A tale of two industries - When fashion and technology converge.

A tale of two industries - When fashion and technology converge.

Imagine watching the Emmy's red carpet and seeing a computer determine the best and worst dressed instead of your favorite fashion critic. Imagine waking up and using AI (instead of your best friend) to help you pick your outfit for the day. Although it's been happening for decades, the lines between fashion and technology today are becoming more and more blurred.

AI is creeping not only into runway fashion, but into everyday fashion. And we're left with questions, like: can we trust computers with our personal style? And: can we trust AI with the future of the fashion industry?

How brands are dipping their toes into AI fashion.

New Balance

During 2018 Fashion Week, New Balance installed a one-day activation that expertly married fashion and technology. The company used AI to turn the bustling New York streets into a runway and passersbys into its models. The results? A unique campaign that gave consumers a glimpse into a new era of fashion.

Here's how it worked:

New Balance installed large screens with cameras on a busy New York corner and trained them to recognize fashion trends on the streets. As individuals strolled past, the cameras used computer vision and Real Time Activation to scan outfits and identify trends. After finding the trends, AI scanned again to find the ‘exceptions.' Individuals who stood out as exceptions were not only celebrated on screen for their bold outfit choices, they were also given a free pair of New Balance shoes.

In their quest to urge everyone to #betheexception, New Balance executed a truly exceptional campaign that demonstrates the power of technology when combined with fashion.

Amazon Echo Look

Last year, Amazon unveiled the Echo Look: a voice-controlled selfie camera that uses its AI assistant, Alexa, to give you fashion tips and help you determine what to wear.

How it works:

Consumers place the Echo Look device (which boasts four LED lights, a depth-sensing camera and microphone) on a shelf in their bedroom or closet. The camera takes selfies and video upon voice command, and also features a machine-learning system that can compare two outfit choices and determine which is more "in."

Compare two outfit choices

Amazon's website explains, "Style Check keeps your look on point using advanced machine-learning algorithms and advice from fashion specialists. Submit two photos for a second opinion on which outfit looks best on you based on fit, color, styling and current trends."

Too cool or too far? Consumers are left to decide.

How about the future of the fashion industry?

We've seen it on the runway with 3D-printed textiles and smart fabrics, we've seen it from large brands like New Balance, and now we're seeing it in consumer households with Echo Look. AI is not just trickling into the fashion world, it's paving its place for the future. And doing so in a big way.

What can we expect from the next intersection of fashion and technology? We'll have to wait for the Winter line to see.

Interested in more from the fashion world? See how Nordstrom Local is reinventing retail.

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What people ask smart speakers most.

What people ask smart speakers most.

I was enjoying dinner with friends a couple years back when the hostess asked Alexa to play 80s music. There were only eight of us seated around the table and nobody was called Alexa. So I wasn't surprised when the room didn't suddenly fill with dance music or new wave.

But the hostess invoked the mystery guest again, this time a little louder and with a slight edge. "Alexa, play 80s music!" Tears for Fears obliged, "Shout. Shout. Let it all out…"

Roland Orzabal had only started the first verse when the hostess rebuked: "Alexa, not so loud."

"Nice party trick," I thought, as other guests answered my questions before I'd uttered a word. "We use ours mostly to connect with Nest," someone commented. "I got one for Christmas," chimed another. "Haven't even taken it out of the box yet. Where am I going to put that thing?"

Nearly four years later, the voice-activated tech is still playing the hits more than most anything else.

Music is the most popular request smart speaker owners make, according to a recent Voicebot.ai survey of 1,200 U.S. adults. News is the second most common command, with distant topics including "how to" instructions, retail store information, history, movies, sports, among others.

Information Topics Most Requested on Smart Speakers 2018

Consumers also use their smart speakers to control other smart-home devices, like thermostats, lights and locks; and ask for information, like weather forecasts or news updates. The ways in which consumers can use Alexa continue to proliferate as third-party developers create additional Alexa skills—apps that give Alexa even more abilities, connecting her to more devices and even websites. Currently, 45,000 Alexa skills are available.

But for the most part, consumers with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home don't use the devices for shopping. Per the Voicebot.ai research, 26.1 percent of consumers who own such devices have used them to make a purchase, and 16 percent of owners do monthly "voice shopping" using their smart speakers.

Sources who have seen Amazon's market intelligence say that the percentage of voice shoppers is significantly lower, with only about 2 percent of consumers with Alexa-powered devices (mainly Amazon Echo speakers) using them for shopping in the first seven months of 2018, according to Gartner Iconoculture research.

Their intelligence also suggests that most consumers who have tried Alexa for shopping didn't do it a second time (TheInformation.com, 6 August 2018). Still, 20 percent of Amazon Echo owners have used Alexa for shopping-related information, like finding deals or tracking purchases (that were probably made on another device)—just not purchases.

While voice-activated search may be off to a relatively sluggish start, brands are nonetheless optimistic. More than 1,200 brands have built apps and products that rely on Amazon Echo and Google Home (Gartners.com, 23 June 2017).

Regardless of whether consumers use smart speakers for little more than play lists, it's impossible to deny their popularity. Amazon is expected to have sold 128 million Echo speakers by 2020 (RBC Capital Markets, 9 March 2017); by 2022, 55 percent of U.S. households will own always-listening voice speakers (Jupiter Research, 11 August 2017).

Before taking your brand boldly into the smart speaker space, consider the nuances between typed search and audible search. Claiming organic territory is always worth the effort and will inform Alexa Skills or other advertising applications.

Like to stay in the loop? Get the Brogan Weekly Recap.

Healthcare Checkup - August 2018

Is the patient medical bill part of your consumer journey mapping? With 83% of Americans finding high medical costs a big problem, it should be. Are you communicating properly with your burgeoning multi-cultural audiences? Taking advantage of Instagram Stories? Thinking about self-driving autos as your next nontraditional media vehicle? Learn about all this AND find out what a "clinical quarterback" is in this month's Checkup.


What your healthcare journey map is missing. Your healthcare system is a marketing marvel. You've mastered and meticulously addressed every step of the consumer journey. Except one. Learn how and why it could all be undone by a couple pieces of paper delivered by a mailman.

Closing the multicultural-consumer healthcare gap. Multicultural consumers conceptualize and experience health and wellness through a distinctive cultural lens that is ill-suited for the one-size-fits-all attitude adopted by the majority of the American healthcare system. With $1.3 trillion in multicultural healthcare spending, connecting with this burgeoning audience is key to marketers.


How autonomous vehicles are driving the future of advertising. As the conversation about self-driving cars shifts from "if" to "when," it's important to set your brand up or success in this new era. If the next great media channel is the self-driving car, will you brand be ready to kick it into gear?

7 Instagram Story features you should be using. Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories has increased in popularity with nearly 400 million Instagram Stories every day. Here are seven features your brand should be using.


Everyone deserves a holistic, patient-centric health care system. Aetna's president, Karen Lynch, summarizes the results of the company's Health Ambition Study. Learn how "clinical quarterbacks" work with members to create personalized, holistic care plans to answer consumer needs and achieve true transformation.

Americans are closely divided over value of medical treatments, but most agree costs are a big problem. According to new Pew Research Center survey, 83% of Americans, regardless of their income, say a big problem is that the high cost of medical treatments makes quality care unaffordable.


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 - August 31, 2018

Generation X

Slackers, My Assets

Generation X is the only generation to have recovered wealth lost during the Great Recession. The Great Recession took a great toll on Gen X homeowners. Largely inexperienced buyers, they bought high and experienced significant declines in home equity when the market collapsed. Yet a Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data finds that they are now the only generation to have recovered that wealth (PewResearch.org, 23 July 2018).

+ Gen X households' median net worth decreased 38 percent from 2007 ($63,400) to 2010 ($39,200). Wealth loss by Boomers was significantly smaller by comparison (26 percent). Since 2010, the median net worth of Gen X households has risen 115 percent. That means that in 2016, the latest year with available data, the net worth of a typical Gen X household surpassed what it was in 2007 ($84,200 vs. $63,400). A major reason for the rebound: rising home equity levels. The median wealth of Boomer households is still lower than 2007 levels, but their wealth still exceeds that of Gen X.

I'm Done Talking to You, Alexa

More consumers choose privacy over convenience of omnipresent devices (ODs). Hands-free technologies such as voice control make it possible to dice vegetables while DJing for party guests without missing a beat. Play that funky music, Google Home. Consumers loved the idea back in the 2016s when CEB Iconoculture asked about the appeal of voice-controlled tech. More than half of those surveyed eagerly anticipated a post-screen lifestyle where one could simply bark out questions for AI to ponder without the drudgery of a keyboard.

+ But then they got creeped out. Today nearly 3 in 4 consumers (users and non-users of ODs alike) agree that the benefits of using them don't outweigh the privacy risks associated with the behavior (Iconocommunities, March 2018). In fact, privacy concerns prevent people from ever picking up the tech: 2 in 5 consumers who have never used ODs cite privacy concerns as the main factor in their decision to not adopt the technology. Despite growing concerns from consumers, brands base decisions to make use of these technologies (and, subsequently, spend marketing resources to hype up integrations and apps that rely upon them) on highly optimistic projections.

As You Know in Email, One Day You're In. And the next Day, You're Out.

Did you know one in five commercial emails will never make it to an inbox? The reason is complicated, involving sender reputation, IP address, authentication and domains, among other factors. Email is too important a marketing tactic to surrender to chance. We've captured winning email tactics in a breezy guide that will have your content clearing email boxes to addresses at Gmail, corporates and even that one guy who's still on Yahoo (Hi, Uncle Ernie!). In this guide, we unearth everything you ever wanted to know about email marketing, plus tips for every part of the process — from development to deployment. Get the guide.

Gen Z by Any Other Name Is Still Not a Millennial

Wired, wary and willful: Marketing to Gen Z.  Before she trekked to college, we asked our Gen Z intern to conduct a little informal marketing research among her peers. We wanted to get to know this increasingly influential group better—what they value, where they frequent and how to best get their attention. And in what we're learning is true Gen Z fashion, she leaned on technology to quickly craft a survey tool and deploy it to a couple dozen cohorts. See what they had to say here.

Gen Z gets real about marketing.

Gen Z gets real about marketing.

The post Millennial generation Gen Z (aka Gen We), born between 1995 and 2016, makes up over 20 percent of the current U.S. population. So while Gen Z may not be your prime target now, they soon will be. By 2020 Gen Z is set to be the largest generation of consumers, and their spending power already equates to over $140 billion.

I can help. I'm an 18-year-old Gen Zer about to start my first year of college. I reached out to my peers to gather insights to help marketers like you get a better handle on how to connect with Gen Z. I asked about shopping habits, money and preferred social and media channels. I also consulted articles by the Huffington Post and Salesforce for third-party research and trends that influence Gen Z.

Gen Z is not be confused with Millennials

Though older Gen Zers are close in age with young Millennials, there are important key differences to note in the way Gen Z behaves as compared to Millennials. For starters, here are four ways Gen Z differs from Millennials:

Shopping. Though we may be in a digital age, Gen Z actually prefers to shop in store as opposed to Millennials who prefer the simplicity of shopping online. 68 percent of Gen Z surveyed said that they would rather shop in store. That means retail marketers should optimize the in-store experience, providing offers to excite and engage Gen Z.

Money. Gen Z grew up during the Great Recession. They watched the economy crash and many likely watched their parents struggle during this time. This has led Gen Z to be money savvy and conscious of what they spend and where they're spending it. In contrast Millennials tend to care more about the experience of buying the product and less concerned about the cost of it, according to an article by the Huffington Post. So, grab the attention of Gen Z by highlighting deals and steals.

Authenticity. Of course Millennials want brands to be authentic, but Gen Z requires it. The brands that do the best with Gen Z are those that are transparent about their products. How can you be authentic in the eyes of Gen Z?  Show real people using real products. Forget the photo shoots and ditch Photoshop. Capture the raw beauty of life through natural photos. Make Gen Z feel as if they can achieve what's in the photo.

Independence. Whereas Millennials will rage over the hottest brands, Gen Z will not be defined by any one brand. They want a variety of brands and items that allow them to capture their own personality.

Survey says...

Gen Z is always connected. Whether through smartphone, laptop, or even gaming device, we live in a digital age and Gen Z is all about it. When 25 teens (ages 12-18) were asked, 100 percent said that they regularly use their smartphone, and 48 percent reported that they use their phones for 4+ hours a day.

Gen Z

Gen Z

Connectivity is key. Gen Z has major FOMO (fear of missing out) and social media has become there way of always being present.

Gen Z has no time to waste. Long ads and slow load time are not worth the wait.

Gen Z

The best social platform to market to Gen Z


Fifty-two percent of Gen Zers say that the social media platform that they spend the most time on is Instagram.

Gen Z

On top of that 84 percent of Gen Z follows a brand or company on Instagram.

Gen Z

For more on Gen Z/Gen We, read Gen We expects more from brands on social media.

Weekly Recap - August 24, 2018

Weekly Recap

Editor's note: The Recap got a reboot. Keepin' it fresh.


Young couples talk openly about money, which bolsters their relationship. Unlike Boomers, who grew up thinking money was a taboo subject, Millennials are an open book. They're more likely than other workers to disclose their salaries, once a workplace no-no. And for Gen We and Millennial couples, financial transparency rules.

+ Seventy-five percent of 18- to 34-year-old couples talk about money at least once a week, compared with 66 percent of Gen Xers and just 40 percent of Boomers, according to a TD Bank survey (CNBC.com, 27 July 2018). And far from damaging their relationship, it's actually a boon, even when they fight about money. 90 percent of the Gen We and Millennial couples surveyed are extremely or very happy in their relationships.


Student debtors compete on a game show to have their loans Paid Off. Student debt casts a pall over the financial lives of loan holders, both now and into the future. But comedian Michael Torpey has managed to create a game — or more rightly, a game show — focused on student debt. On his truTV show, called Paid Off, student-loan holders compete to have their debt eliminated. (BoingBoing.net, 11 July 2018).

+ Not all fun and games. Although the show is fun, it also makes a serious point. "One of the mantras is 'an absurd show to match an absurd crisis,'" said Paid Off host and creator Torpey. "A game show feels really apt because this is the state of things right now" (FastCompany.com, 11 July 2018). 44 million Americans carry student debt, and the total outstanding amount of those loans grew from $481 billion in the first quarter of 2006 to more than $1.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, according to Federal Reserve data.


Shoppers who feel financially constrained don't talk about their purchases. In a series of seven studies, researchers at Ohio State University, University of Southern California and Dartmouth College found that consumers who are feeling a financial pinch prefer not to talk about their purchases. This effect on word of mouth applied to online and face-to-face conversations, purchases of any size, and discussions with both friends and strangers. The studies didn't focus on how objectively wealthy (or not) the participants were, but rather their perceptions of their financial constraints.

+ Theoretically, consumers might have wanted to talk about what they bought to show their spending ability and feel better about spending. But the research results disproved that hypothesis. "Consumers who feel poor at the moment don't want to talk about their purchases because it reinforces negative feelings about their unpleasant financial state," said Anna Paley, lead researcher and Ohio State University visiting scholar (ScienceDaily.com, 18 June 2018).

Closing the multicultural-consumer healthcare gap.

Closing the multicultural-consumer healthcare gap.

My Eastern European dad believed that garlic cured pretty much all of what might ail you.

At the first sign of a cold, he'd peel a garlic clove and scrape it liberally across a slice of toast. The balance of the bulb would be chopped, stewed and chewed until the virus surrendered.

Sweat was another key part of his treatment regimen. He'd dress in layers of sweats, wear wool socks and a knitted cap. He'd tie a scarf around his neck like an ascot, whether for insulation or humor's sake. He would never visit a doctor because that would mean being sick, which he regarded as a character flaw—something he could and should control.

My dad inherited his healthcare rituals and attitude from his parents, Czechoslovakian immigrants who adapted well to a new country but clung to cultural beliefs. Like garlic is medicine, sweat is therapeutic and hospitals are for the dying.

Culture has a significant influence on healthcare, according to research by Gartner Iconoculture. Today, multicultural consumers—notably Latino, African American and Asian American—face historical and universal barriers to accessing and receiving healthcare. And it's not for lack of consumer motivation or effort.

Multicultural consumers are highly engaged health consumers with big aspirations (CEB Iconoculture Values and Lifestyle Survey, October 2017). Twenty-five percent of multicultural consumers use holistic care for health, compared to 21 percent of Caucasians. African American consumers, especially, say they do whatever it takes to prevent illness. Forty-seven percent of Asian Americans follow a specific diet to maintain physical health versus 32 percent of Caucasians.

But multicultural consumers feel overlooked and misunderstood when it comes to healthcare in the U.S.

"Doctors aren't listening to us, just to be quite frank," said tennis great Serena Williams in an interview with BBC Sports after experiencing harrowing childbirth complications. Black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers (NPR.org, 7 December 2017).

Three barriers that stand between multicultural consumers and healthcare

Gartner Iconoculture discovered three prevailing pain points in the research shared by Latino, African American and Asian healthcare consumers:

  1. Attitude. "Multicultural consumers conceptualize and experience health and wellness through a distinctive cultural lens that is ill-suited for the one-size-fits-all attitude adopted by the majority of the American healthcare system."

    When Latinos talk about healthcare, it's through the lens of Familisimo—strong family loyalty. They lean on community for guidance and motivation. Said a Latino Millennial male CEB Iconoculture focus group participant: "The people I work out with are Hispanic and we're making good health choices together. Saturday runs really turned into a social half hour. We're each other's therapists. We share best practices."

    Cultural barriers to understanding prompt African American healthcare cause consumers to take healthcare into their own hands. Asian Americans, meanwhile, expect health to be quantifiable and measurable.

  2. Access. "Multicultural consumers feel stigmatized by the biases of traditional healthcare's institutional system, making them wary of utilizing care and preferring more personalized, informal options from within their own community."

    Only one in three African American consumers agrees that the healthcare system is designed to help everyone, regardless of ethnicity (versus over half of Caucasian consumers). "Black people don't really trust institutions. Institutions haven't really been for us," an African American Gen Xer said in a recent focus group for CEB IconoCommunities.

    Latinos expect healthcare to be relatable, ideally culturally but at the very least practically. Put another way by a female Boomer who participated in the focus group research: "You're not hearing me. I don't understand what's going on with the medical field. I know they care, otherwise they wouldn't be here. (But) in wanting to get well, you walk outside with $600 in product."

    Asians are uniquely willing to use the healthcare system and actually look forward to checkups.

  3. Approach. "As a whole, multicultural consumers prefer culturally contingent alternatives (related to their distinct ethnic experience) over the prescribed medical interventions of the traditional healthcare system.">

    Alternative healthcare treatments connect Latinos to their culture and community. Asians stick with science and proven Western medicine. African Americans are more open to integrative or purity-based alternatives. "I put onion in my kids' socks. It draws the cold and the toxins out of your body. And sometimes I rub their chests with apple cider vinegar or Vicks," said an African American female Boomer who participated in the focus group research.

In sum, a total market approach to healthcare doesn't work. Marketers need to consider cultural influences and beliefs in order to treat the whole person, from access and prevention to diagnosis, treatment and recovery. All healthcare consumers deserve to be empathetically understood.

Reaching out and serving multicultural healthcare consumers is also a burgeoning market opportunity. There's about a $28 billion opportunity for the consumer health products space alone, and $1.3 trillion in healthcare spending — a number that will continue to grow as our country becomes more diversified.

Is your healthcare journey map missing a key step? Find out now.

Weekly Recap - August 17, 2018

Not all social media is created equal, and not everyone trusts all social media either. Brands are using Instagram stars to market their products to the masses. Stay on top of the ever changing world of media and check out 14 predictions for things to come. Sit back, relax, and let the car do the driving for you.


How consumers rank Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube on privacy, fake news, content relevance, safety, and sharing. In fact, in a new Business Insider Intelligence survey of more than 1,300 global consumers, over half (54%) said that fake news and scams were "extremely impactful" or "very impactful" on their decision to engage with ads and sponsored content. For businesses, this distrust has financial ramifications. It's no longer enough to craft a strong message; brands, marketers, and social platforms need to focus their energy on getting it to consumers in an environment where they are most receptive.

Influencer marketing is booming among ever-younger gens. Some savvy consumers may be immune to the growing army of online stars shilling products and services on social media. But influencers and brands remain a match made in marketing heaven. Once a low-cost alternative to traditional celeb endorsements, influencer marketing has morphed into a booming business expected to hit the $10 billion mark by 2020, according to Adweek projections (NYTimes.com, 15 July 2018).

14 predictions for the future of media. Henry Blodget opened the latest sold-out IGNITION conference with a presentation entitled 14 Things You'll Want to Know About The Future of Media. And he should know...Blodget is co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Business Insider, one of the most-read business and tech news sites in the world with more than 80 million visitors a month worldwide. The presentation was put together with the help of the team at Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Meanwhile, back at the RANCH

How autonomous vehicles are driving the future of advertising. The year is 2021. Autonomous vehicles now dominate the roads. Gone are the days of keeping your eyes on the pavement, the cars in front of you, the billboards on your route to work. We live in the future. And self-driving cars make it possible for you to disconnect from reality while you're on the move.


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How autonomous vehicles are driving the future of advertising.

Autonomous Vehicles

The year is 2021. Autonomous vehicles now dominate the roads. Gone are the days of keeping your eyes on the pavement, the cars in front of you, the billboards on your route to work. We live in the future. And self-driving cars make it possible for you to disconnect from reality while you're on the move.

While most of us are still stuck in daydreams about this exciting and imminent future, marketers' thoughts are stuck elsewhere. They're wondering how the rise of self-driving cars will impact their content. And more importantly, when, where and how consumers absorb it.

Although we're still years away from autonomous dominance, it's important for marketers to think, dream and plan ahead.

Poise yourself for the future and take note of the changes autonomous vehicles could rev up:

  • The car as a mobile living room. Instead of being stressed sitting in traffic, consumers are sure to be more relaxed while they're on the move. The car will become more like a second living room, a space to kick back.
  • Added time for activity. The average person spends about 17,600 minutes driving each year. When they don't have to focus on the road, that means 17,600 minutes for consumers to turn their attention elsewhere.
  • All about entertainment. Consumers will not only have their phones and computers on hand, but could also have access to electronics like touchscreens, speakers, projections or even interactive windshield holograms.
  • Data data data. Autonomous vehicles will possess staggering amounts of data: current and past destinations, speed of travel, demographics, weather and traffic conditions, nearby landmarks, commercial locations and more–which marketers could access and tailor their messaging around.
  • Customized, immersive experience. With increased data comes an improved consumer experience. Imagine being served an ad for a restaurant or experience based on your likes and history. Then, imagine your vehicle is programmed to take you there when you interact with the ad or opt-in.
  • Ad overstimulation could be a challenge. With too much advertising stimuli, consumers could become numb. Marketers will have to create brief, engaging content that genuinely interests users.

As the conversation about self-driving cars shifts from "if" to "when," it's important to set your brand up for success in this new era.

If the next great media channel is the self-driving car, will your brand be ready to kick it into gear?

Explore our blog for the latest advertising insights and trends.

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What your healthcare journey map is missing.

Image of a patient and physician discussing treatment.

Your healthcare system is a marketing marvel. Your team is working every relevant consumer channel to connect, engage and convert patient prospects. Leadership has entrusted you with more than the push and pull of advertising mechanics, recognizing marketing as integral to the consumer experience.

Your marketing team now sits elbow to elbow with the overseers of quality, service and cost—directors of service line clinical excellence and integration, regional clinic and market operations, provider services, continuum of care, clinical pharmacy, clinical review, health plan operations, quality improvement, among others.

Together you carefully shepherd patients from ailment to diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Your website is a magnet for search inquiries. Your CTAs have been strategically mapped and pixels placed. Your email automation program is set to distribute just the right amount of content at just the right time. Your digital retargeting campaign is gently reminding prospects to consider your hospital, your medical staff, your plan, your value.

Your system is poised for greatness—Press Ganey, HEDIS, CAHPS and Medicare 5 Star quality greatness.

And yet it all could be undone by a couple pieces of paper delivered by a mailman.

How a bill can undermine even the most rigorous health consumer journey map.

Earlier this year, Kaiser Health News and NPR launched a crowd-sourced investigation into healthcare bills. Since that time, the news organizations have received hundreds of reader submissions—rate crushing, brand diminishing, reputation devastating submissions.

Called "Bill of the Month Club," editors choose one entry to prove assorted healthcare injustices. Like inefficiency and inflated costs. A recent entry from an Oklahoma patient featured a $15,076 price tag for a few implanted screws, and sparked a social media frenzy (NPR.org, 19 July 2018).

The patient, 57-year-old Sherry Young, a retired mother of two on disability had undergone two operations on the same day to treat a shoulder injury and a debilitating foot problem. The second procedure involved removing a part of bone from the center of two toes and reconnecting them with four surgical screws. The total cost of both procedures and a three-day hospital stay was $115,527.

Two weeks after she was released, Young received word from her insurance company that her hospital stay had not been approved. The patient panicked, fretting that she would be responsible for the cost. She requested an itemized bill which, among other surprises, included $15,076 for four screws that measure 2.8 millimeters wider and 14 millimeters long.

Young dug deeper, requesting the part number for the screws so she could contact the manufacturer and learn the list price. Reporters for NPR and Kaiser Health News also dug in, publishing this.

At last count, the story had been shared nearly 7,000 times, with many Canadian commenters weighing in, too. In one thread, Richard Bott of British Columbia suggested, "When health is considered a for-profit commodity, this is exactly what will happen in an unregulated system."

Consumers and providers are responding to the concrete example with critiques and calls to action. "It's so important to ask healthcare entities for itemized receipts!" tweeted someone from the Kansas City Direct Primary Care Twitter account.

No one is asking how Young has fared after her surgeries. Is she walking better? Has her quality of life improved? How was her clinical experience? Did she have to wait long to see a specialist? Did the medical staff treat her like a person and not a condition? Were the rooms nicely appointed? How was the food? How long did it take for her to recover? Would she recommend the surgeon? The hospital?

Healthcare costs are making consumers more anxious than ever.

The cost of healthcare is now the biggest driver of consumer financial uncertainty—bigger than covering the monthly bills, paying a mortgage or being able to afford retirement, according to CEB Iconoculture research. And the threat is far reaching, impacting the young, healthy, fully employed and fully insured.

According to CEB Iconoculture research, consumers are increasingly stressed out about healthcare costs.

For marketers within the healthcare industry, prioritizing consumers' understanding of coverage and options, providing care throughout the patient journey—especially billing—and creating tools that help consumers better plan are critical next steps.

Of course the implications extend well beyond healthcare. A majority of consumers (67 percent) worry that their lifestyles could be significantly impacted by just one job loss, market crash or health problem (CEB Iconoculture State of America Survey, September 2017.) Healthcare worries are especially troubling, with 64 percent of consumers citing concerns that unexpected medical issues could jeopardize their financial security.

Increased healthcare costs have already impacted consumer spending. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (February, 2016), household healthcare spending increased between 2010 and 2016, while spending on housing, food, transportation, entertainment and clothing all decreased. Consumers are bracing for further household budget cutbacks if healthcare costs continue to climb.

Consumers are preparing to cut household spending if healthcare costs continue to climb.

Consumers aren't optimistic about healthcare costs. Nor should they be.

Since the early 2000s, employees have been increasingly shouldering more and more of the cost of healthcare coverage—copays, higher premiums and deductibles. Most expect costs to increase annually come benefits renewal. In fact, premiums for family coverage have increased 55 percent since 2007 and the average deductible for insured workers has climbed 67 percent from 2017 (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017).

It's not surprising consumers are stressed out about the cost of healthcare. But what can healthcare marketers do about it?

Marketing does not control healthcare costs. Marketing can control the message.

Billing is an integral part of the consumer journey—especially when it comes to healthcare. Unlike most expenses, consumers are unusually vulnerable when they become patients. They have little or no control over their circumstances. They may be faced with a life altering or life threatening condition. Cost may be on their mind, but it's dwarfed by emotions and concerns about aspirations, livelihood, family, future.

This is a job for marketing. You know better than anyone else how to communicate with this audience. They are the same prospects you carefully profiled, attracted and converted to prefer your healthcare system. You know where they live, work and play; what they value and most desire. You mapped their journey but neglected to include a primary human need—financial security.

Completing the patient experience cycle begins with the end. For starters, review your system's billing process and assets. The bill may be their last and most lasting impression. The goal here is to empathize with the patient throughout their journey. It's not only the right thing to do; it's the best thing for your brand. Advocate for patients and they'll reward you with loyalty and referrals.

Four ways to optimize the healthcare consumer journey.

  1. Invite the Billing Department to the Customer Experience Team. Invite them to present the process and bring sample bills. Accounts Receivable should align with your brand promise, from the design of assets to messaging and customer service. Consider random audits, an internal version of Bill of the Month Club.
  2. Help patients plan and save. Patients are often overwhelmed with the emotional aspects of healthcare. In advance of procedures and treatment, reach out and have a frank discussion about cost. People often feel as though they're getting the runaround as they're handed back and forth between providers, specialists and insurers. Geisinger has introduced ProvenExperience, which offers refunds to patients based on their interactions with doctors, staff and the clinic overall.
  3. Use layman's terms, not legalese. Patients struggle enough with the medical terminology used to describe their conditions, treatments and recovery. Using simple language will go a long way in improving the patient experience and helping care-avoidant consumers feel more confident. ClearHealthCosts is a journalism project working to shrink the gap in consumer understanding by shedding light on the hidden costs of healthcare.
  4. Invite patient reviews. Develop a succinct, but thorough script to follow up with patients after the bill has been sent. The script should include opportunity for patients to ask questions about the details of the bill and conclude with an overall evaluation of their system experience. Conclude by asking patients to rate their experience using an automatic text- or email-based program that triggers an immediate response.

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7 Instagram Story features you should be using.

7 Instagram Story features you should be using.

Instagram Stories was the platform enhancer we (and brands) never knew we needed. It has become a powerful way for brands to inspire and engage with users. Since launching in 2016, it has increased in popularity with nearly 400 million Instagram accounts using Instagram Stories every day.

Tell us, are you utilizing Instagram Stories?

Here are seven features your brand should be using:

  1. Polls, Polls, Polls. Plaid or Stripes? Red Lip or Smokey Eye? Burger or Hotdog? Want to find out what your followers prefer? Ask with a poll. This feature gives users two options to choose from, tallies their responses and gives you their preferences in a percentage.

    Polls, Polls, Polls.

  2. Questions. Okay, we just polled our followers, so what's the difference between the poll and questions? With the question feature, users have the ability to ask you the big questions. When is your next album coming out? When does the new line launch? Where do you get your inspiration? Brands can then post the question and their response, leaving the user who asked the question anonymous. This is a great way for brands to gauge the types of content their followers want to know about.


  3. Emoji slider. How much do you like Drake's Scorpion album? How cute is this puppy golden doodle? How much do you love the emoji slider? Slide to the right, slide to the left. Provide Instagram users with the heart-eyed emoji slider to gauge their level of excitement.

    Emoji slider

  4. Video. Video killed the radio star and is definitely killing it on Instagram Stories. It is memorable, engaging and leads to purchases. From Live videos to videos within your story, switch it up and keep your followers engaged.

  5. Stickers: location, gifs, emojis and more. Brands can tag their location, add their campaign hashtag, use gifs and mention other users within their story. This helps users locate their business, follow and tag with the branded hashtag, and follow other users for more branded content. Besides, who doesn't love the dancing banana gif?

    Stickers: location, gifs, emojis and more.

  6. Music. Have the perfect song to capture the mood of your Story? Users can now add music by selecting the portion of the song they like the most and recording their video with the song playing in the background. Excuse us while we go add Dancing Queen to ours.


  7. Shop the details. Showing off your new eyeglass collection, line of activewear, lip kits? Tag the item in your story for users to click to shop. You'll increase product awareness, engagement and even sales.

Debating which social story platform is right for you brand? Read Snapchat vs. Instagram: Everything your brand needs to know.

Weekly Recap - July 27, 2018

Social media is today's key to success, make sure you up your social media game. Anything you can do Google Assistant can do better, at least when you're comparing it to Siri. Could this be Facebook's demise? Slow revenue and user growth make us all question: what is happening to Facebook? Bad reviews are a major buzzkill.


5 ways to proactively engage prospects and customers on social media. Proactively contacting prospects and customers can create a surprisingly positive customer experience, provide marketing benefits like brand awareness and even save servicing costs. Proactive customer care on social media can take several forms. Here are five ways your company can get started immediately.

Google Assistant is still a lot smarter than Siri, new study shows. Answering queries correctly was another matter. Google Assistant was able to do so in 85.5 percent of cases, which is... well, acceptable. Siri answered correctly in 78.5 percent of cases, which isn't great, but is much better than its April 2017 result of 66.1 percent. Cortana and Alexa brought up the rear. Alexa answered 61.4 percent of queries correctly, while Cortana only managed 52.4 percent (although even this is an improvement from last year's 48.8 percent).

Facebook reports slower-than-expected 2Q revenue growth. The company also warned that it expects revenue growth to decelerate in the next couple quarters as it promotes new, and for now less profitable, products. It is also allowing users to make "more choices" around data privacy amid public outcry and regulatory pressures.

Meanwhile, back at the RANCH

How to get great online reviews: 5 quick tips. Clearly, no place is perfect. Not even a natural wonder of the world. But, according to the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey, a consumer is 21 percent more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one – which shouldn't come as a surprise. Most people don't think to write a review unless they've had a terrible experience. And luckily, most consumers know this.


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