When a Risky Move Actually Isn’t

When Nike made the controversial decision to feature Colin Kaepernick as the poster boy for its latest campaign, it seemed like a risky move. With the buying public divided over Kaepernick’s protests, it seemed that Nike was risking losing the business of more than half of the country.

But that’s not what happened. In fact, Nike’s sales have been strong since the controversial campaign launched. Did Nike dodge a bullet? I don’t think so. In fact, I think Nike knew this move was likely to turn out well for them. Because they were doing what most successful advertisers do: tapping into our zeitgeist. It’s an advertising strategy as old as the hills and — when done well — it’s a powerful brand-building tool that’s hard for competitors to imitate.

Small risks, big payoffs

Does this sound out of reach for a regional health system? It’s not, and I can prove it. The ad below was launched in mid-2016, as the country was gearing up for a presidential election marked by accusations of misogyny and the breaking of a certain glass ceiling. Have a look:

The central concept of the ad is that the experience of being a woman is inherently different than that of being a man, and in some ways more difficult. With most leadership jobs (both governmental and business) firmly in the hands of men, women aren’t well-represented at the top.

It seems like a risky ad, but when you understand its context you can see that it was, in fact, a calculated move. This ad was launched in the Capital Region of New York state, an area that nearly always votes blue. Knowing that, we could be pretty sure that the regional mood toward women’s rights was in our favor. Additionally, this ad is for one of the small handful of women’s hospitals left in the U.S. That means our audience was even more heavily skewed toward women than the typical healthcare ad.

It worked very well. On Facebook alone, the video was viewed 60,000 times and generated positive comments from people who applauded Ellis Medicine for stepping into this territory and saying something true and powerful. On YouTube, it’s the most-viewed women’s health campaign on the Ellis channel, generating more than 500% more views per year than previous women’s Health Advertising.

What will you contribute?

Most healthcare providers are reluctant to get involved in cultural conversations. Without good strategy, a deep understanding of the worldview of your potential patients and solid data to back up the decision, it is a risky move.

But for marketers who want to create ads that really succeed, that build brand value faster and longer, there’s no better way than to contribute a unique and honest point of view to the greater cultural conversation.


About the Author | Katie Sorce

Katie Sorce is a marketing assistant for Smith & Jones. She contributes to research and strategy projects, manages social media and digital marketing accounts, and assists with content creation, account management, finance and operations.

Smith & Jones is where health care brands come to get better. We help our clients create meaningful and desirable health care brands, align their internal teams, engage new and existing patients and drive downstream revenue.