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T-Shirts Help Promote Healthy Message

Akron General Health System wants to be known for its listening skills and recently launched a marketing and consumer-engagement campaign titled, “My Health. My Life.”

“Because Akron General’s goal is to understand the health-care needs of each member of the community, the campaign was launched to communicate this,” says Gina Page, senior account manager/PR with Hitchcock Fleming & Associates (hfa).

Research conducted by Akron General and hfa showed that individuals in the community want a health-care system that listens closely to what they have to say and works collaboratively with them to share important information about their health. The campaign is helping start conversations to achieve the health-care system’s goal. “Our new campaign revolves around education, empathy, collaboration and meeting the wellness needs of everyone at any age,” says Thomas Stover, M.D., president and CEO of the Akron General Health System.

Akron General has thousands of employees and T-shirts were given to them to leverage the staff as brand advocates and to promote the new tagline. “It’s been a huge momentum builder as the positioning is something that every Akron General associate truly believes in,” says Page.

Marketing teams at Akron General and hfa designed the multi-tier campaign that included print, local and cable TV, social media, radio, online, outdoor, paid search and sponsorships. The initial TV spot debuted in April, but some elements of the campaign began in late March.

Be sure to contact your distributor partner to develop your own effective campaign that will lead to successful results.

Strange Love Makes for a Hit Promotion

An unusual product requires an unusual promotion. Culturelle, a company that makes dietary supplements that aid in digestive health and immune-system functioning, was looking to promote its brand in a quirky way. The company’s products are “probiotics” – healthy bacteria that aid digestion – which might confuse the average consumer who associates bacteria with disease or things unhealthy.

With this in mind, Culturelle devised the “I Love Bacteria” campaign. The company gave away T-shirts imprinted with the classic “I ♥ ” icon to curious customers who saw an ad for it. After an extremely successful test-run of the campaign in September 2009, Culturelle widened the promotion, tying it into its print and television advertising campaigns, both of which featured someone wearing the “I ♥ Bacteria” T-shirt.

The quirky giveaway met every one of the company’s goals. “We grew our consumer database substantially, increased our out-of-home branding since our logo was on the back of the shirts, and even used the shirts as a giveaway that bloggers used to kick-start a program which educated consumers about Culturelle and probiotics,” says Dave O’Brien, brand manager for Culturelle.

In fact, the company got much more than it bargained for. Using social media as well as more traditional outlets, Culturelle ended up with more than 100,000 requests in the first week alone. The giveaways have been put on hold for awhile due to the speed with which they were snapped up. Currently the brand’s leadership is considering new ways to get the “I Love Bacteria” message out.

“People like wearing shirts that cause others to take a second look, and this shirt definitely accomplishes that,” says O’Brien. “The shirt also acts as a great way to connect consumers with the brand and make it a part of their life.”

Health Clubs Pump Up the Promos

Gyms and health clubs, like many other segments, need to muscle up to keep cash-challenged consumers interested in signing up or maintaining their memberships. This is why communicating a chain¹s or location¹s benefits either through mass media or some well-placed promotional products is perhaps more important than ever.

For the first eight months of 2010, the entire gym and health-club category was much more frugal with advertising spending. Overall, category spending was down 30% to $81 million, per the Nielsen Company. TV ads were the preferred medium, as chains spent $62 million to blast their messages on the tube.

“Gym and health clubs that want to engage customers will have to get their messages out in the most effective way,” says Robert Passikoff, president of the marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “Widgets, tweets and text messages aside, mass media is still an effective way to get the message out.” In order to make these dollars count, health clubs like Curves work to create a point of differentiation. In September, Curves began touting itself not only as a fitness center, but also as a diet plan. The 10,000-plus location chain introduced its 30-day diet plan in a new ad campaign that shows a Curves trainer explaining how it works.

Since gyms are social in nature, they rely heavily on person-to-person marketing to spread the word. This is why promotional products can be very effective. “It allows them to add value to their users,” says Jason Ash, president of PacificHealth Laboratories, maker of the Accelerade sports drink and Forze health bars. “Free stuff is always good. In some instances the branded premium gets them impressions in places they cannot get into.” Gyms, in addition to promoting themselves, receive an extra source of revenue by letting companies like Ash’s offer their branded items to its clientele. The Core Performance Center in Santa Monica, CA, for example, offers its members a branded Adidas gym bag, a Sheraton gift certificate, a GoFit stretch band, an EAS shaker bottle and a Gatorade water bottle. Core Performance’s Katie Burke says these items offer value to the customer and branding outside of the gym. The clientele is usually an attractive bunch, no pun intended, and people will pay to get in front of them. Still, health clubs need to build their memberships to get to that point, and premiums can help do that. Club H Fitness worked with Bluetrack Inc., to come up with a program for its customers. It regularly hands out black dumbbell stress balls. “These promotional items are an effective and fun way to increase brand awareness,” says Michael Henderson, operations manager for Club H Fitness. “They’re fantastic giveaways at events that help us attract new members and are a constant reminder of us when they’re back home with our giveaway on their desk.”

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