Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sexing the Mammogram

In my fantasy, this ran in October, when all the breast cancer awareness campaigns would be in full bloom. I'm leaving the lede as is. After all, if I can't have it my way on my blog...

Sexing the Mammogram
By Ellen Neuborne

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we are awash in public service announcements to run, walk, donate and get a mammogram. And this time, I can’t be silent. I have to speak out. Because I know the answer. I know why women aren’t getting mammograms in droves. And I know how to fix it.

Not to knock the marketers of the breast cancer awareness. They have done a bang up job spreading the word and completely hijacking the color pink. Seriously, well done. But they need to take it one step further to make the mammogram desirable. They need to sex it up a bit. Okay, a lot. And that needs more than a marketer. That needs the services of an experiential marketer.

What’s that? Oh, believe me, if you live in the First World, you’ve received the ministrations of a good experiential marketer. Ever pay $4.50 for a cup of coffee? (at Starbucks) $14.50 for a hamburger? (at The Hard Rock CafĂ©) or three figures for shoes? (insert Sex in the City-esque boutique here.) Then you have been roundly handled by an experiential marketing pro. These are the professionals who are so good at making the mundane sexy, that you open your wallet willingly, eagerly, even stand on line and get all huffy with your neighbors for a chance to do it again. These are the people who make an experience so worthwhile, we beg for more. And it’s my belief that if experiential marketers can make chronic foot pain attractive, the annual mammogram should be no problem at all.

Twenty years, I’ve been covering the marketing beat for every publication that will buy my copy. I have a few modest proposals of my own.

Dreamy Docs. Suppose instead of the perfectly competent ladies who apply the pannini machine to our breasts, the work was done by a substantially more attractive crew. Think McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy. Or George Cloony of ER fame. Or Denzel (anyone remember him from his St. Elsewhere days? He looked great in scrubs.) Suppose you could fill out a preference card in advance, like a room service menu, and pick your type – age, features, gender, whatever works for you. And suppose he had some really good lines. Like “Wow, those are beautiful. Really, I should know. In my line of work, you see a lot. And yours are really lovely, just top notch.”

Okay, fine, so we’d all know they were lines, but delivered well, we’d take ‘em. I don’t think the Starbucks barista really cares if I have a nice day or not, but when she says it with feeling, I smile.

Waiting Room Entertainment. Never in my life have I passed time in a setting so tense as the mammogram waiting room. There’s nothing to do but ponder your mortality. At the perfectly well appointed place where I go, Marriott-esque chairs are arranged against the wall of the rectangular space so that we all sit there, stone silent, clutching our demi-robes around us, staring ahead into the maw of possible deadly diagnosis.

No, no, no, no, no. All wrong. Now try this.

Mammogram waiting rooms come equipped with plasma televisions playing a loop of standup comedy. Or a Barbara Streisand concert. Or classic game show reruns. Anything but the silence.

Some firms might compete for patients by really working the entertainment theme. How about live music? What about a wine tasting? Or free pedicures? Believe me, if they put a little thought into it, that whole waiting room experience could be a serious point of differentiation for any up and coming radiology practice.

Better clothes. I mentioned the demi-robes. Let’s look at that option. Can fashion meet functionality in this bit of attire? I say, let’s find out. Turn the cast of Project Runway loose on this one. Have these talented folks compete to design the most fabulous mammogram robe. And don’t say it can’t be done, because seriously, it’s pretty clear that nobody has ever tried. I am not much of a fashionista, but even I think these 100% cotton schmatas in faded solid blue and pink have got to go. Tell me to take off my top and put on the latest from Oscar, Coco or Isaac, and tie it in the front. I’ll feel better about the whole experience if I’m not dressed in a dinner napkin.

Like any great marketing push, the mammogram needs to go the full distance. Every ad pro knows that creating awareness is just the first step. Then you have to get the customer to act. And that’s the hurdle breast cancer marketing must now clear. Now that we’re all aware, you need a good, powerful call to action. All I’m saying is: use all the tools in the tool kit. There’s a lot we’ll buy if we find it sexy. No reason breast health can’t be on that list.

And next up: sexing the prostate exam.

Writer Ellen Neuborne is pretty well convinced that marketing makes the world go around.

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