What Can Food Network Teach Healthcare Marketers About Branding?


Over the course of 15 years, Food Network has gone from a niche boutique channel to a mainstream entertainment network. As healthcare marketers, we are facing a similar transition. Where once our organizations were focused on the niche business of treating the sick and injured, we’re now playing a larger role in the lives of our patients – we work with our communities to create healthier environments, we work proactively with our patients to keep them well, and we help them manage their conditions and support their recovery after they’ve gone home.

In an interview with Food Network’s Alton Brown, two network heavyweights, Bob Tuschman, senior vice president programming and general manager and Susie Fogelson, vice president of marketing, had a candid conversation about the internal workings of this evolution.

What can the experience of this entertainment network teach us about the path that we see ahead?

  1. You can influence your brand with your marketing, but it’s driven far more by the product you put out there than by what you say about that product.
  2. Getting a show that works is a combination of the talent and the format that lets them shine. It can take a while to find that winning combination. As we increasingly push our clinical staff, keep in mind the same tools may not work equally well for each clinician or each specialty!
  3. You never find big successes without experimenting and trying new things. Being a single topic network allows the Food Network to showcase talent in a variety of ways, hosting shows, participating in seasonal specials, and being guests or judges on other shows. Do you have the same range of tools to highlight your talent?
  4. Ultimately, it’s your customers who define your brand. They either come along with you or they don’t. Sometimes you just can’t get them to eat their veggies.
  5. Even after doing this for 15 years, only one in three new shows are successful. If you’re never failing, you’re not trying hard enough.
  6. Food Network started with cooking, but their audience isn’t interested in cooking all day. Now, they feature cooking shows in the late afternoon when people are planning menus and competitions and other pure entertainment shows during prime time when they just want to be entertained. All of their shows fit within the food brand, at least loosely, but they don’t all play as well at any time of day. It’s no coincident that this is exactly what Mayo Clinic does on social media – food post late afternoon, sleep lab post at 2:00 a.m.

In the end, Food Network is one of only two major TV networks where viewers really know the network brass (Bravo being the other). Food Network gives their viewers an altogether different relationship with the network. They get to see how the sausage is made, so to speak, and it leaves them invested and connected with what happens there. You can do the same thing with your clinicians and administrators.

Certainly we are promoting our physicians as never before, but we do so to fill their own schedules. What if, in utilizing that talent, you find an Alton Brown, Guy Fieri or Giada De Laurentiis? Or maybe a Sanjay Gupta, Mehmet Oz or Paul Levy? In doing so you might find not only a pathway to the business of a single clinician, but a face for your organization in the community.

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This entry was posted in Industry Trends, Marketing, Research by Ben Dillon. Bookmark the permalink.
Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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