Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Can Health Care Marketers Take a Hint from The Hunger Games?
By Cristen Bolan (IMC 482)
What drives people to email a great article or video to their entire address book, to post it on their Facebook wall, or bring it up as casual conversation with their coworkers? In other words, how can you make content about your product or brand go viral, in the nonclinical sense of course?
Lets look at what’s gone viral to figure out how it works. The country has recently been swept up by Hunger Games fever. It’s not a new diet or a protest. It’s the latest blockbuster hit “The Hunger Games,” a new trilogy based onSuzanne Collins’ novel. Viewers of all ages are inspired by a new female warrior — Katniss, the story’s heroine. The film resonates among adults and teens alike, but what is it about the story that “inspires” so many of us? For teens, “The Hunger Games” touches on the classic pain points of adolescence — peer pressure, cliques, emotional assaults, and first loves. It works for adults too as a metaphor for our Darwinistic society — I mean how many times has a co-worker thrown you under the bus at work or a friendly Mom’s stabs you in the back at a PTA meeting? Every day, we live out our own episodes of Survivor. That’s why “The Hunger Games” connects with us at our most basic instincts and begs the question, what’s your strategy for survival? You can even ask our nation’s fearless leaders how they survive their political quagmires. Donald Sutherland, who plays the Machiavellian President Snow in the film, notes: “you move the masses with a little bit of hope – and hope is stronger than fear.” This is true insight into mind manipulation – and a lot better than using fear tactics.
The skillset displayed by the films' warriors has even spun off into the real world with the "Train Like A Tribute" workout series modeled after The Hunger Games. Amanda Rykoff of ESPN.com explains how the 50-minute class “incorporates the books and movie into a demanding and rigorous circuit training workout highlighting the skills necessary for survival in “The Hunger Games:” archery, tree climbing, speed work, strength training and endurance.”1The trend may carry on for generations to come as 2012 newborns carry the torch with names like Katniss and Rue ranking at the top of the latest Nameberry list of up-and-coming baby names.2 Roles are also changing – move over Robin Hood, the girls are taking the lead on reviving the age-old art of archery, no question emulating Katniss in her lead role as archer extraordinaire.3
So, why does a story go viral? According to Matthew Salganik, assistant professor of sociology at Princeton University, it is because “it’s emotional, it’s concrete, it’s easy to tell someone about.”4 Then how does Hunger Games-fever relate to health care marketing. Well, for most patients, hope is a handy tool. The films message of hope is what is so contagious. This tactic may counter fear-based messaging, such as “if you don’t take Lipitor every day for the rest of your life you’re a goner.” All too often, fear-based message gets less viral action – unless you’re Debby Downer. People are more likely to send stuff when they are excited about it, inspired by it. So wouldn’t your drug or health care brand fair a better chance of getting forwarded if the messaging was positive – with a light of hope at the end of the medication tunnel?
Even though it may help the bottom line in the short term, you don’t want to turn consumers into pharma addicts.
But you may want to position medication as a solution to improving your life. In fact, numerous studies show that “when people have a higher sense of well-being, they have fewer hospitalizations and emergency-room visits, miss fewer days of work and use less medication.” But the same studies shows they're also more productive at work and more engaged in the community. Health care products need to show up in the community as a bridge to well-being, and that won’t happen with the message medicate or die – followed by a polite “please don’t kill the messenger.” Everyone hates that kind of messenger.5
The tone of your content is key, and the strategy is critical. Here is a list of 5 rules of thumb for to getting content to go viral:
– If it’s a video, 30 seconds is good, 60 seconds is worse, 90 seconds is bad. For written content, make sure that too is short and concise.
– Give examples that people can relate to. For example, write about “why my mother drives me crazy, but we talk everyday,” “Is your boss as much of an ego-maniac as Mad Men’s Don Draper?” People will comment “that is just like us” or “my boss is much worse!” If people identify with the content, they will share it with their friends.
3. “How to’s” are popular because they provide useful and doable information (like this list).
4. Lists and Images: Everyone likes lists and eye-candy. Lists simplify things and images catch your eye, and together are more likely to go viral.
5. Hot Headlines: Make sure your headline: Pose a question, say something ironic or even shock your audience to grab their attention. People go for what catches them by surprise.
Remember to include those three key elements ‑‑ emotional, concrete, and easy to tell someone about – and there’s a good chance you’ll get at least a couple reTweets.
References:1. Workout Feeds Hunger Games Obsession. ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/espnw/more-sports/7806266/workout-feeds-hunger-games-obsession. Accessed April 16, 2012.
2. The Hunger Games inspires baby names. http://bit.ly/IyS50a. San Francisco Chronicle. Accessed April 16, 2012.
3. The Hunger Games fans target archery lessons. Bay of Plenty Times. http://www.bayofplentytimes.co.nz/news/girl-film-fans-target-archery-lessons/1344813/. Updated April 14, 2012. Accessed April 16, 2012.
4. The Sliming of Pink Slime's Creator. By Bryan Gruley and Elizabeth Campbell on April 12, 2012.
5. Landro L. The Simple Idea That Is Transforming Health Care. The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450004577275911370551798.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLE_Video_Third. Updated April 16, 2012. Accessed April 16, 2012.