The guest today on Scrubbing In is Chris Foust, the Marketing Manager for SpecialtyCare.  In this episode, we talk about the importance of building an authentic brand in healthcare, and how data and creative must work together to create effective marketing.  Its a philosophy called Brutally Honest Branding.

 


 

Below is a transcript of the conversation.

Todd Schlosser:

Hello and welcome to this episode of Scrubbing In. A podcast powered by Specialty Care. I’m Todd Schlosser and my guest today is Chris Foust, marketing manager for Specialty Care. In this episode, we talk about the importance of building an authentic brand in healthcare, and how data and creative must work together to create effective marketing. It’s a philosophy called, you know what? I’ll just let him explain it to you. Enjoy.

Welcome to the Scrubbing In podcast powered by Specialty Care. I am joined today by Chris Foust who is the marketing manager at Specialty Care, and he is joining with us today to talk about his theory on really branding or marketing that he refers to as brutally honest branding. So, let’s talk a little bit about that. What exactly is brutally honest branding, Chris?

Chris Foust:

Well, it’s a really simple philosophy that any business can really take on, but it’s mainly focused don being authentic, being real in your messaging. It’s about stop lying to your customers. Stop lying to yourself about who you are, and get real. The more authentic and real that you are as a brand, the more likely you are to engage customers, and engage the right customers.

Todd Schlosser:

Right, so if you’re engaging, like a normal brand might be right now, if you’re engaging a large multitude of customers, a lot of them may not have any interest in your product or what you’re selling, right?

Chris Foust:

Right, and honestly that increases your CPA, your cost per acquisition, because you are not honed in on who your actual audience is. You’re doing the old school shotgun approach.

Todd Schlosser:

Right.

Chris Foust:

That definitely comes from pre 1930s, 40s, 50s, type of mentality. Before then, branding and authentic branding was based in relationships. You go to the corner store, or you go to the barber shop.

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Todd Schlosser:

Or door to door salesman, were a thing.

Chris Foust:

Door to door salesmen.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, yeah.

Chris Foust:

You didn’t really buy a product as much as you bought into someone.

Todd Schlosser:

Right.

Chris Foust:

And that’s a personal brand. That’s you building a personal brand as the company, and as soon as radio and TV come along, things shift, and with that shift comes the power of the mega advertisers and the mega brands. You know, the control the messaging for up until roughly the early 2000s. They controlled the messaging. They tell the customer about what they should want.

Todd Schlosser:

So, what happened in the early 2000s that changed that?

Chris Foust:

Creed.

Todd Schlosser:

The band? I’m out. I am out. Sorry.

Chris Foust:

Yeah, social media is really what blew the door wide open, and kind of reversed the conversation and the power back to the customer. Customers are able to talk immediately like they would in person, discussing what brands they like, what brands they don’t.

Todd Schlosser:

They can also interact with the brand immediately. They can reach out to, it might be on Twitter.

Chris Foust:

Well, they can try.

Todd Schlosser:

Sure, but Wendy’s does a great job of that with their social media. They have people who respond immediately and are very funny and silly. Some of it a little off color, maybe not right for every brand, but it really works for them in that space.

Chris Foust:

Well, that is their brand, and they’re embracing that. One really good example of brutally honest branding is Hardee’s, right?

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah.

Chris Foust:

So, for the longest time, Hardee’s sold really, really unhealthy food, much like McDonald’s and everyone else. The majority of those fast food brick and mortar stores, they’re sling healthy food now, or they’re trying to give you the impression that they’re slinging healthy food, but it’s fast food. People who want fast food don’t want healthy food. They want fast food that tastes good.

So, what does Hardee’s do? They take a complete 180 approach and they start marketing, “Yeah, this is a huge burger. It’s loaded with cheese. It’s loaded with onions. Why not put whipped cream on it? Who cares?” But they market it as, “Yeah, this is unhealthy, but it tastes damn good.”

Todd Schlosser:            Y

Yeah, you’re going to love it, but it will give you diabetes.

Chris Foust:

Yeah, I believe it is pronounced diabetes.

Todd Schlosser:

Diabetes.

Chris Foust:

However, what Hardee’s did is what every brand should strive to do. They took a good hard look at themselves and their [inaudible 00:04:16] and they said, “Wow, okay. I offer a product that is not healthy, but we’re going to embrace that.”

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, they just told the truth about it.

Chris Foust:

Yeah, and it worked.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah. It did pay off. So, let me ask you. We’re going to back it up a little bit, because before you had mentioned you want to find the right customers. So, how do you find the right customers and stop taking the shotgun approach to marketing? How do you hone in on your audience not everyone?

Chris Foust:

It’s a really easy answer and it’s data.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah.

Chris Foust:

Data and creative have a very close relationship. Closer than most people would like to admit. You know, you can’t just focus on data, which we’ll talk about later, I’m sure, but you can’t just focus on data or just focus on creative, because you’re missing a huge piece, but with data, if you have a website, if you have a Facebook account, if you have a YouTube account, you have the ability to find out who your users are.

Todd Schlosser:

Right.

Chris Foust:

And it’s free. If you don’t have a Google Analytics tracking code on your website, stop what you’re doing right now and add it to your website. It’s a really easy way to find out who your customers are. So, let’s say that’s a good place to start. Google Analytics. You can get a broad idea of who is engaging with your brand. Okay, well let’s go a step further down the funnel. Who is my client?

So, if you are tracking your client funnel correctly, you’re tracking them all the way through the process. So, that’s first touch. That’s the phone call.

Todd Schlosser:

So, first touch may be them going to your website.

Chris Foust:

Absolutely.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, maybe them clicking on a banner ad on a site. That’s like a first touch kind of thing.

Chris Foust:

Sure, or an ad on content network. It could even be a print ad, you know, that leads them to your website.

Todd Schlosser:

Right.

Chris Foust:

Or a specific landing page. So, what you want to do is find out who’s engaging with your brand and then how those people turn into customers, and you can really start to hone in on who is engaging with your brand, who your ideal client is. Find out who starts first touch, and then who becomes an actual client, and then who becomes a brand advocate.

Todd Schlosser:

Right.

Chris Foust:

Don’t stop at a customer, stop at brand advocate, that one step beyond.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, because you want someone who not only buys your product, but talks about your product, and shares your product with their circle, because that’s free advertising.

Chris Foust:

That’s your ideal customer.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, if you can figure out how you turned that person into a brand advocate, duplicate that.

Chris Foust:

Replicate it, and then when you’ve replicated, refine.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah.

Chris Foust:

Then replicate, then refine, and what this also does is it gives you a really clear picture of how your messaging and your creative should speak to the world. Once you have a very defined ideal client, you can speak to that person, because by that point, you know what they do. You know what they like. You know how old they are. Are they male? Female?

Todd Schlosser:

Do they like outdoor sports? Yeah, it gets so granular. You can focus on anything, really.

Chris Foust:

And ideally what you want to do is, you want to project a brutally honest version of yourself to those people, and if you do that, everything else falls into place. If you start off with a brutally honest message, and you’re honest about who you are, and authentic about who you are, it defines everything else. It defines messaging. It defines social media presence. It even can define SEO and PBC. Those things become non-issues if you’re authentic.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah. So, let me ask this, because a lot of people who our age or maybe a little bit younger as well, they say don’t even see billboards on the highway anymore. Millennials are the best BS detectors out there. So, if you aren’t coming at them with some honesty, they’re going to completely disregard you, and you really don’t have much of a chance to come back from that if you leave a bad taste in my mouth. That’s what the data has shown us with that millennial generation.

Chris Foust:

Well, not just millennials, but every generation since the millennials, and it’s only going to get worse.

Todd Schlosser:

I’m sure, because they grew up in a world so prevalent with ads.

Chris Foust:

I mean, think of all the high dollar commercials, and the glossy stuff that was sold to us via advertising and marketing. How much of it actually delivered?

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, not much of it, if any.

Chris Foust:

Maybe Simon the video game, or Simon the handheld game. That’s probably about it.

Todd Schlosser:

Simon wouldn’t make a very good video game.

Chris Foust:

Boop. Boop. Millions and millions of dollars were pumped into these advertising campaigns to promote products and services that ultimately did not deliver, and what that did to client consumption is immeasurable. The effect that, that had on the marketplace and not just with retail, but with services. You know, with healthcare, and that’s another conversation is how healthcare needs to have a very honest look at itself, you know?

It needs to look in the mirror and say, “What am I doing wrong? How can I get this better?”

Todd Schlosser:

Right. So, when it comes to data and creative. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg situation. So, which one do you start with? Like what comes first? The data or the chicken, the creative?

Chris Foust:

So, in healthcare, it doesn’t matter what subindustry you’re in, you naturally have a lot of data, I mean you just do. The nature of the business makes you collect a lot of user information, and this is user information that can really dictate where your messaging goes, where your branding goes. You can find out who is engaging your brand, how they’re engaging it, and build a brutally honest branding around that data. So, to answer your question, to me it starts off with data.

You know, you can access Google Analytics. You can access AdWords, you can access your social information, you know like the Facebook insights and really get an idea of who’s engaging your brand, and once you have that persona kind of identified and really honed in on, take that and build your creative to speak to that person. Build your creative and your messaging to engage with them at the most brutally honest level.

Todd Schlosser:

So, when you’re doing that, you have to build, I guess, messaging around sort of opportunities that come up, right? So every opportunity can be an opportunity to brand something, but how do you decide what opportunities are worth branding or worth throwing your message around, stuff like that?

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Chris Foust:

Well, it’s simple. Every opportunity is an opportunity.

Todd Schlosser:

Oh, so literally.

Chris Foust:

Literally every opportunity.

Todd Schlosser:

Okay.

Chris Foust:

Every opportunity is an opportunity worth branding, and that can range from high level stuff like your website, your social media pages and accounts, your YouTube, any type of engagement that you do from a corporate marketing level, but then let’s take it a step further. Your employees. People are really, or have historically been very scared about letting their employees be brand advocates, and to me, that just boggles my mind.

If you’re willing to hire someone, give them 60, 70, $80,000 a year, but you’re afraid to let them talk for your brand. Something is wrong in your priorities, and I think it does come out of a fear of control, but if you properly train your employees and they are bought in on your messaging, they are bought in on your branding, and if you’re brutally honest with who you are as a company, that becomes a lot easier. It’s way easier to buy in a concept that’s not BS.

Todd Schlosser:

Well, then they know when they talk about it, they’re not having to sort of lie about they do, or what their services are, how much they are, or whatever they are, because you have been brutally honest about that brand you built. So, all they have to do is tell their friends about it, or share things on social, or not even really have conversations or lunches with people, just share a post that you post.

Chris Foust:

Exactly. So, let’s go from a number standpoint, right?

Todd Schlosser:

Sure.

Chris Foust:

So, if you’re in a band, and you … it’s hard to get 2,000-3,000 fans, followers on social. Right? That’s hard to do.

Todd Schlosser:

It’s hard to start.

Chris Foust:

Or if you’re on a podcast, you’re starting a personal brand. It’s hard to get those initial numbers, that base. Large companies have that base built in. So, don’t block Facebook at work. Don’t block Instagram at work. Let people spread how awesome your company is, and who is the easiest person to do that? Your employees. Get your C Suite out talking. Get them presentations. Let them speak about what’s going on.

Let your directors present. Let your managers present. All of these things can really bolster an honest brand, and it’s free. Well, it’s not free you’re already paying for it, you might as well get what you can out of it.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, but I mean some of it is free. Like if you’re posting something on Facebook, that didn’t cost the company anything, and if you’re getting your employees to natively share that, you’re not paying for them to share that, other than their salary. I guess, you could throw that in there, but you’re just getting them to share it, and they’re sharing it with their circle, and their like micro-influencers on their communities.

Chris Foust:

Exactly. Micro-influencing is huge, and once again id you’re presenting a brutally honest brand, that makes the engagement that much more exciting, and that much more easy to engage with.

Todd Schlosser:

I have seen brands that will take employees that are, not even like director level, but like maybe what you might consider your more front line employees, or right above that front line employee, and they’ll create stories around them. So, if someone got a scholarship to something, that you as a company sponsored that one of your employees did, you might do a little video or video series around that, and then share that out, because that’s a feel good moment that people can share, and your employees are much more likely to share it, and it’s much more likely to go viral in a small sense, or maybe even a large sense.

So, can you speak to the importance of creating that content through the creative aspect once you have the data and using that to bolster your brand?

Chris Foust:

It hasn’t changed in a decade and it’s probably not going to change in the next 50 years. Content is still king. The disconnect is that people think they have to produce content for the sake of producing content. So, two things happen there. You get inauthentic branding, because you’re just trying to get stuff out the door.

Todd Schlosser:

Shotgun approach.

Chris Foust:

Shotgun approach, and it’s going to be sterile. It’s going to be non-engaging. So, why bother? And then it’s going to cost you money. You’re going to have to outsource copyrighting. You’re going to have to outsource graphic designers most likely, if you want to meet that demand or the demand that you think you have, but why worry? Why spend the money when you already have a built in content machine? Your employees.

They’re the ones that are out there, boots on the ground. They’re the ones who make engagements. You know, I have done a lot in behavioral healthcare, and whenever I go to a facility, whenever I used to go to facilities to rebranding, the first place I would go is the cook and the janitor. Why? Because everyone knows who they are. They see them everyday, and it’s like clockwork.

If you do any type of alumni or any type of discharge interview, it’s always those two people that say, “Oh seeing a smile on their face everyday made the difference,” or “Seeing Chuck the janitor and having a quick conversation everyday made the difference in my healing process.” So, who do you think has the wealth of engaging content? The janitor. You can’t tell me if you asked your janitor, “Hey, how would you like a blog on our website?” That he wouldn’t jump at that chance.

You’re already paying for his services, and it gives you a really wonderful viewpoint from the customer standpoint like, “Wow, this multi-million dollar company is letting their janitor write a blog. That is awesome,” and what that does for your image is huge.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, because you’re showing as a business and you’re engaging on a human level with your employees and your consumers, so they will no longer see you as just a business. I mean you obviously are a business and will always be a business, but you’re showing them that business is made up of people. Now, I guess everyone knows that. Logically speaking, but when I think of Nike, I don’t think of any one person that works there. I think of Lebron James, because that’s there face.

So, I don’t think of, I don’t see them as people in a business. I see them as an athlete branded shoe athletic company. So, I think it’s just a good way to show your consumers that you are people, that you are a business made up of people, and telling awesome stories through those awesome people is going to share how awesome your brand is.

Chris Foust:

What’s the quote by Mitt Romney? Businesses are people?

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah.

Chris Foust:

In this case, and in this case alone, it is true.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah.

Chris Foust:

Businesses are made up of individuals, and if you already employ these people, don’t put them on a chain, let them loose. Like you said, they are your micro influencers, and you are already paying them. You don’t have to pay them more to produce content for you.

Todd Schlosser:

No, I mean, and they’re going to do it one way or another, and if you’re not treating them well, and are inauthentic with your branding, the stuff that’s getting out there is not what you want.

Chris Foust:

Nothing makes or breaks a reputation harder, than employees. You know, it’s simple as that, and if you can get them on your side, it will pay dividens.

Todd Schlosser:

Awesome.

Chris Foust:

Both literally and figuratively.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah. So, let me ask you one last thing. So, how does brutally honest branding, or just being honest with who you are and what you do, how does that affect branding and the digital space?

Chris Foust:

So, brutally honest branding really affects every facet of your digital marketing, but it does so in kind of a … in a way, if you’re brutally honest in your messaging, and you’re brutally in what you are showing possible clients, it makes everything else irrelevant. You don’t have to go worry about SEO. You don’t have to go worry about PBC, because all of that starts with keywords and ad copy, which you literally do not have to worry about if you’re honest in your messaging and your branding.

So, let’s say for example, we get that janitor to write blog, he is going to use your company’s service lines just naturally. Especially if you’re honest on the get-go. He’s going to mention what services you provide as a business he’s going to obviously use the business name. So, you’re already kind of getting that SEO value. So, there’s really no need to get psychotic about it, and Google is getting smarter and smarter everyday.

I mean it’s scary and exciting at the same time.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah, they’re starting to crawl videos, transcribe those videos behind the scenes, and pull SEO keywords from videos.

Chris Foust:

So, with that said, it’s going to be really, really hard to “cheat”, and I think that’s where a lot of people kind of tend to fall with SEO and PBC. They want to find ways to beat the system, to beat Google. Good luck.

Todd Schlosser:

Yeah.

Chris Foust:

Good luck beating Google.

Todd Schlosser:

You’re not going to do it.

Chris Foust:

You’re not.

Todd Schlosser:

Because they’re just going to change it.

Chris Foust:

Yeah, and they’re changing it in ways to make Goggle almost in to a person, in to a real person. What would Google as a person look for? What would Google as a person want to engage with, and what they want to engage with is brutally honest brands, and brutally honest content, things that are authentic and real.

As Google shifts into AI, which I am sure it will soon, if it’s not already, you’re just going to see more and more of that. People that don’t adapt to this authentic mindset are going to be left behind. They’re going to keep trying to want to cheat the system and it’s not going to work. It’s already not working.

Todd Schlosser:

Awesome. So, I think we’re going to have to end it there unfortunately. Let me ask you this, before we close. Is there a place where our listeners can reach out to and ask you questions or things like that, or are going to be speaking at any conferences soon or anything like that, that you want to plug?

Chris Foust:

Absolutely. Well, I will be speaking at mental health marketing, and that is a wonderful conference.

Todd Schlosser:

And that’s here in Nashville, right?

Chris Foust:

It’s here in Nashville. It’s at David Lipscomb University, July 27 and 28, I believe.

Todd Schlosser:

Okay.

Chris Foust:

I believe you can google search Mental Health Marketing Conference and you will find it.

Todd Schlosser:

Awesome.

Chris Foust:

And you can also reach out to me at [email protected] and I will gladly answer any questions you have.

Todd Schlosser:

Awesome. Thanks for being a guest on the Scrubbing In Podcast. We appreciate you coming out and having a good time with us, and teaching us about brutally honest branding.

Chris Foust:

Well, thanks for having me here, I really appreciate it.

Todd Schlosser:

Absolutely. Thanks for listening to Scrubbing In. Please, take us a second to give us a rating on your podcast app and subscribe so you won’t miss out on what we have coming up. See you next time.