What Macy’s Santa Can Teach Us All About Social Media

Flickr: Matti Mattila

I love the moment in “Miracle on 34th Street” when the Macy’s Santa sends the customer to Gimbels’. You’ll remember that Santa’s boss was appalled, but the positive word of mouth that followed earned the attention of Mr. Macy himself, resulted in enormous good will, and, we presume, increased sales.

There were at least three things about that action that flabbergasted the customer.

  • It was completely honest.
  • It was generous.
  • It was totally unexpected.

Why was it so unexpected? Because we all know that corporations – and hospitals – act in their own self-interest. That has been our experience for a lifetime. And people keep telling us that it is absolutely essential. After all, you can’t continue providing a service unless you make a profit, right?

Of course they’re absolutely right. But if all your marketing is always about how great you are – every newspaper advertisement, TV spot, newsletter, blog post, billboard and tweet – isn’t it going to get a bit stale? Doesn’t it feel contrived? Suspect?  And doesn’t it make your message rather ordinary?

Instead, what if you did something so unexpected, so generous that it caught your patients completely by surprise? And what if you did it, not because you wanted to create a viral movement, or increase admissions to your ER, or bill for more MRIs, or get more Twitter followers, but simply because you wanted to do something uncommonly kind for someone else?

I’m not talking about throwing your whole marketing budget at selfless acts. But I am suggesting that you carve out a piece of your budget to do something rare and generous for your patients — something so surprising that it bowls them over and makes them wonder why in the world you would do something like that.

Then sit back and watch what happens. Kris Kringle would be proud.

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