Revolutionary Measures

Can marketing help the new NHS app to Cross the Chasm?

We’re currently in an unprecedented time when it comes to innovation. The rise of digital is unleashing new ways of working, communicating and shopping, while underpinning new business models that are transforming whole industries. Clearly, not all of this change is positive for everyone – trends such as e-commerce and AI have led to job losses and closures across the high street. Reflecting this, research shows that a majority of older people feel that life in England was better in the past, a position that correlates strongly with supporting Brexit.

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What does this mean for innovation? For a start, a large number of your potential consumers are going to be suspicious of your shiny new product. Even allowing for the different phases of adoption set out by Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm, this leaves those of us marketing innovation with a dilemma. Essentially, how do you get people to change their behaviour, and do something differently – especially if it is something they’ve always done that way. This isn’t about persuading people to change the beer they drink or the shampoo they use, but much more deep-seated, such as how they communicate, or switching from fossil fuel to electric-powered vehicles.

The news that the NHS is going to get a new app brought this issue to the front of my mind. Confusingly described by health secretary Jeremy Hunt as “a birthday present from the NHS to the British people” – does he give other people presents on his birthday? – it promises to allow users to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view medical information held by their GPs.

But will it be adopted and therefore deliver the savings and convenience that it promises? Unlike other tech products it is aimed fully at the mainstream – and given that many of the largest users of the NHS are not likely to be early adopters – it will require a lot of effort to drive change.

Unfreeze, Move, Freeze
Essentially, according to business psychologist Kurt Lewin major change only happens when conditions are seen as sub-optimal. This generates a desire for change, which unfreezes attitudes and leads to moving to new solutions. Once this is the status quo it then freezes back into place, until the process begins again.

Looking at the NHS app, there are four areas where marketing can help drive the unfreezing and hence change:

1.Demonstrate it is easier
We’ve all been in situations where we know that changing how we do something will deliver longer term benefits – but we don’t have the time (or inclination) to invest the additional effort required to learn the new way of doing something. It could be as simple as continuing to access a website on your computer rather than your phone as you can’t remember your password and can’t be bothered to set it all up again. So the experience the new app offers has to be incredibly clear and straightforward. I’d even employ trainers to go around to GP surgeries, install it on people’s phones and get them up and running.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
As with any mass market product, you need to ensure that everyone is aware of the new app, and how to benefit from it. I’m sure there will be complaints of wasting money in the Tory press if the NHS runs a huge advertising campaign around the app, but it is vital to get it out there across TV, print, online and billboards. And the ads have to be memorable – even if that’s because of the sheer annoyance they cause. Meerkats anyone?

3. Brand it!
At the moment the NHS app is called, um, the NHS app. Hardly memorable or likely to help people find it – and a quick search on the Apple Store brings up lots of apps with “NHS” in the title. It needs a strong, personal and appealing brand – whether than means naming it after a famous doctor or Aneurin Bevan, architect of the NHS or going down the route of creating a cartoon character around it, it needs to stand out.

4. Make the message simple
Too many adverts overcomplicate the message – therefore the marketing for the app has to deliver a clear call to action in a short number of stages. For example:

  • One: Download the app
  • Two: Enter a unique NHS code
  • Three: Start accessing your health records/booking appointments etc

People won’t respond to anything more complicated initially – once they’ve got the app you can effectively extend their use by giving advice on other ways that they can benefit.

When it comes to changing behaviour, marketing (and understanding psychology) has a key role to play. Let’s hope the NHS bears this in mind when it fully launches its app in December.

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to bring in the consultants

As a PR and marketing professional I’m often taken aback by the response to mentioning that I’m a consultant. Across the business world consultants generally get a pretty bad press – in fact, one positive point of the economic crisis is that bankers have displaced consultants in the most hated stakes.

The general impression of consultants is of expensive individuals who parachute into a company (or organisation), fail to take the time to understand the business problem, recommend change that is either impossible to implement or requires more expensive consultancy and then swan off in their BMWs waving cheques in the air. And yes, there are organisations that bring in 20

year olds straight out of university to tell you how to run your business (or scarily, govern the country).

But all the consultants I’ve met, whether finance, marketing, IT or business-focused aren’t like that. They combine skills and experience to help organisations grow – and they aren’t as expensive as the scare stories like to make out. Here are five good reasons that consultants deliver results:


1          Skills you don’t have
Not many businesses (unless they are multinationals) have the skills in-house to do everything outside their core functions, particularly in current economic times. Consultants fill these gaps, whether it is helping with change management, social media or IT. After all, as managing director you don’t want to be learning programming skills to build your website.


2          Value for money

Consultant day rates can look expensive – but you are only buying the time you need. For a start-up to employ an experienced financial director would be economically unfeasible, but bringing someone in for a couple of days a month delivers value without breaking the bank. And you don’t need to pay the hidden costs of employing someone such as National Insurance, pension and benefits.

3          Knowledge transfer

Smart organisations make sure they get real value from consultants by learning from them. Get them to train people as part of their assignment and not only do you increase your skills base but you gain even more value from them.

4          Networking

Good consultants spend their time talking to lots of organisations and individuals, learning what they are doing and storing away information and contacts. And they can then use these contacts to help you – whether it is bringing in new partners, sales channels or resource that can help.

5          Independence

Consultants should be (by their nature) independent from the organisation they are working with. This means that they provide a realistic view that isn’t clouded by being too close to the business itself – particularly if they are from smaller consultancies or are just one man bands. It does mean you can blame them for unpopular decisions, but as a business leader you’d surely be better doing that yourself?

I don’t for a minute claim that every person that claims to be a consultant delivers all these advantages, but good ones do – and deliver value way beyond the initial investment.

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February 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 6 Comments