Barlow/McCarthy Blog

The Marketing Toothbrush Test

Sep 16, 2014

Marketing Toothbrush Test1By: Jeff Cowart, MAH

Reading recently in the New York Times I was intrigued by the headline, “Rise of the Toothbrush Test.” The story spotlighted Larry Page, chief executive of Google, on how he evaluates multimillion dollar acquisitions:

Page said his primary question is: Does it pass the toothbrush test? Is it something you will use once or twice a day and does it make your life better? Outside of Wall Street modeling, Page said he makes his own judgment about whether what the company offers is more useful than profitable and does it have long-term potential over near-term gain?

When I read the story, I thought about the challenges facing healthcare marketing leaders as we seek to make our hospitals and systems more engaging for the people we serve. Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • We hear a great deal about “big data” these days and the application of data techniques to our marketing portfolios. But there is no substitute for the intuition of a seasoned marketer, especially one who has been in the community long enough to learn the nuances of the unique cultural profile of that community.
  • We focus much of our marketing time, energy and money on how we make your life better if your sick. A significant and growing percentage of our audience is spending their time, energy and money on relationships that keep them well.  Make sure your marketing portfolio is investing more in telling the wellness story and attributes of your organization.
  • And what percentage of your marketing portfolio is invested in long-term relationship building with the target audience versus short-term gain of driving volume or service lines? True engagement with the audience comes from long-term messaging.

One executive quoted in the story said balancing the toothbrush test against conventional thinking and data is “more art than science at times.” The same is true in marketing, where the creative thinking of a seasoned marketer using nuance and context of community knowledge is still a most powerful tool.