Healthcare Marketing as a Profession

What Batman Taught Me About Running a Healthcare Marketing Firm

This is me when I was 5 years old. The image is a square from a family quilt my mother made. Each square depicted a scene involving at lest one of her 5 children.
This is me when I was 5 years old. The image is a square from a family quilt my mother made. Each square depicted a scene involving at least one of her 5 children. I’m running with my dog, Dandelion.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the Dark Knight. I’ve been captivated by the legend of Batman since I was a small child. Although the Dark Knight is a psychologically complex character, he did impart a few important lessons that I have carried with me into my professional life.

  1. The Utility Belt – Batman was a lover of science and technology. The Batcave was essentially a science lab where new crime fighting technologies were always under development. At just the right time, Batman would pull a prototype of some new device out of his utility belt, and use it to take down another arch villain. Unlike other crime fighters of the era, Batman was unwilling to simply rely on old technology. He pushed forward, always looking for new tools that would help him do his job more efficiently. This is a lesson the best healthcare marketers and communicators have come to embrace.
  2. The Bat Signal & the Bat Phone – The Caped Crusader understood that his clients (the Gotham City Police Department and Commissioner Gordon) needed ready access to him. When a crisis struck Gotham City, time was always of the essence. So Batman developed a number of ways that he could be contacted in the event of an emergency. It wasn’t enough to have the Bat Phone (a direct line to the Batcave, Wayne Manor and Batmobile); Batman also developed the Bat Signal, an alternative form of communication that would allow him to respond immediately to client calls for help. Batman, like many of you, understood the importance of good communication and accessibility. (He would have loved the immediacy of texting.) With social media and digital technology, we now live in a 7-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day world. So we need to be connected and available at a moment’s notice. That’s why this healthcare marketer doesn’t go anywhere without his trusty iPhone! It is important to remember that good communication is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The best solution or combination of solutions is whatever works to the target audience – client, co-worker or consumer. Whether it is email, text, phone or Bat signal, it is up to us to choose the tools that get the job done.
  3. Robin, Alfred and Bat Girl – Batman understood that in crime fighting you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. That is certainly the case in healthcare marketing. You can talk about technology and new media all you want, but in the end, it comes down to the people in your organization – their expertise and their commitment. So I ask, do you have a Boy Wonder on your team? Do you have an Alfred operating behind the scenes, digging up consumer insights or managing online communities?
  4. From Vigilante Crime Fighter to Millionaire PlayboyThe Struggle for Work-Life Balance – Although Batman never really came to terms with this, he did strive for work-life balance, primarily at the urging of his personal valet, Alfred. Batman juggled a busy social life as a millionaire industrialist, playboy (eligible bachelor) and one of Gotham City’s leading philanthropists. Sure, his work was the priority, and he admitted having an unhealthy obsession with taking down the bad guys. He was self-aware and, in his defense, was not yet encumbered by the responsibilities that come with being a family-man. The lesson here is that he was not one dimensional in his life. Remember, “all work and no play make Bruce Wayne a dull boy.” The same is true for healthcare marketers. Being one dimensional makes you a less effective marketer. Get out there and experience life. Step away from your laptop and go for a hike or attend a concert. You’ll return to your work revitalized.Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 8.46.15 AM
  5. The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, The Penguin – In Gotham City, villains came in all shapes and sizes. And they kept coming. No sooner would Batman and Robin vanquish one evil-doer, than another would begin wreaking havoc. Batman learned early on that it would be no small task to rid Gotham City of the criminal element, and he would need to be patient and persevere in the face of incredible and often unforeseen challenges. Doesn’t this sound like the healthcare environment of 2014? You face challenges inside and outside of your organization. In the spirit of the Dark Knight, keep pushing forward. Don’t let obstacles keep you from pursuing what you know is right.
  6. The Wayne Foundation – Philanthropy and Giving Back to the Community – As I mentioned earlier, Bruce Wayne was philanthropist who ran the Wayne Foundation, a charity for helping victims of crimes. This philanthropic activity, along with his obsession with tracking down the criminal element, was inspired by the murder of both of his parents. The Wayne Foundation supported Gotham’s many soup kitchens and funded research that would ultimately be used to address the city’s many social problems. Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, was committed to improving his community through his philanthropy and through his direct action. As professionals working in healthcare, the link between the communities we serve and our organizations is apparent. We often work for the largest employer in the region and an important driver of the local economy. Community relations and giving back to the community are important themes in our business. They allow us to build up equity for our hospital brands in the event we need to cash in that equity on a rainy day. The goodwill from community involvement also makes it easier to pursue new initiatives with the support of local constituents. As I’ve written many times, the theme of community should be an integral part of everything we do as healthcare marketers.
  7. The Bat Signal – Batman understood the Power of Brand. Think of the Bat logo and Batman’s well-established visual brand identity. Think of the iconic black and gold colors. The logo itself has evolved over the years to stay relevant to the times; but the essence of the brand has remained consistent. There was visual brand consistency as you moved from the Batmobile to Batplane to Batsuit. There are two important lessons here: 1. Brand consistency across all platforms is a great asset to the organization, and 2. We should not be afraid to let our visual brand identity evolve over time. Great brands evolve as their communities evolve: think of Apple Computer and McDonald’s (see images below). In our business, we must be constantly vigilant, working to keep our communications and our brands relevant to our constituents. The appetites of consumers change over time and so must our marketing!

See you soon: same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

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  1. Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 8.58.40 AM

evolution-of-the-batman-logo

The infographic was designed by Cathryn Laver from Calm the Ham.

1 comment on “What Batman Taught Me About Running a Healthcare Marketing Firm

  1. Pingback: What Batman Taught Me About Running a Healthcare Marketing Firm

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