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Volume 22 No. 18
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The Sit-Down: John Weston, CMO, Mayo Clinic

The former Mars and FedEx marketer on the shifting dynamics of health care and the challenges of marketing “high-end medicine that’s available to everybody” for Minnesota-based Mayo.

T he Mayo Clinic is a conservative and humble 150-year-old not-for-profit institution that really never had to market itself.

Now the health care market’s gotten all frothy from competitors coming in with a lot of [marketing] noise. That’s produced a lot of consumer confusion and angst and Mayo is saying, “It’s time to tell our story.”

We’d lost our voice a bit in the market, but lately, our brand strength has been increasing. Our unaided awareness is up this year for the first time since 2009 in three consecutive quarters. We know we’re moving the needle, but it’s a very noisy category now and it will get noisier.

People won’t come to the Mayo for fads, they’ll come when it matters. That’s what we want our voice to be: Something measured that says if your problem is complex or if you aren’t getting a good answer, Mayo is the place to go, so take the time and effort.
 

Photo by: CLARION PICTURES

Health care has a fascinating marketing dynamic. It’s a very unique category, and now there’s a new level of consumerism coming in.

We’re competing with companies who have budgets we never will, so for us it’s about earned media and thought leadership.

Our approach to mega-budgets, which we can’t compete with, is to show the market that Mayo is a place with remarkable stories and content. In the long run, that should set us apart.
 
I work for physicians and, as you would imagine, they are very data- and evidence-driven, which isn’t always the easiest thing to demonstrate in the marketing world.

As we can show that we are driving awareness, preference and demand, we’ll be OK. Ultimately, if we generate enough, we’ll spend less. So it may not ultimately be a game of dollars. We’ve got to spend some to get in the game, but we’ll never have the biggest budget in the category.
 
We market to generate awareness, preference and demand generation.

The Mayo Clinic has been doing interesting things for a long time, and while we’ve been sought out for that, we haven’t really told anybody about that. So we’ve invested considerable funding into Mayo Clinic Square sports medicine facility in Minneapolis to get some awareness, especially for our sports medicine practice, more awareness in the Twin Cities.

Sports are an amazingly dynamic platform for driving awareness and preference and demand for services.

Some of the high-end exclusive sports-medicine providers we are competing with now are really not available to the 12-year-old athlete. At Mayo, that’s part of our foundation: high-end medicine that’s available to everybody.

As we prove that concept through our relationships with the [Minnesota] Twins, Lynx and Timberwolves, you’ll see us get more aggressive in more venues.
 
For many years, people were relatively passive about taking control of their health care. Now the market is changing and the environment is changing.

We have for-profit competitors and single-focus competitors spending a lot in the market. Our thought is that complex health needs usually have multiple problems, so that’s a message we need to communicate. 

We’re treating elite athletes with the same doctors and regimens that we’ll use on a kid who plays soccer locally.

If you’ve got a cold and the sniffles, you don’t need Mayo; we’re about top-of-the-pyramid complex medical treatment, but we do groundbreaking research in sports medicine along with other areas, and that research translates into care.

Athletes are flying all over the world for things like stem-cell treatment and we’ll tell you what’s effective and what’s not there. One message we want to get out is that if you blow out your knee, you can get treatment from the same physicians, offering the same groundbreaking therapies we offer to elite athletes.
 
I haven’t seen the killer consumer app in health care yet, but there’s a lot of noise and players trying to figure out what the Uber of health care is.

We have a patient app, where on my mobile device I can carry all my medical records. So if I’m trekking in South America and break my leg, it’s all there. But it’s a clinical app [for medical personnel].

People are interested in leveraging Mayo’s authenticity, and the health care sports marketing space has always been a little confusing, so that makes us careful of who we partner with.

We think about sports more of a way to generate a spotlight for our service line of sports medicine.