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I Hate Inventory-Style Marketing

May 20, 2009

I first began thinking about what I call “inventory marketing” while studying the marketing strategy of a national hospital brand based in Boston. What is inventory marketing? It is the impulse to show how comprehensive or broad a company’s products or services are by focusing on lists. It is the thought that lists will better convey enterprise value than any narrative could capture. In the case of this hospital, it sounded something like this: we have a great pediatric department and really great technology and world-class cardiac care and diabetes classes and experts in endothelial dysfunction and a caring fetal medicine unit and a sports injury practice and oncology and etc, etc,…. Instead of delivering a tightly integrated message or story, a business tries to convey breadth by telling you each and every frigging thing they do, fatally boring or confusing people in the process.

Here’s Arbour Health, a cram-it-all-on kind of marketing. And here’s Cleveland Clinic, telling their story with warmth and intimacy. [My classic hideous inventory example used to be Tufts-New England Medical Center, but they’ve redesigned.]

Why do people resort to this? It’s ridiculously easy. It is democratic (no matter that one service line may be much more profitable than another). And it is intended to convey authority and experience. In fact, it’s completely ineffective and forgettable.


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