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Marketing Mix Podcast With Mark Viden

Mark Viden discusses the impact of the internet on healthcare marketing

September 25, 2019

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Mark Viden, Senior Vice President of Brand at CommonSpirit Health. Mark discusses how marketing in the healthcare space has evolved over the last 20 years, the impact of the internet on healthcare brands, and the shift in power from physicians to patients in the new media era. With a passion for purpose, Mark discusses the importance of building long-term relationships with consumers, the CommonSpirit Health Hello Humankindness campaign, and how to empower your employees to be the most influential advocates for your brand.

Listen to "Mark Viden, Senior Vice President, Brand, CommonSpirit Health" on Spreaker.
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Jeff Ragovin: You've been at the organization for over 20 years. What was the impetus to make you stay for so long?

Mark Viden: I surprised myself quite honestly. When I joined Dignity Health back in 2001 I wanted healthcare experience, it was something missing in my background and I thought it was important to have. What I found, however, was an organization that is really unique, special and committed. Meetings begin with a reflection, it could be an article you read in the newspaper or a video you watched on the internet, and the idea is for employees to get their head in the space ready for the conversation ahead, and that small example defines a lot of the culture at Dignity Health (now CommonSpirit Health). The people here are very special and unique and I just fell in love with it and 20 years later here I still am. 

Jeff Ragovin: Can you tell us more about the company and its core focus?

Mark Viden: In February, Dignity Health and CHI came together to form CommonSpirit Health. We have over 150,000 employees, 120 million patient visits annually and 1 in 4 Americans live near a CommonSpirit facility. The impetus behind the merger was not to get big for big's sake, it was to tackle some of the difficult health issues that the country faces, and that’s really going outside of the hospital and urgent care walls and into the community, and it’s addressing health disparities. 

Jeff Ragovin: How does the role and impact of marketing vary within the healthcare space compared to within CPG arena?

Mark Viden: It is very different. Most people do not think about healthcare until they absolutely need it. How do you remain top of mind and become relevant to the consumer when they may not need you at that point of communication or ad serving? I think what’s different is it’s a long-term relationship. We have a brand purpose that we sum up in two words - Hello Humankindness. Hello Humankindness allows people who don’t really understand healthcare, who may be confused or uncertain as to what we offer, a way in. It shines a light to the 150,000 employees who are dedicated and committed to the cause. 

Jeff Ragovin: Has there been a shift in how people view healthcare over the last 20 years?

Mark Viden: The internet is fundamental to how people’s perception of healthcare has changed. 20 years ago people’s understanding of healthcare was primarily through their physician and now because of the information that’s available consumers are much more savvy and they're armed with information, they have more choices at their disposal to make for their healthcare options. 20 years ago the primary relationship, in terms of marketing and communications, was with the physician. Now, because consumers have more information and choice, healthcare organizations need to have a brand and they need to have a brand that stands out and that people can really understand what you stand for - that’s a fundamental change from 20 years ago. 

Jeff Ragovin: Can you tell us more about the mission about Hello Humankindness?

Mark Viden: Great brands, I think, come from inherent truths. If you try to declare something that isn't inherently true about your company or organization, consumers are going to quickly realize that. When we built Hello Humankindness, it started with our employees, physicians and volunteers. Before we even spoke to an advertising agency, we wanted to really understand what was important to them and what they wanted to stand for in the community.

What we found is that they had tremendous pride in serving with excellence, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay. So, we took that bold mission and went into the marketplace to understand what our consumers are looking for, and what consumers want is to be listened to and to be heard. Sometimes experiences with physicians can feel almost cold and impersonal, but we felt our greatest strength was this connection. Our organization's history is rooted in kindness and the common purpose of healing others, not only through medicine but through humanity. The campaign and work itself started with messaging away from the healthcare experience because we wanted consumers with connect with us emotionally. 

Hello Humankindness is a way for us to connect with consumers and internally as well. What has been exciting to see is how our employees have embraced the mission. They have made it their own and formed a number of efforts to ensure the brand promise is fulfilled. That’s what great brands do - they plant a flag that allows everyone in the organization to see and to make sure that we’re thriving for that everyday. 

Jeff Ragovin: Is a lot of your work focused on empowering your workforce to become brand advocates then?

Mark Viden: Absolutely. You have to empower your employees to be your brand ambassadors. They are going to be the reason your consumers feel what you're saying is true. You have to first explain what it is your brand is about, and then you let them go forth and live it out as they see fit, and so we don’t try to micromanage that brand expression, we find that our employees, in effect become how Hello Kindness is experienced. 

Jeff Ragovin: What are some of the most effective ways for empowering your workforce?

Mark Viden: You first have to explain where a brand comes from. When you have so many people in your organization you know that not everyone can reach everyone, so you need to make sure the message is getting out in multiple ways. Then, you have to reward and recognize the kind of behavior that you think are aligned with your brand purpose. We have an annual recognition ceremony called Acts of Humankindness in which our own employees recognize their colleagues. It really is an amazing celebration of powerful stories that have occurred throughout the year, and those stories then become the ingredients for future communications. 

Jeff Ragovin: On the consumer side, are there any initiatives you are really focused on this year? 

Mark Viden: What we continue to do is find innovative ways to connect with consumers. For the last 2 years, we’ve been focusing on this notion of mindfulness. Rooted in our organization is this sense that true healing focuses on mind, body and spirit. We found when caregivers take just 2 minutes to be by themselves and shut the noise out they were then better able to engage and connect with their colleagues and patients. That was a pretty powerful finding. We then created a mindfulness campaign called Take 2 Minutes that allowed this reflective pause to be understood by consumers. It went exceedingly well so we continued building on it. Last year, we engaged with the singer Jewel who was her own mindfulness practice and we found a commonality in what we wanted to get out to the world. 

This year we continued to think through mindfulness. We have some great campaigns on social and Facebook primarily. We use the medium to actually encourage people to step away from the medium. On Instagram, we’ve published a carousel with a single image included that says “Breathe” with the copy urging people to put down their phones. People are so stressed and having those pauses in life are great to recenter you and to contribute to positive health.

Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes