk of overstating the obvious, social media, as we are defining it today, is obviously still in its infancy and we believe it is right that people like GM demand more from it. Mass aggregation does not make a good case for advertisement. After all, Facebook is all about me and it’s my 15 minutes of fame. And, since I am paying attention to what interests me, mainly what I am sharing my friends and what my friends are sharing with me, the challenge for Facebook is to get me to pay attention in a meaningful way to its advertisers.  How will Facebook and its advertisers distract users from their never-ending 15 minutes of fame?  That coupled the staggering growth of mobile (iPhone, DROID) may prove more difficult for Facebook advertisers because the screens are smaller. Where do you place the advertising?  If Facebook’s business model is about monetizing aggregation, how do you do that if a good chunk of the aggregation is happening on mobile devices?

The elephant in the room is the fact that social media has been with us way before we identified it as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  One of the lessons here is that communities have always gathered online and off by interest putting more pressure on for Facebook and others in the space to produce meaningful results.  Somini Sengupta reported in the New York Times that Facebook is turning “Likes” into Ads as one of the ways to monetize aggregation.  Facebook is using links that people like or post as sponsored stories, with businesses like Amazon as the sponsors. Business will “pay Facebook to generate these automated ads when a user clicks to “like” their brands or references them in some other way.  Facebook users agree to participate in the ads halfway through the site’s 4,000-word terms of service, which they consent to when they sign up,” said the story. Yet, Nick Bergus, the man who’s “like” Facebook turned into an ad was furious enough to want to delete his Facebook account, but didn’t.  That kind of sentiment is exactly what Facebook and its advertisers fear of course, so as Facebook and its advertisers continue to learn about the platform, Facebook will be more under pressure more than ever before because of its place in the public markets.  At the same time, both social media marketing companies and the platforms themselves understand the addictive nature and lure of the medium and its role in our daily lives. And that may just allow it the cushion it needs to experiment with monetizing its users while keeping advertisers interested.

Look, social media has been with us when the big names were no names at all.  In healthcare, ObesityHelp.com, a resource site for obese people seeking information on weight loss surgery, claims 600,000 members since 1998 and currently claims 3 million page visits a week from people looking for help.  Infertlityhope.com is another site that been successfully bringing people together about fertility related issues. Sailnet.com was launched in 1994 “as a resource where sailors could find everything they needed to support their own pursuit of the sailing lifestyle.”  And, there are many other examples who are thriving as a business right now.

The onus is on the social world, like it is on television, print and other outlets, to prove its value in the market place. At the same time, businesses and agencies must rethink engagement and bring forth innovations of the intellectual and creative kind to drive campaigns.  Although, regardless of how things shake out on the desktop with respect to social, mobile is the real game changer here folks, let’s pay careful attention and see how the social world responds to monetization of the audience in this space.


Montreal, Canada. May 15, 2012. Verasoni Worldwide CEO, Abe Kasbo spoke at The #140conf, Montreal today where he discussed  “Social Health. Improving Health at the Speed of Technology.” Mr. Kasbo spoke about opportunities for healthcare providers to reach patients and the community, specifically citing the highly successful Twitter surgery at Raritan Bay Medical Center that generated press and awareness for the hospital’s orthopedic surgery program.

He also cited Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution as a catalyst for the online campaign that brought pink slime to the forefront of the American public’s consciousnesses and the subsequent outrage on social networks that led to several plants closing and schools cancelling orders of meat laced with Pink Slime.  Mr. Kasbo also discussed how innovation in the automotive could soon be driving us to better health – no pun intended of course. He shared how Ford researchers are working on a series of possible in-car health and wellness connectivity services and apps aimed at “helping people with chronic illnesses or medical disorders such as diabetes, asthma or allergies manage their condition while on the go.”

#140mtl featured speakers from the United States and Canada who covered topics such as Branding, Marketing, Customer Service, Social Business Strategy, Social Media Measurement, Non-profit, Education, Leadership, Human Resources, Media, Blogging, Building Community, Communications, Real Estate, the Arts, Gamification and Location Marketing.

About Verasoni Worldwide

Verasoni Worldwide is a full-service marketing and public relations firm with offices in Montclair, New Jersey and New York City. Verasoni Worldwide delivers expertise in to multiple markets including healthcare, financial services and banking, start-ups, government, not for profit, and hospitality and travel. Verasoni Worldwide is recognized as a leader in developing and implementing meaningful, cut-through campaigns for clients. Verasoni Worldwide is a pioneer of the integration of digital and traditional media, including public relations, advertising, brand development, reputation management, and global marketing communications strategies.

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Check out this piece my Thom Forbes that came across my email this morning.  Affinity or lifestyle marketing comes to your friendly neighborhood grocery…about time!  I have been advocating integration of this type for years, in fact in our work with hospitals we have encouraged them to consider opening restaurants that offer healthy fare. It’s a natural, it’s not enough to tell people about the benefits of healthy living, it’s critical to show them.Can’t help but think that perhaps one hospital marketing strategy may be considering opening a restaurant :)

Whole Foods Opens Its First Wellness Club
Thom Forbes, Aug 15, 2011 07:41 AM

“If you know what’s good for you … ” is a phrase that’s fraught with threat. It implies that even if we do know what’s good for us, our actions suggest otherwise and may carry dire consequences. But even if we do know, deep down, what’s good for us, we often don’t know how to achieve it.

I’m not talking metaphysics here. I’m talking kale, and the new prototype Wellness Club that Whole Foods is opening in Dedham, Mass., this morning with the intention of not only showing and telling us what’s good for us but also how to prepare it.

A few years ago, kale was nothing more than a crossword-puzzle word to many of us. Then we began to hear how healthy this descendant of the wild cabbage — brought to Europe from Asia Minor by Celtic wanderers in the 6th Century B.C. — was for us.

The big question, as it is with so many healthy foods that don’t come in the cans and frozen packages that many of us grew up with, was “what do you do with it?” There wasn’t much of a trick to opening a can of Le Sueur Sweet peas and dumping them into a saucepan, or reading the instructions on a package of Bird’s Eye Cut Green Beans.

The Whole Foods Wellness Club, on the other hand, will provide answers to searing questions like exactly how to sear an Ahi tuna. Or pronounce “Ahi.”

“As at a gym, club members check in at a front desk, but in this case it’s steps from the salad bar, near the fish,” writes Kathleen Pierce in the Boston Globe. Once inside, members can use the reference library, take a lifestyle evaluation, or “learn how to prepare a dish — such as mango quinoa porridge — from a chef in a sleek kitchen, and then head out into the store to find, and buy, the ingredients.”

“The mission of the Wellness Club is to provide an inviting environment where members are empowered to make educated and positive lifestyle choices that promote their long-term health and well-being through coaching, delicious food and a supportive community,” according to a Whole Foods blog post. “It will feature courses and lectures developed by medical doctors, inspirational and informative skill-building classes, supper clubs and special events, coaching and support.”

Members get a 10% discount “when they shop for healthy foods.” But, as Pierce points out, “access to that empowerment comes at a price: It costs $199 to become a member of the Wellness Club, and monthly dues are $45.”

The upscale grocer intends to open four other Wellness Clubs before the end of the year — in New York; Chicago; Oakland, Calif.; and Princeton, N.J. — “and if the prototypes do well, we would open more in 2012 as part of a growth initiative,” John Mackey, chairman and co-CEO, told analysts during a conference call in February. “Our purpose would be to educate people how to eat better to achieve the highest degree of their health potential,” Mackey explained and Supermarket News’ Elliot Zwiebach reports.

Products that meet the club’s “code of health” carry a Wellness Club seal of approval.

“A lot of people get overwhelmed when trying to initiate a lifestyle change,” Heidi Feinstein, a Boston nutritionist and holistic therapist tells Pierce. “They can purchase a lot of stuff that they don’t know how to use, end up wasting it and don’t succeed. It’s nice to have a guide when introducing yourself to all the abundant ways to revitalize your life.”

A blogger who calls himself Calorie Ken doesn’t want to put a damper on the idea or be seen as “Nelly Negative,” but he gets the feeling from Pierce’s story that Whole Foods is overemphasizing what people eat at the expense of how much they eat. He suggests that Whole Foods and other retailers “teach us how to eat better and help us have a good time doing it, but build the effort on a foundation of portion control and calorie awareness.”

Calorie Ken also suggests that it would be nice to have similar Wellness Clubs in lower-income places that really need them. “Perhaps they should’ve chosen to do it in Mississippi, the fattest state in America,” he writes. “Oh wait! There’s no Whole Foods in all of Mississippi!”

It’s all about achieving that elusive “balance,” of course — a topic gracefully tackled by Katherine Rosman in her Family Finances column in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Invited cross-country to San Diego to moderate a panel about the benefits of financial planning at a convention of 2,500 female bloggers, Rosman decided to combine the engagement with some interviews, meaning that she’d be away from her husband and two young children for a longer-than-usual six days.

“If you can judge by the absolute swarm of marketers who had descended upon San Diego to try to get these bloggers to sample their products, these women have real influence,’ she writes. “Yet almost every woman I met or listened to at the conference revealed a continual inner struggle between a desire to be fully engaged in family life and professional ambition.”

But “balance is almost an impossible ideal …,” she concludes, “even as we still aspire to it.”

It makes eating well, in the right proportions, seem comparatively attainable — or, at least, a good place to start. If you know what’s good for you.


Really what’s the big deal?  So Facebook hired a PR firm to smear Google, and it got caught. So what?  PR firms everywhere are scrambling to make sense of this, Inside Facebook, a well know blog, called it “a spectacularly failed attempt at undermining the competition.”

So Facebook is scared that Google will be able to beat them at their own game and it wanted to defame Google’s Social Circle.  So Google’s overtures into Facebook’s world was perceived as a real threat by Facebook.  Like HuffPost, Facebook’s content is not generated by others, so any attempts by Social Circle to pull content from Facebook is perceived as an attack on Facebook’s core business.  So Facebook hired global PR giant Burson-Marsteller to spread false information about Social Circle’s privacy policies to ultimately defame it and cause doubt in the minds of current and potential users.

I’ve now devoured about 50 articles about the subject in a couple of days.  The PR world is filled with condemnations and abuzz with horror to discover that Burson-Marsteller engaged in this type of behavior.  In the New York Times, “Paul Cordasco, Burson-Marsteller’s spokesman, said that the firm made a mistake.  He said “The mistake clearly was not being transparent about the client,” He added that employees would receive additional training to make them “fully aware of our code of responsibility that emphasizes full transparency.”

Let’s make some safe inferences based on Mr. Cordasco’s statements. First, he did not apologize for the covert tactics, but did addressed “client transparency.”  Second, he talked about some “code of responsibility” that emphasizes “full transparency.”  So they will be talking to their employees about this.  No where did I get a feeling of regret or contrition about their strategies and actions?

Look, I am not condoning Burson-Marsteller’s behavior, nor Facebook’s. But this happens in virtually arena where PR plays a role. Politics, finance, medicine…and I go on.  In addition, the idea of front-running false stories to destroy a political or business opponent’s credibility is only part of a larger epidemic of content distribution, true or false, to affect search rankings along with reputation.  It’s in the DNA of of some pr and marketing firms to do this work.  Yelp, Google Reviews are only some examples where people create false identities to promote or destroy a business’s credibility. Blogs are set up under false pretenses and micro-sites too.

Business on the internet is simply business. The business of defaming the competition existed way before the internet, and will continue to thrive as long as there is a need, PR and marketing firms not withstanding.

 


By: Abe Kasbo

So headlines scream, “How to Cut Through the Clutter,” or “How to Stand Out in A Crowded Market!” and my favorite that went something like “Delivering Your Brand Proposition In Seconds.”

I think we all agree that standing out is critical to any business. However, in this market for now and the foreseeable future, standing out is a fraction of the many variables that allow businesses to gain mind-share.  Think iPad.

The iPad as a product cuts through the clutter all by itself – it does help that it was first to market. It is supported by simple, yet powerful, advertising and marketing strategy. Apple’s public relations staff are its users, nothing better.  Moreover, being a product built by a very emotionally appealing brand doesn’t hurt.  The iPad’s success, is necessarily built on the past success of Apple’s other breakthrough products like the iPhone, which built its success on the back of the IPod which built its success on the back of….and I go on…

The iPad’s breakthrough lies in the trust that Apple has earned. That is the breakthrough, not the cool TV ads or home page takeover.  In large part, Apple’s trust breakthrough is why Apple continues to deliver “breakthrough” products, while its competition fumbles its way to market.  And that took years if not decades to build.


Please click here to read the article by Hugh Morley in The Record about working seniors as a desired demographic. Abe Kasbo, Marketing and PR firm CEO is quoted in the article.