Determining Positioning Strategy for Akron Children’s Hospital
Discuss th role of qualitative research in gaining a better understanding of how households select a hospital for their chilcren when in need of health care for acute cases?
Describe possible survey methods that Norton could request if he commissioned a survey in this case? Which survey method would you recommend and why?
Select which of the plans you suggest Akron Children’s Hospital to pursue – plan A, Plan B, Plan C or Plan D and explain why.
READING FOR AKRON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
?I?m not sure we are getting anywhere in this meeting,? Aaron Powell thought to himself as he pushed his chair away from the conference room table and slowly stood up to stretch his legs after an hour had already gone past. Powell, Akron Children?s Hospital?s (ACH; akron-childrens.org) marketing director, stood to gaze out the conference room windows onto the two ribbons of train tracks that curled near the hospital on the north side of this midsized city in Northeast Ohio. He was thinking about how rival hospitals, such as Akron City Hospital, Akron General Medical Center, and St. Thomas Hospital, had recently hired marketing directors like himself. The urgency to advance Akron Children?s Hospital?s marketing effort was going to intensify in the next year.
Powell?s meeting was going into its second hour. In addition to Powell, the meeting?s participants were Mark Norton, the hospital operations officer (Powell?s boss), and Janet Jones from the Cleveland-based Marcus Thomas communications and research agency (marcusthomasllc.com). One staff member from finance was there, along with the soon to be retiring public relations director for the hospital. In the past, both of these staffers would support whatever Norton proposed or liked. It now looked like Powell and Jones were on the other side of a divide about how to approach positioning Akron Children?s Hospital in next year?s advertising campaign. To make matters worse, Powell and Jones appeared to be outnumbered, and the tension in the room was palpable. ?Let me read the research problem statement all of us revised in the first hour of our meeting,? Jones said. ?Akron Children?s Hospital board wants the hospital to become the preferred hospital in the high-growth areas of the region. Accordingly, we are studying positioning possibilities, so that the board can select the best positioning for next year?s communications campaign intended to boost the number of patient cases 10 percent in the following year.? ?That?s it. That?s what we want,? Norton said. ?But I don?t think we have to pursue a research project with a survey that just may lead us to reinvent the wheel?and for $60,000, too.?
?What wheel is that?? Powell asked, turning away from the window to face Norton.
?Aaron, you know as well as I do that this hospital is all about children. It?s even in our name,? Norton said. ?Emphasize the kids. Whatever we do in the media should feature the kids. Just do some focus groups that will allow Marcus Thomas to get some ideas for their advertising about kids and our hospital. That should only cost about $20,000. But honestly, I am not sure we even need that.?
?Mark, remember that McDonald?s tends to emphasize kids, too, but adults are featured in their advertising most of the time,? Powell said. ?Marcus Thomas needs to cover the entire range of issues families consider when choosing a hospital for their kid. If we miss something important, one of the other hospitals in Akron might claim they are the better hospital when it comes to this.?
?Aaron is making a good point,? Jones said. ?Right
now, we don?t know which positioning would help Akron
Children?s the most.?
?So describe which paths we can pursue now,? Norton
?Plan A?do focus groups only, as you suggested,? Jones said. ?Plan B?do focus groups with a follow-on survey. Plan C?do a survey with follow-on focus groups. And plan D?do no research.? ?Tell me more about each of these,? Norton said. ?In plan A, Marcus Thomas would conduct four focus groups, with an average of 10 respondents per group,? Jones said. ?We?ll ask participants to discuss their experiences while at a hospital. Participants will be required to be the primary decision makers for health-care decisions within the family and have a child?newborns to 18 years old?with an acute condition and who had spent at least 3 consecutive days in a hospital. Because most health-care decision makers within a family tend to be women, most of the participants will be female between 25 and 54 years old with one or more children ranging from newborns to 18 years old.? ?Cost?? Norton asked. ?About $20,000,? Powell said.
Jones continued. ?In plan B, we?ll do plan A, plus a field survey to follow up on the issues we identify in the focus groups. First, we?ll ask about unaided and aided awareness of hospitals in the region. Then, based on what we learn in the focus groups, we will identify the concepts of three positioning strategies and ask survey respondents which one they prefer most and which one they prefer next most. We?ll be able to statistically determine the degree of preference among the positioning alternatives.? ?The three strategies might be, one, Akron Children?s Hospital has doctors who listen to you,? Powell said. ?Or, two, we know how to meet the unique needs of children, or, three, we use the latest advances in treating children.? ?Cost?? Norton asked again. ?About $60,000,? Powell said. ?What about plan C? Why does that make sense??
Norton asked. ?We can identify the best positioning strategy by conducting a survey. The salient aspects of this positioning strategy to the consumers can then be explored via focus groups. The cost will be the same as plan B; that is, $60,000,? responded Jones.
?And plan D?no research. Turn our creative staff loose and hang on for the ride,? Jones said with a wry smile. Norton returned the smile and looked around the room. ?Doesn?t your firm do the advertising for the Ohio Lottery?? Norton asked. ?With plan D, we might do better by playing the Ohio Lottery!? Sensing the humor, everyone in the room laughed together. Finally, tension seemed to begin dissipating. Norton nodded slowly. Powell nodded, too. However, the questions Powell was thinking about still remained. Which of the plans would Akron Children?s Hospital pursue?plan A, plan B, plan C, or plan D? If money was invested, would it be a worthwhile investment? Would the idea of research being a ?cost? (with no apparent return) persist in the minds of Norton and the other staff members long after this meeting? What could be done now to help Norton and the other executives view research as an investment (with an implied return)?