Is Covering Butts a Brand Advantage for Cleveland Clinic?

Her pretty face, visibly older, jumps off the page at me from the cover of the November AARP Bulletin. (Stop snickering, I’m over 50 and enjoy all the travel/golf discounts).

The face is that of iconic fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg; her latest creations are designed to cover your butt when it lands in a hospital bed. The idea was born from a networking conference conversation between the designer known for comfortable, elegant wrap dresses and the CEO of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. No matter the prestige of the medical institution, or the wealth of its guests, the view of exposed butts and other parts is ubiquitous, and largely humiliating for all involved. It’s very timely to re-imagine the “johnny-gown” as Boomers to flow into hospital settings with expectations for care that hardly include indecent exposure. Can this innovation prove to be a brand advantage for a premiere, yet expensive health care system? I think so.

The designer gowns are expensive to make, around $8-9 dollars each. Design features include an elastic waistband, snaps and breathable fabric sporting a classic von Furstenberg graphic, using Cleveland Clinic’s primary brand asset, its logo. Patients, by and large, are happy with the new duds.  Second-round tweaks are in progress based on patient and staff feedback.

But some feedback is decidedly negative, as nurses diss the innovation as being too costly. Ever an advocate for the shopper, I looked at a cost comparison of heart procedures at the Cleveland Clinic, finding them higher-than-average for more serious heart ailments.  Its brand reputation is built on great surgery results.

But what about the patient/shopper experience? Is dignity a brand advantage to stem the flow of uninsured/under-insured Boomers from joining the medical tourism trend to travel to other countries for expensive heart surgeries?

A premium brand experience should always deliver above the baseline. Patient satisfaction (read DIGNITY) derived from wearing a gown that prevents indecent exposure doesn’t seem too far above the baseline, but does have a distinctly notable advantage.  Perhaps it’s time the Office of Patient Experience, which announced the innovation, brought their naysayer nurses into a more open dialogue. In 2009, more than 500,000 Americans traveled to other nations for medical procedures. I’m suggesting that converting a dignified human experience into a distinct brand advantage is not only possible, but worth exploring.

Marketers, get your imaginations in gear. What’s your idea for the campaign?

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