Should You Spend Your Media Budget on Branding or Acquisition?
MultiCare’s CEO believes brand-building is the key to sustainable growth, and that it supports acquisition. It’s not either-or; it’s both-and.
// By Jane Weber Brubaker //
Health care marketers are sometimes on the defensive when proposing budgets to their CEOs and CFOs, feeling the pressure to justify the expense and project the expected return on investment — especially for “softer” initiatives like brand building.
So, it was refreshing to hear a different perspective from Bill Robertson, CEO of MultiCare, a 12-hospital health system in the Pacific Northwest. “Why spend the money if we’re not going to grow as an organization?” he said during a session at HMPS in Austin, Texas in April. “It didn’t make sense, the idea of building awareness. It didn’t seem to be about growth — at first.”
Robertson’s change of heart came about through wide-ranging monthly conversations with his friend and co-presenter Jerry Hobbs, president and chief strategy officer at Prairie Dog, a health care marketing agency. “Jerry brought up a couple of books that he thought I should know about,” Robertson says.
The two books were How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know by Byron Sharp, and The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short- and Long-Term Marketing Strategies by Les Binet and Peter Field.
Hobbs says, “What these books do for us is they represent a new way of looking at growth and a new way of looking at marketing effectiveness.”
The title of their session, “The Long & Short of It: Brand-Building vs. Acquisition,” implies that there’s a binary choice — either one or the other. Robertson contends that doing “both-and” is the winning formula.