By Lewis Sanderow and Kara Coates
How can a health care organization stand out from the thousands of marketing messages consumers encounter daily? OhioHealth, a 12-hospital health system in central Ohio, used experiential marketing – creating experiences that engage consumers – to accomplish exactly that.
In 2018, OhioHealth opened seven freestanding emergency departments (EDs) throughout its service area. The system’s goal was to ensure that patients made the right choice among primary, urgent or emergency care when they needed medical attention. OhioHealth had to suit the medium to the messages and go beyond direct mail, open house events or other standard approaches.
“We had to create high-level buzz and awareness and get a deeper level of engagement with residents of these seven different, diverse communities,” said Kara Coates, OhioHealth’s director of events and sponsorships.Pop-Up Event a Big Success
The staff decided pop-up experiences would be the best vehicle. The first, held at a community festival, attracted 10,000 people a day. Senior director of marketing communications Lewis Sanderow said the event was “a way of meeting people where they were and weaving ourselves into the community.
”Each visitor received a game card. To win points, they could download the OhioHealth app or demonstrate they already had it; play an electronic game designed to provide education about the right level of care and promote player competition; take a selfie and use the OhioHealth hashtag on social media; or visit the emergency medical services within the tent to learn CPR. Filling out the cards with their contact information let them enter a drawing for a Fitbit, thus adding names to the system’s database.Measurable Results
Coates said the event met all expectations: It was cost effective, nimble and employed the tactic of surprise and delight to engage consumers. “Using competition and achievement coupled with education, we created a really fun environment that translated directly into results.” These results showed in their annual brand-tracking study around emergency services, with a statistically significant difference in consumer preferences between OhioHealth’s emergency services and the competition’s. It also led to more than 100,000 downloads of its app. The quizzes in the game helped OhioHealth identify local needs for accurate health information. “We can try and understand how we need to refocus our messaging to address the areas that are stumping people,” Sanderow said. “That’s been a real game changer for us as marketers.”
Most importantly, the free-standing EDs have the same acuity levels as typical community hospital EDs, reaching OhioHealth’s business objectives.OhioHealth Tips on What Makes a Great Experience?
- It should add value. The customer should know what’s in it for them.
- It should share a message about the brand.
- It should clearly express the benefits of the brand.
- It should be unique and stand out.
- It should be scalable and shareable throughout the brand.
This article features interview with:Lewis Sanderow
Senior Director, Marketing Communications
Columbus, OhioKara Coates
Director, Events & Sponsorships