2019: The year smartphones scan for food poisoning?

2019: The year smartphones scan for food poisoning?

Siri, what movies are playing?

Siri, did the Spartans win?

Siri, what's the square root of 64?

Siri, can you call my husband?

If you're an Apple aficionado, all of the above should sound familiar. Every month, Siri gets an average of 10 billion requests, and if food scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are successful, you'll soon be able to ask one more.

Siri, will that food make me sick?

According to NPR, researchers are eager to develop a smartphone device that will identify harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella — both of which can cause foodborne illness.

The problem? Currently, testing takes at least 24 hours and some serious technology. Scientists obtain samples from things like raw spinach and chicken skin by rinsing the food and collecting the water. Then, to get a big enough sample, they wait for the bacteria to multiply.

The solution? Experts in Massachusetts are experimenting with a $30 microscope attachment that would reveal substances in 30 minutes. The safe, simple process would be as follows:

  1. Dip a small, chemically coated chip into potentially contaminated water. Let it sit for half an hour.
  2. Clip the microscope attachment to your smartphone camera.
  3. Point the microscope at the chip.

The team is determined to make it easy, as an undergraduate student participating in the project said, "I think the average consumer will be able to figure it out without much trouble."

They're also determined to make it benefit almost everyone, especially those using it home kitchens and during natural disasters (to test drinking water).

While this technology is very preliminary and still "several years from market," it's based on the overarching goal of making safety more accessible. And who can't appreciate that?

For more healthcare happenings, subscribe to our Healthcare Checkup — a monthly email filled with industry insights and best practices.

What marketers can expect in 2019: Media consumption.

Media consumption in 2019

As we near the end of the year, we begin to question the year to come. What is next? What can we do to prepare? Specifically, where is media going in 2019?

For a while there, users were engaging in shared experiences, and while that is still very accurate, media consumption is shifting into more curated and connected content for consumers. Ever notice the "Recommended For You" feature on Instagram...their algorithms understand our every move, like, share, view and want to provide more carefully selected content like that to us.

So, what is next for media consumption in 2019? Let's take a look:

  • Digital technology utilization has reached its expected plateau. According to Pew Research Center, there was little to no growth from 2016 to 2018 in terms of U.S. consumers using their smart devices: cellphones, tablets, etc. The slowdown in growth correlates to the fact that almost everyone has some sort of smart device. This isn't indicative of media usage, however. Users are now more aware of their time spent on device and in app...
  • Time spent on device and in-app makes consumers highly aware of their consumption. Smartphones now allow you to receive a weekly update of your device usage. Even Facebook and Instagram are offering a tracking tool to users. You can set the amount of time per day you would prefer to spend on social platforms and receive notifications when you have reached that threshold.
  • Audio and video streaming services are still rising. While video killed the radio star, streaming services are killing both their predecessors. According to Gartner Iconoculture, 55 percent of U.S. households now subscribe to at least one video-streaming service (up from 10 percent in 2009). In addition, the average subscriber pays for three different services, bringing the industry nearly $2.1 billion in revenue per month. Tired of ads? Try Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music or even Amazon Music Unlimited. While the latter options are still figuring out their audiences, Spotify and Apple Music are leading the streaming ship.
  • Twitter and Snapchat are on their way out. (Well sort of.) The two social platforms have seen a steady decline in users in 2018 and we anticipate that will continue in 2019. In efforts to redesign the user interface, Snapchat appeared to fail quite miserably, leading to several unhappy users. So much so, the platform saw a 15 percent stock price drop within the first quarter (yikes!). And according to Bloomberg, Twitter lost nearly one million users in the second quarter of this year.
  • YouTube's recommended content causes users to stay in platform longer. Ever watch a YouTube video and then realize it's a half hour later and you've watched too many cooking recipes, makeup tutorials, reaction videos or fail compilations? (Cue nervous laughter. Yeah, me neither.) Today, users are engaging in YouTube videos for more than just entertainment purposes. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 50 percent of users watch YouTube videos for how-to related content, while 13 percent find the platform informative in understanding world events. In addition, due to YouTube's algorithm, users are staying on the platform even longer than anticipated. The algorithm encourages users to watch "Recommended Content" based on videos they have watched previously, with nearly 81 percent of YouTube viewers clicking on the recommended content. (Okay, one more "animals doing cute things" video and then we will do something else.)

What else can marketers expect from 2019? Read up on the latest in:

Weekly Recap - December 7, 2018

Woman using a mobile phone.

Tube Tied

YouTube's algorithm invites you to keep on watching and watching... It starts with a simple ask, a clip from a talk show you missed or maybe a tutorial to get that beachy wave look. Before long, you've consumed dozens of cat videos and lost track of your original intentions. You're not alone, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center. Some 35 percent of U.S. adults tune in to YouTube videos for instruction on how to perform tasks and 13 percent of find YouTube helpful in understanding world events.

+It's by design. The researchers also found that YouTube's recommendation algorithm "encourages users to watch progressively longer and more popular content." 81 percent of YouTube users watch the recommended videos at least occasionally; that includes 15 percent who do so regularly. Kids are watching too. YouTube says it's not kid-friendly, but 81 percent of parents with children 11 years old or younger have allowed their children to watch YouTube content.

Droid's New Following

Android users connect with businesses using Google Maps app. A recently launched "follow" feature on the Google Maps mobile app allows Android users to stay current with their favorite IRL stores, restaurants and other businesses and discover places that are opening soon (TheVerge.com, 25 October 2018). It works a lot like Facebook Pages.

+The Google Maps for Android app now lets consumers follow businesses, much the way they follow friends on social media. After tapping the follow button to track a business, the app's users receive news of events, offers and other information from that business in the app's For You tab. Profiles of places that are about to open also appear on the app, with the projected opening date in orange. Businesses set to open within three months can create a free Business Profile to be included.

More App'd to Deceive

Ads in apps relentlessly target the youngest consumers. Children's mobile apps are crawling with advertising, much of which is distracting and/or deceptive, according to a study by University of Michigan researchers. The study focused on the most-downloaded paid and free apps for kids under 5 years old—south of kindergarten.

+Of the 135 apps the team reviewed, 95 percent contained at least one kind of ad. 42 percent of the ads featured commercial characters, like Strawberry Shortcake; 46 percent were teasers to upgrade to a full app; and 30 percent promoted in-app purchases. Others were advertising videos that interrupted the child's play; nudgy ads to rate the app or share about it on social media; and distracting ads, including banners and ads camouflaged as gameplay items. Based on the research, 22 consumer and children's advocacy groups sent a letter to the FTC requesting an investigation into the practice of using in-app ads to target young children (NYTimes.com, 30 October 2018).

New to Insta

8 Instagram Updates your brand should know about. A lot can change in a year. Perhaps you cut your hair? Changed jobs? Bought a house? Did something arts and crafty? Did you post your updates to Instagram? And did you notice their new features? Let's break it down.

Healthcare Checkup - November 2018

Healthcare Checkup

Who's the most popular girl at the tech party? How can you reduce your bounce rate? Are Facebook support groups okay? Find the answers here, as well as what marketers can expect in 2019 for Health and Wellness, Cause Marketing and Technology.

Vitamin B & P

What marketers can expect in 2019: Health and Wellness. What was hot in health and well-known in wellness for 2018 might not carry into the new year. As 2019 approaches, brands should reflect on the messages to bring with them. And those to leave behind. Here's a look at the top consumer health and wellness trends for 2019.

Heartbeat takes health tech from wearable to useful. We love wearable technology. But who's willing to crunch the numbers, study the patterns and analyze the results? This high-tech, high-touch cardiologic care provider is disrupting healthcare by meeting consumers before they have heart disease.

Marketing Supplements

What marketers can expect in 2019: Technology. Alexa became the most popular girl at the tech party in 2018. What's ahead for the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2019 and what are the key marketing challenges and opps?

What marketers can expect in 2019: Cause marketing. From #MeToo to the Times Up movement, March for Our Lives to the #NeverAgain campaign, causes and cause marketing became a huge focus for brands and consumers in 2018. Marketers can expect more of the same in 2019.

Industry Pulse

'Facebook (is) the only way': the perils – and promise – of Facebook's emotional support groups. It's becoming increasingly common for patients with rare diseases or cancer gene mutations to turn to Facebook for emotional support. But these groups often face privacy and financial concerns.

10 ways to reduce your website bounce rate infographic. Simple, concise and on target.

Monthly Dose

Looking to market to all generations but don't have the budget? Not a problem. There's one common denominator across each audience. Can you guess what it is? Download our free guide, How to market healthcare to all generations, to learn more.

Weekly Recap - November 30, 2018

Digital technology use in the U.S. peaks.

Tech Peaks

Consumers' use of digital technologies has plateaued. The growth of U.S. consumers using cellphones, smartphones, social media, the internet and computers has stalled, according to Pew (PewResearch.org, 28 September 2018). Between 2016 and 2018 there was zero growth of cellphone (95%) and smartphone ownership (77%) and social media use (69%). Internet use grew just slightly, from 88% to 89%, and desktop/laptop ownership dropped from 78% to 73%.

+The slowdown is related to near-saturation levels — especially for cellphones, smartphones and internet use — in groups that include college graduates, consumers age 18 to 49 and consumers with household income of at least $75,000. Cellphone ownership in these three groups, respectively, is 97%.


Millennials don't hit their "financial awakening" until age 33. Millennials are notorious for delaying major life milestones like marriage and kids. True to form, their "financial awakening" is also behind schedule: age 33, on average, according to an Ally Financial survey (NYPost.com, 5 November 2018). This surprises no one. It's been tough for consumers born in the '80s to accumulate wealth, because Great Recession.

+Millennials' monthly expenditures on everything from basics (rent and utilities) to student loans, medical costs, entertainment and travel add up to a hefty $2,165/month or $25,980/year. That means the average Millennial must make about $53,000 just to be comfortable — a figure still out of reach for many. Millennials might do better if they were more financially savvy. Just 35% feel confident about doing their own retirement planning, investing and taxes. 55% could use some help, and half fear they'll never be able to retire.

Banked and Mobile

The ranks of unbanked consumers are shrinking, while mobile banking rises.In 2017, the number of U.S. households without a savings or checking account fell to 6.5%, 0.5% lower than 2015 and the lowest level since 2009, according to an FDIC survey (Pymnts.com, 24 October 2018). While that may be bad news for tech expansionists, it's good news for the U.S. economy.

+"This decline can be attributed almost entirely to improvements in the economic circumstances of U.S. households," the study authors write. 34% of consumers who remain unbanked cite lack of funds as the primary reason for their status, while 12.6% simply don't trust banks and 8.6% balk at hefty bank fees. And 18.7% of households are in the underbanked gray zone; they have at least one traditional bank account but also get other financial services outside the banking system. While the ranks of unbanked consumers are shrinking, the number of Americans using mobile banking continues to rise, from 23.2% in 2013 to 40.4% in 2017.


What marketers can expect in 2019: Health and Wellness. What was hot in health and well-known in wellness for 2018 might not carry into the new year. As 2019 approaches, brands should reflect on the messages they want to bring with them. And those to leave behind.

Heartbeat takes health tech from wearable to useful. Wearable tech. We take it to the gym, out for a run. We swim with it, bike with it, walk the dog with it. We take it to work, disguised as a tasteful accessory. We even sleep with it. Why? Because we're obsessed with data—and there's no data more fascinating to us than our own personal health information.

Heartbeat takes health tech from wearable to useful.

Sports watches and other wearable tech are changing healthcare.

We love wearable health technology.

We take it to the gym, out for a run. We swim with it, bike with it, walk the dog with it. We take it to work, disguised as a tasteful accessory. We even sleep with it. Why? Because we're obsessed with data—and there's no data more fascinating to us than our own personal health information.

But unless you're a serious athlete, you're probably not doing much with all that information. Apart from keeping track of steps per day, minutes slept and calories burned, you consult your wearable for little else. Maybe the time.

That sparkly wrist candy is so much deeper than that. The data collected by wearables can inform more productive workouts, disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment options. Your wearable may contain critical insights that complement or enhance standard lab tests. But who's willing to crunch the numbers, study the patterns and analyze the results?

Heartbeat will do it.

The high-tech, high-touch cardiologic care provider is disrupting healthcare by meeting with consumers before they have heart disease. That includes consulting their Fitbit or Apple Watch for insights. The retail-based clinic wants to make it easy for consumers to know their heart, which is what their cardiologists say is the key to protecting it.

At the Heartbeat website, consumers can book in-clinic cardiology consultations and tests, including electrocardiograms, echocardiograms and cardio stress testing on a treadmill—without a referral. Also online, they can book an appointment to have the Heartbeat team prepare a personalized exercise and diet program or schedule a run in Central Park with a Heartbeat cardiologist. Consumers with a Fitbit or Apple Watch can also book an appointment to have the team analyze the data on their wearable.

The service seamlessly combines the human and technological aspects of preventive care while also providing cost transparency. In an online review of Heartbeat, one patient wrote: "All the prices are clearly spelled out in a menu of services on the website and are very reasonable ... Everything happens on a computer screen in real time and a follow-up report, summarizing and graphically representing all the major findings and recommendations, is e-mailed to the patient in the next few days."

Wearable healthcare tech is only getting more sophisticated and popular. It won't be long before the trend is the norm. Savvy healthcare practitioners will discover ways to maximize their patients' use of wearable tech to deepen their knowledge and counsel them to better health.

Blog Category: 

What marketers can expect in 2019: Technology.

new technology

A slew of new technologies continued to hit the market in 2018, which has become more the rule than the exception in recent years. For marketers, the real shift is not so much with the technologies themselves, but with consumers' perception of them; these days, we're not so easily impressed. We don't want new technology for technology's sake anymore, we want it to make our lives easier. More and more, consumers have stopped asking, "What can it do?" and have shifted to, "What can it do for me?"

Big tech happenings of 2018

  • Apple finally entered the voice-controlled smart speaker market with its HomePod.
  • Amazon's Alexa became the most popular girl at the tech party, as other products clambered to pair up with her: robovacuums, light bulbs, kitchen appliances, home security systems and more. Amazon has sold about 25 million Amazon Echo devices, and that number's expected to double by 2020.
  • Communications giants AT&T and Time Warner merged; some are wary this could lead to price hikes for consumers.
  • Companies outside the financial industry began experimenting with Blockchain database technologies to enhance security and privacy of information.

Looking ahead to 2019

  • Expect the Internet of Things (IoT) to keep expanding. Global research and advisory company Gartner predicts worldwide spending on the IoT to reach $3.5 trillion by 2021.
  • Consumers will be accessing the internet by voice more and more. Consumers love their smartphones and tablets, but they like to give their hands a break. Voice control allows them to multitask, such as searching for cooking advice when they're up to their wrists in bread dough.
  • Consumers are loving cameras, sensors and other tech features on newer car models. Watch for new technology in driver-assist features, getting us closer and closer to autonomous driving.
  • Immersive experiences (like VR goggles) will expand, and prices will drop to allow more people to use them. Sales of head-mounted VR displays are predicted to triple in the next 4 years.

Challenges and opportunities for marketers

Now that more and more consumers are getting information through virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri, marketers need to determine how they can rise to the top in this new medium. According to a fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review, the rise of AI platforms may eventually make omni-channel marketing obsolete; everything will go through these platforms instead.

Not everyone has Alexa, but nearly everyone (77% of all Americans and a whopping 94% of those aged 18-29) has a smartphone. And they're increasingly relying on them, rather than computers, to access the internet. Having a smart mobile marketing strategy is more important than ever.

Marketers attempting to brand tech products and services must tout ease of use, convenience and practicality; consumers are no longer willing to try your new technology just because it's "cool." This applies to apps and websites as well.

Blog Category: 

Weekly Recap - November 9, 2018

What makes people happy has a lot to do with how much discretionary income they have.

Feels Like Happiness

Wealthier consumers find happiness in experiences, while less affluent prefer stuff. Experiential marketing is what Instagram Stories are made of. Look at me, I'm skydiving into a corn maze infested with zombies. Here I am doing yoga with rescued animals at a vegan, cage-free farm. Turns out, experience is also where happiness comes from—for those who can afford it anyhow Lower-income consumers get more bang for their buck when they buy actual stuff.

+"For lower-class consumers, spending money on concert tickets or a weekend trip might not result in greater happiness," explains Deborah Hall, whose research team published their findings in Psychological Science. "In fact, [they] were happiest from purchasing things, which makes sense given that material goods have practical benefit, resale value and [last longer]" (ScienceDaily.com, 3 October 2018). Perception also plays an interesting role here. When asked to imagine their income had decreased by 50%, study participants reported similar levels of happiness from material and experiential purchases. But experiences make people happier when they imagine their income had grown by 50 percent.

Pay TV

TV viewers can earn points for watching shows on WatchBack. It's a couch potato's dream come true. Thanks to the free WatchBack app from NBCUniversal, watching TV has grown from the lackadaisical to a potentially lucrative pastime. The app offers sweepstakes in which the app's users can win points redeemable for gift cards. Watching featured shows earns consumers entries in the sweepstakes (Variety.com, 5 October 2018). A sweepstakes winner could, for example, be awarded points worth $100 and then convert his or her winnings into a gift card from Amazon, Burger King, Starbucks, Target, Macy's or many other merchants.

+WatchBack offers consumers limited-time viewing of full-length episodes from shows on NBCUniversal's networks plus nonexclusive content from more than 60 partners, including PBS, Mashable, Refinery29, Adventure Sports Network and Newsy. The app also delivers video clips from NBCUniversal's cable networks, including Bravo, CNBC, USA Network and MSNBC and from its broadcast businesses, including NBC Entertainment, NBC News, NBC Sports and Telemundo.

Singled Out

The Collins Dictionary's Word of the Year says a mouthful about consumerism today. There are more than 4.5 billion-words in the English language, but only one can be selected to epitomize the state of our collective conscience. According to Collins lexicographers, that word is "single-use." Last year's Word of the Year was actually two words: "fake news."

+The popularity of "single-use" has increased four-fold since 2013, prompted by news stories and documentary series raising public awareness of this environmental issue. Single-use "encompasses a global movement to kick our addiction to disposable products. From plastic bags, bottles and straws to washable nappies, we have become more conscious of how our habits and behaviours can impact the environment," Collins says.

Input Out

How machine learning is changing the rules of marketing. "Machine learning" may not be as popular a term as "single-use" or "fake news," but the application is changing the way consumers search for information. If your first impulse is to ask Alexa what it is, you're among them.

Holiday marketing: How soon is too soon? Holiday marketing...while some advertisers started their campaigns halfway through October, most retailers officially kicked off the season November 1. Target, Anthropologie, the new Grinch movie and Amazon are some of the brands populating the marketplace early. Oh and Starbucks too! But are consumers ready?

How machine learning is changing the rules of marketing.

Machine learning

"Machine learning" may not be a term you've heard before. But if your first impulse is to ask Alexa what it is, you're already using one application of it.

Machine learning is the practice of getting computers to learn autonomously, through the accumulation of data input. The more input, the more accurate the algorithms become. In other words, machine learning is getting computers to learn the way people do – through experience. It's a form of artificial intelligence.

Machine learning has a huge number of applications. Voice and facial recognition, analysis of healthcare data for research and diagnostics, detection of online fraud, even lunch ordering—a service called Forkable uses algorithms to predict what everyone in your office wants to eat, then delivers it. And if you've ever been served an ad on Facebook and thought, "How does Amazon know I need garbage bags?", then you've experienced the marketing side of machine learning.

How marketers are using machine learning

  • Personalization. By collecting data on customers' behaviors, machine learning gets to "know" them, and can predict the kind of products or messages they're likely to respond to. So many companies use this kind of personalization that consumers have come to expect it. In the future, marketing messages that are clearly NOT personalized will stand out (and not in a good way).

    Elements of personalization can include names, geographic location, driving and shopping habits, and more. The British company Bidooh, which sells digital outdoor advertising (such as large posters in shopping malls), uses facial recognition to choose which ad it serves to passersby.

  • Email segmentation and optimization. Instead of laboriously dividing email lists into preference groups, companies can use machine learning to help target more accurately according to behavioral patterns. Machine learning can help generate myriad combinations of subject lines and messages, then optimize for the ones that perform best; it can also optimize timing and frequency of when emails are sent. Some email services even use machine learning to generate the content of emails. One app, called Phrasee, claims that it "writes better-performing marketing copy than humans."

    As a human writer who needs my paycheck, I'm not sure I like the sound of that. But some say it's the way of the future. According to a 2017 whitepaper by IDC Research, "Programmatic advertising has automated many of the transactional elements of the advertising supply chain, and IDC believes that the next bastion is the creative content and copy process."

  • Forecasting. With machine learning, you don't have to be a visionary to predict future demand or anticipate customer behaviors. For instance, real-time analysis of data can help pinpoint customers you may be about to lose, then deliver them a special message or offer to bring them back. It can also help determine the optimal media mix to reach your target audience in the months ahead.

Can machine learning go too far?

Machine learning is a great tool. But beware of the "creep" factor. In a 2017 survey, 36% of consumers who chose not to buy a smart speaker (like Amazon Echo or Google Home) cited concerns about privacy as their reason. In October 2017, a glitch in the Google Home Mini caused the device to secretly record users without their knowledge, which did little to change skeptics' attitudes.

Likewise, marketing that oversteps its bounds by being a little too personalized can trigger the creep factor. Spotify pushed the boundaries in 2016 when it created posters that called out the actual listening behaviors of some of its customers. One headline read, "Dear person who listened to the ‘Forever Alone' playlist for 4 hours on Valentine's Day, you OK?" While this is a clever and amusing ad, if you were the person in question, it would be undeniably disturbing. Many people find the sort of ads that call out their current location ("We see you're shopping at Target!) unsettling as well.

Marketing technologies are developing so rapidly, learning to use them correctly is often a case of trial and error. Sometimes it's hard to know where the line should be drawn until you've already crossed it. But the possibilities are exciting.

Blog Category: 

Weekly Recap - November 2, 2018

Consumers who are overwhelmed with screen exposure may soon be able to buy glasses that block TV, computer and other screens.

Follow the Leader

Millennials and Boomers look for different values in cultural leaders. Young adults are inspired by leaders with talent and a solid social justice platform, like Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and Steph Curry. Older consumers are more likely to follow those who command authority (FastCompany.com, 27 September 2018). These findings come from a survey conducted for ad agency Enso.

+Respondents ranked 100 influencers, from the Pope to US presidents. Many of the names were polarizing. Boomers gave Tom Brady and Tiger Woods much higher ratings than Millennials did. Mark Zuckerberg placed 31 spots lower with Millennials — his own generation — than with Boomers. The difference may be because internet-dependent Millennials feel betrayed by tech leaders on privacy issues. Older generations aren't as invested in the issue. Enso's founders see the list as proof of a changing worldview—from material to social virtues.

Protective Lenses

IRL Glasses shield consumers from screens' visual noise. Consumers craving a break from screens may find relief in screen-blocking sunglasses. The so-called IRL Glasses, which grabbed attention when the developers recently launched a Kickstarter campaign, use polarized optics technology.

+In the current, beta version of the glasses, polarized lenses have been rotated 90 degrees and flattened to block light from LCD and LED screens (Wired.com, 7 October 2018). So, when consumers don the glasses, most TVs appear to be off, even if they're not. The glasses also block some computer screens. The glasses' developers hope to eventually partner with optics-industry leaders on the development of glasses that block all screens.


Politically passionate consumers show bias toward news. Consumers with even the most extreme political views have at least one thing in common; they base the accuracy of news on their preferred sources (NYTimes.com, 26 September 2018). The Knight Foundation and Gallup created an experimental website to gather consumer reactions to news content. Participants rated the trustworthiness of content on a five-point scale.

+Articles on economics, politics and science were drawn from media outlets representing the political spectrum, including the New York Times and Vox on the left, and Fox News and Breitbart News on the right. According to the survey report, participants were less trusting of channels with source attribution: "The difference between no source and source conditions is statistically significant. This finding may suggest that source attribution lowers content trustworthiness by reminding users of personal preferences and biases toward particular sources."

I'll Drink to That

Why two Michigan breweries are joining forces to boost our local beer scene. While some businesses choose to cannibalize, two Michigan brewers are choosing to collaborate. The deal may be the first of its kind, and hopefully not the last.

What marketers can expect in 2019: Money & Spending.

Money and spending

Learning America's mindset on money and spending is critical for planning a 2019 marketing strategy, especially for banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions.

First, let's talk about 2018:

  • The Good News: Americans are working. In September, unemployment hit 3.7%, its lowest point since 1969. U.S. worker productivity continues to rise, which is helping out the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts growth of 3.1% in the GDP for the year, up from 2.2% in 2017.

  • The Bad News: Housing demand fell in 2018, and in October, the mortgage rate rose to 5%, the highest in 7 years—an alarming trend for future home shoppers. In addition, banks got stingier with credit card lending. Luckily, consumers have become warier about buying on credit anyway.

Now, as the country's therapist might say (if we had one), "How do we FEEL about that?" Overall, the polarized political climate and general chaos has the country a little jittery. Businesses are on edge waiting for the latest political moves on trade. Trust in our institutions is at a low ebb — and that goes for financial institutions, too.

2019 for millennials and Gen Xers: With greater economic and political clout, these groups are going to start demanding change from the government and financial institutions. Americans owe more than $1.2 trillion (yes, trillion) in student loans, and most of it is owed by millennials. Aging Gen Xers are increasingly concerned with the rising costs of healthcare. And everyone wants more transparency in financial services.

Your strategy:

Technology is key. Branch visits for millennials are generally reserved for big events like applying for a mortgage (and increasingly, even that is done online). If they have a question, they're going to look online first, so make sure it's easy for them to find the answers.

Apps for saving and investing, like Digit and Stash, mean that all tech-savvy customers have plenty of non-bank options. Banks or credit unions that don't have an easy-to-use app are at a distinct disadvantage.

Millennials still digging out from student loan debt are going to have a harder time buying their first home. Provide education on low- or no-down-payment programs like FHA or VA loans, and you could help get them in the door (and win their trust).

2019 for Baby Boomers

As a group, boomers are way behind on retirement saving. Worrying about what the government might do with Social Security and healthcare isn't helping matters. No wonder about 60% of boomers plan on working past 65.

Financial companies are aware of this, as evidenced by E*Trade's humorous TV ads in the 2018 SuperBowl:

But don't assume all working boomers want to retire but can't. Some continue working because they want to. And some retire from their first career, but move on to newer, more fulfilling work.

Your strategy:

Offer options for last-minute retirement investing, but keep in mind that this group may also be in the market for help with long-delayed career dreams: owning their own small businesses, for example, or even going back to school. Life expectancy in the U.S. is 76 years for men and 81 for women, and you can only play so much golf.

An uncertain future

The CBO predicts a slowdown in economic growth in 2019, so consumers of all ages will be more cautious with money. Plan your marketing strategy carefully to convince them you're worth the investment.

9 key takeaways from SHSMD Connections Conference 2018.

9 key takeaways from SHSMD Connections Conference 2018

The weather may have been mostly grey, but the Seattle SHSMD conference illuminated us four Brogan healthcare marketers in so many ways! Here are our 9 key takeaways:

  1. "Do more of what makes you happy." says Johnny Earle, of Johnny Cupcakes, our first keynote speaker. That's how this "idea farmer" gets hundreds of people to camp outside his fake bakeries to buy limited edition t-shirts. That quote is also included on a tag in every Johnny Cupcake t-shirt. So wait, he doesn't sell cupcakes? Of course not — that would be too expected. Rather his t-shirts are displayed in pastry shelves, the store smells like frosting, ovens adorn the walls, and your t-shirt goes home in a pastry box. His specialty packaging has included ice cream themed t-shirts in ice cream boxes sold from ice cream trucks, t-shirts in push up pop boxes and a "breakfast special" themed t-shirt sold only before noon, accompanied by none other than a free breakfast. Johnny spends zero dollars on advertising. It's all about the customer experience and his loyal customers do the talking for him. Guess it's working for his multi-million dollar brand.
  2. "We have to love math like we love creative." That's a tough one for me, but Dan Lavelle, Marketing Administrator of Lehigh Valley Health Network, did a great job of trying to convince me. He espouses that the common language between the CMO and CEO is DATA . Hence, we need to be reporting on Return on Marketing Investment, Cost per Lead Ratio, Variable Contribution Margin Radio and more. We also need to start talking about the marketing INVESTMENT rather than marketing EXPENDITURE. In the end, if you can create ownership, making it "their" marketing rather than yours, you will succeed.
  3. "The promise of not getting lost" is the golden nugget of the Gozio Health wayfinding app, according to Barb Kragor, Gozio VP of Sales and Customer Services. Since Google leaves us at the hospital front door, this app provides a stress free roadmap within the hospital and beyond, including functionality surrounding restaurants, scheduling a doctor visit, one tap call, ride-sharing links, MyChart usage, etc. Start with hospital pain points, and end up with improved patient experience.
  4. "Googlize your website," claim Shawn Gross of White Rhino, and Amber Welch of Ochsner Health System. Simple, clean home page search functionality, including spell correction and Pinterest style, mobile- first layout are critical. Case in point: Stanford Health Care. Ochsner engaged in an intensive revamp, starting with research to detect user needs and pain points. The result? A highly experiential website, including personalization to 6 key personas; Find a Doctor upgrades including a "schedule an appointment now" in each doc bio page; patient portal integration; wayfinding and more. The shift from a content heavy to a transactional website resulted in a total page count drop from 12,000 to 1200.)
  5. "We love our city," smiled Ara Telbelian, Director of Brand Management and Marketing at Henry Ford Health System. Their QuickCare Clinic was designed with Detroit city dwellers and workers in mind with convenient, boutique-like urgent care services packaged in a beautiful setting in the heart of downtown Detroit. Clever ad messaging like "Home of Healthier Hipsters" appeared in innovative venues such as the People Mover monorail, ridesharing bikes, sidewalks, and large building posters. As Henry Ford focuses on radical convenience, they know that demand for urgent care increases after 4 PM. Which is why their website home page carousel changes to a "Need Care Now?" banner ad to usher consumers into the most convenient care option, whether it's an urgent care center, telehealth visit or My Care Advice Line. Next up? An Amazon skill allowing Alexa to find the closest urgent care, schedule an appointment and provide directions. As one of only a handful in the country with an Alexa access point on the horizon, Henry Ford is staying true to its innovator position.
  6. "Your website has replaced the ER as the most comment first touch point," asserts Jeff Steblea of SilverTech, Inc. and Christine Gallery, Senior VP of Planning/Chief Strategy Officer at Emerson Hospital. They educated us on the Digital Customer Interaction Strategy (DCIS), employed at Emerson, focused on making the digital experience the same as in-person care. Since it can't compete head on with the nearby Boston hospitals, Emerson differentiates with patient experience. Bringing to life their digital personas plays a key role in getting internal audiences on board.
  7. "The heart of change is in the emotions," explains keynote speaker, Christi Zuber, PhD, RN and international leader in healthcare innovation. That's because when we hear stories, our brains emit oxytocin, making us connect with the story and the storyteller. In this workshop, we created storyboards to communicate a change we are trying to make in our organization sharing our story with a table partner. We agency folks are no strangers to storyboards, so we found this an interesting exercise!
  8. "People in healthcare need to feel good about their work," avowed keynote speaker, Liz Jazwiec, RN, award-winning author, speaker and healthcare strategist. (I might also add in "comedian"!) As a former ER director in a south Chicago hospital with very poor patient satisfaction ratings, she resisted the idea of improved patient satisfaction and service — until she almost got fired because of it. She simply couldn't bear to make her staffs' jobs any more difficult. She learned that being a "heroic caregiver" makes the job more rewarding, and that there's a strong connection between job satisfaction and patient satisfaction. Her definition of heroic? Anyone remembered fondly for their work by someone else. They may not even know it or ever be recognized for it. But if they feel heroic in doing even the little things for patients, it will make a difference. She warned us to ignore negativity at work because negative people need an audience. Rather, focus on the good and embrace what's right. People in healthcare can become easily discouraged and need to feel good about their work.
  9. And last but not at all least, my personal favorite of the entire conference: "Creativity is a discipline and a choice," affirmed Eric Wahl, Graffiti Artist and Forensic Creativity Scientist. Just like gratitude or compassion for a challenging patient. His presentation was really more of a performance — part creative show, concert, video show and honest sharing about opening up our senses and inner child to creativity. In true graffiti artist style, he painted 2 huge paintings within just minutes to the beat of amazing music videos appearing on 3 large screens. A true illustration of his point of stepping out of the box. And making an emotional connection. We were given permission to open our child mind, stop deifying analytics and allowing fear to paralyze us. He believes a healthy balance of accountability with creativity results in the best competitive advantage, and "dreamers that do".

With all of the talks, the Museum of Pop Culture dinner event, and Seattle sightseeing, we left the conference feeling enlightened, entertained, educated and tired! These are just some of my key takeaways from the talks I attended, but please let us know what you liked best about SHSMD 2018.


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