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Volume 21 No. 48
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Plugged In: Manny Rodriguez, UCHealth

The UCHealth system is a network of 12 hospitals and 5,000 doctors in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, and it has sponsorships with nearly every pro sports team in its home territory. Even with all those assets, by his own admission, UCHealth Chief Marketing and Experience Officer Manny Rodriguez likes to be “goofy” every now and then. Sometimes, that’ll include stunts like establishing a Guinness World Record for most false mustaches worn at the same time in the same location (Denver’s Mile High Stadium) or sending faux ambulances around Denver to diagnose and treat “Broncos Fever.” As health care changes dramatically, he’s keeping pace on the marketing side. 

The business of health care is shifting. You’ve got remote care, which will be a bigger and bigger part of things as the years go by, and you have companies like Amazon talking about getting into health care that could be revolutionary. We all know that we have to evolve.
Manny Rodriguez

On marketing health care: From a marketing perspective, we’re evolving our campaigns to having patients being at the center. Most hospital marketing you see has a physician with crossed arms staring out at you. The implied message is, “You’re lucky to be taken care of by me.” That’s not where we want to be. We’re moving from this “I will fix you when you are broken” message to “We don’t want you to be broken in the first place.”

Photo: courtesy of manny rodriguez

On being like Nike: I really admire Nike and some of the other sports apparel brands for the way they have grabbed their own piece of the health care mindset. They’ve done a masterful job convincing consumers that both their athletic performance and their health is tied to activewear. We’re trying to deliver the message that you are the most important part of you being healthy. We want to be more like Nike and less like a medical brand.

On UCHealth’s message: Not everyone can aspire to be LeBron James. Our message is that we want you to be the best you can be. That means we have to get you inspired enough that you’ll want to do something about your health as opposed to making you feel guilty enough to do something.

On competition: Certainly, there’s a lot of noise in sports marketing, so we’re competing with so many brands for share of voice. We have to challenge them to get heard above that noise and to convince consumers that we are as much of a healthy, active lifestyle brand as someone like Under Armour or REI. Health care has been transactional; we want to be more enduring, the way those lifestyle brands are.

On the future: It’s very early and still a small part of the entire business, but virtual care is the big direction for the health care industry. Millennials don’t want to make an appointment, get in their car and drive to see a doctor — they’d rather get on their phones. Wearables are another big area of interest and growth. Using the information they can provide for early detection will be a game-changer.

— Terry Lefton