How to Develop an Effective Multi-State Campaign

Years after completing a health system merger, which linked eight hospitals across rural Western Colorado, Metropolitan Denver, and Montana, SCL Health’s marketing “disconnect” persisted. The system’s three, distinct markets, and their regional marketing teams, felt inadequately represented in HQ’s one-size-fits-all campaign approach. As a result, consumers did not feel spoken to,  messaging and design wasn’t “breaking through,” and new patient visits were not going up. 

While region- or state-specific campaign strategies are not necessary for every industry, product or service, they are essential when related to healthcare – where consumer choice is often bountiful, and interactions are deeply personal. Healthcare services are rooted in trust – “Authenticity” is the quality that enables a person to trust a brand they have little experience with. 

As modern marketers, accountable for program effectiveness and efficiency, marketing leaders must take initiative in seeking out these “authenticity disconnects” (through data, regional management feedback, and market testing) – and address them in a heart/head/hands-on way.

Commitment to “Authenticity” is where many organizations and agencies under-execute, and successful marketers double-down. 

What is true and genuine in one state is often not in the next. There is incredible power in understanding the value each regional identity holds, and honoring it through your marketing art and copy. Yet this authentic “understanding” is only achieved through active listening, questioning, observing, and partnership with quality partners who share in your commitment.

Whether for a healthcare provider or other personal consumer service, the following steps will help ensure that consistent, authentic campaigns resonate in all of your target markets.

1. Win internal buy-in

There are no shortcuts when it comes to a thoughtful and thorough process. Whether its research elements are virtual, in-person or a mix of both, the fact-finding process requires resources and time. 

To ensure project support (and momentum), first align key players/decision-makers on the fact that an authenticity disconnect exists, then help them understand the value of addressing it and the scope of research and synthesis required to explore and correct the problem. Senior-endorsement will help drive budget conversations, and engage leadership in a way that gets them excited about the project’s outcome.

2. Know your audience

Every organization should have a strong understanding of who their ideal and typical customer is, but when it comes to multi-state or multi-region marketing strategies, marketing teams are required to dig deeper, and reframe their understanding of those consumers through a more local lens. 

While demographic and media consumption data can be captured through simple surveys, the real golden nuggets – which provide genuine, nuanced insights into a place or culture – are buried in interactive consumer research.

In order to get to know SCL Health’s customers better, Motion conducted extensive boots-on-the-ground research, including focus groups and immersive, ethnographic analysis across their three major regions. Focus groups are an excellent way to capture concentrated, critical insights relating to consumers’ experiences or feelings about key issues, your brand, your competitors, and any potential barriers that stand between their support and your product or service. 

Organizing groups by specific demographics and preparing tight discussion guides (complete with probing questions) enables research teams to collect diverse perspectives to uniform questions.

Understanding how those insights align or differ across the various markets is key to creating a strong platform from which strategy, and eventually creative work can be built.Yet, most realities are not lived behind a 2-way mirror. Ethnographic/guerilla research is used to paint colorful details in marketers’ understanding of a place and its culture. To truly understand the consumer mindset, you must go to them and the places they spend their time. Visit the restaurants, shops, parks, hospitals and clinics. Observe consumers at a distance and speak to them directly.

What do they wear? What shops and businesses make up its “Main Street”? Scan through their radio channels. Read the local papers.

The more context your team can capture, the better. 

3. Authenticity

Stated more concisely, “authenticity” is the key to marketing and brand building success. When done effectively, brands forge connections with customer that give way to trust and loyalty. When companies fail to present themselves authentically, they run the risk of appearing disingenuous, opportunistic, and condescending. 

Before a brand can communicate “authentically” to a specific population, and before they’ve proven their time spent listening and learning, they must prove to be authentic, themselves.

Authenticity starts with self. In order to project it, you have to be it. 

With SCL Health, we knew that the patients of blue-collar, agriculture-based Western Colorado didn’t believe they were similar to patients of Denver. And that Montanans didn’t believe they were similar to just about anyone in the world. 

But through our immersion research, we learned the extent of these residents’ pride in their hometown, their commitment to independence, and their sensitivities towards people pretending they’re, “from around here.” A fierce love of their communities was the common denominator between them, and the historic, 200+ year tradition of SCL Health, who had proven this commitment at each of their hospitals for decades.

This insight would become the cornerstone of a new positioning platform and the focus of our campaign.

With this established, we could confidently begin our creative strategy and sourcing partners.

4. Work with great (and when possible, local) partners

An integrated, multi-state campaign has innumerable moving parts. When in the logistical planning and execution phase, it’s imperative to have dedicated partners who are as passionate about delivering a successful campaign for the client, as you are.

In the case of SCL Health, we worked closely with a local, Denver-based media buyer to provide insights into the right media vehicles for each distinct market — many of which they’ve had previous experience in. In Denver, an urban area, that meant more billboards and large-scale out-of-home tactics. For Montana, a rural area, that meant more print and direct mail pieces. 

For the campaign TV commercials, we chose a director team who was deeply passionate about bringing the work to life in the most authentic way possible. From conducting their own interviews with consumers to independently researching the region-specific community health programming that inspired the spot plot lines, they never stopped until the most accurate and powerful version of the story was uncovered.

5. Allow enough time for the campaign to run, but mind the data

Launching a regional or multi-state marketing campaign is exciting…and stressful. With the anticipation of go-live comes unrealistic expectations of immediate impact. All campaigns take time to root and germinate in the market. Depending on the brand’s pre-launch brand awareness, most results “mature” and become reliable after five to six weeks in the field.

That said, continue working with your media partner to assess progress and scout for outliers that may require action/intervention. 

Finally, brand equity takes time to build in any and all regions — be patient with growth. Create a solid, authentic platform. Develop a resonant, multi-channel campaign. Run it. Collect data. Establish a baseline. And stay present and active in the market (aka: Don’t give up).

Click here to see the full case study for SCL Health

Written by Kevin McCarthy and Lameis Dromgoole