Prairie Dog

Let’s Dip Health Care in a Big Vat of Orange Paint

Have you ever noticed that most cars are either white, black or silver?

It’s like we’re still in the days of the Model T. As if Henry Ford is still telling us we can have any color we want as long as it’s black.

I looked it up. Nearly 80 percent of all cars in the country are white, black or silver. That’s odd when most surveys tell us that people list blue, green, red, and purple way ahead of black, white, and gray as their favorite colors.

It’s not just color either. So many cars and trucks seem to look alike these days, too.

Why is that?

Well, some will tell you it’s cheaper for the carmakers to produce less variations in color.

In turn, that’s what buyers have to choose from when visiting the car dealers.

Some think re-sell will be better. Funny, yellow, orange, purple, red, green and blue all depreciate less than their follow the herd counterparts.

I tend to think it has a lot more to with social conformity. We are social beings. We need to belong. Following the crowd is safer.

We like to think we are in control of our thoughts and behaviors, but are we really?

The reality is we tend to look at what other people are doing. It’s a heuristic, a mental shortcut, to navigate life. To make things easier. To fit in.

So at the end of the day, we have a sea of sameness in the car business.

As the CMO of French carmaker, Peugeot, told Marketing Week, “A lot of car marketing is very homogenous, it’s quite beige, a lot of it looks the same.”

No, he’s not talking about health care marketing but he might as well be.

The marketers at Stellantis, the parent company of Peugeot and Fiat seem to have decided the world already has enough grey cars. They decided to separate from the herd mentality and take on a new sense of self. To be different. And to give their customers a chance to do the same.

Consider their recent Fiat campaign – NO MORE GREY. Take a minute and enjoy.

I don’t know about you, but I think health care marketing could learn a thing or two from Fiat. Maybe, just maybe, we need to dunk health care in a giant vat of orange paint, too.

Fiat gives us a great example of differentiation.

There is very little opportunity for unique differentiation in most categories. Health care is no different. Fortunately, differentiation is not always about finding uniqueness. It’s much more about salience and relative differentiation.

My marketing hero, Mark Ritson, tells us that there are a couple of foundational ways to go about it.

One, is to show the consumer “This is what we are. And make them look.”

The other is to say “Look at this/them. We are the alternative.”

You can do one or two. But a both/and approach is ideal. That’s what Fiat chose to do.

The CMO of Peugeot gets it. Here’s a summary of his game plan.

    1. Start with the consumer. Get out of your office and experience your audience and the world they live in to understand how you fit in. This is where your opportunity lives.
    2. Own one simple idea. Simple is hard to do, but consumers are much more likely to remember one simple idea.
    3. Accept that very few consumers are in the market right now, so creating mental availability for the future is key. That means investing in brand building. And by all means, avoid being beige.
    4. Repeat. Repeat. Stay the course. It will pay off.
    5. Measure what matters. Market penetration. Web traffic. Brand familiarity, preference and associations. As the Fiat CMO said, “If I ask 20 people what my brand is, I want to get the same idea.”

So, what do you say health care marketers?  Let’s get some orange paint and get to work.

Jerry Hobbs

Jerry Hobbs is a marketing strategist and the president of Prairie Dog, a national health care marketing group headquartered in Kansas City.