Creative Internet Marketing Stories: HealthPartners Online Services

by Celeste Bishop

in Healthcare Marketing

Two very potent forces are converging in the marketplace: economic turmoil and surging Internet use. Businesses that continue on as before will experience difficulty; those that adapt will stand a chance. Organizations that demonstrate creativity and innovation can gain competitive advantage.

This is a time when your competitive field can go Topsy-turvy and you can come out ahead.

That’s what the Creative Internet Marketing Stories series is about — real life stories about companies and people succeeding through creative and innovative use of Internet marketing as in the following story.

Creative Healthcare Marketing: HealthPartners Petey & Pokey

Healthcare is in the spotlight. Major understatement – no? Healthcare is also fairly notorious for rather conservative marketing. And, for good reason — personal and legal stakes are extremely high.

Even if the economy was booming, major shifts in consumer behavior favoring Internet information and influencers represents a seismic change to status quo marketing strategy, planning and tactics. So, when creativity and innovation happen to capitalize on that shift it’s worth taking note.

As in the case of HealthPartners and their marketing campaign “A New Way to Look at Healthcare” creating two unlikely characters: Petey and Pokey. Here’s the rub: Petey is a specimen pee cup and Pokey is a needle. 🙂

Healthcare Marketing Viral Mascots Credit: megrashrutot

Healthcare Marketing Campaign Mascots

Here’s some context to this Healthcare Marketing Success Story:

  • Company: HealthPartners — 2 hospitals/25 clinics/~1 million members in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
  • Goal: Increase adoption rate of their Online Services (prescription refills, test results, medical records, appointment setting, bill payment, etc.)
  • What: HealthPartners created two characters as part of the overall marketing campaign to increase adoption of their Online Services — Petey and Pokey — they are wildly successful. They were innovative in their use of emerging Web 2.0 capabilities and Social Media channels.
  • Challenges: Not everyone associated with HealthPartners felt that this irreverent duo was appropriate for the serious nature of healthcare.
  • Key: HealthPartners employees were early champions enthusiastically promoting Petey & Pokey, which in turn got viral growth rolling.

Petey & Pokey are fun, memorable mascots that appear at events, in advertisements and communications. HealthPartners integrated Petey & Pokey in a variety of classic offline and online marketing tactics.

That integration combination works – they are frequently seen “in-person” around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in addition to a range of HealthPartner events AND they have their own accounts in key social media channels, such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter. Offline events encourage fans to “friend” Petey & Pokey’s social media pages to get the latest on them. Online social networking promotes their offline events. Nice.

Petey & Pokey were so popular that they “went viral” (meaning word of mouth marketing set in within their target market). I’m pretty sure that the HealthPartners marketing team would tell us that Going Viral is not as accidental as it sounds. There are 3 basic elements at work here that facilitate that success:

  1. Entertainment Value
  2. Target Market Engagement
  3. Relevant Education

These 3 elements — Entertainment — Engagement — Education — are the Secret Sauce that helps them build a strong Social Media following. As popularity of these characters spread (along with the messages they conveyed), so did the adoption of their Online Services.

HealthPartners then uses these social networks to update highly receptive fans, educate them about the value of their Online Services and send messages about upcoming events such as a the Grand Re-opening celebration for one of their clinics.

Their fans and friends in social media can then easily forward news, videos, pictures, event announcements or messages featuring Petey & Pokey to their own networks. In fact, they often don’t even have to do anything — the news automatically updates to their friends. Again, more publicity and goodwill for HealthPartners Online Services. How good is that?

HealthPartners Internet marketing team keeps trying new ways to leverage the popularity of Petey & Pokey. To see a list of the various channels they use, get ideas, and follow links to specific examples, check out our expanded coverage of this Creative Healthcare Marketing Idea.

Stay tuned… we’ll keep following the progress of this campaign and report back.

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