The power of the pants
Competition is fierce in the long-term care business these days. Experts estimate there are literally many nursing homes and senior care campuses in the United States. Yours is only one of those. How can you possibly stand out from the crowd?
Well, it's a difficult question, but one I'm extremely well-suited to answer because I recently faced it myself. There are literally dozens of bald, ___-year-olds in this country. I'm only one of them. How could I possibly stand out from the crowd?
Like any sensible facility marketing director does, I desperately sought opportunities to attract attention. To get an edge, stake my claim, corner the market and build my brand. Finally, after considering every available option, I identified what I felt was a sure-fire way to achieve those self-promotional goals — by wearing neon-salmon-colored pants.
I didn't choose them on my own. They were sent to me by my personal stylist at Stitchfix.com, a delightful stranger named “Amber.” She acknowledged in an accompanying note her intent to push me from my comfort zone, but maintained the reaction would be overwhelmingly positive, and that my hyper-fashion-critical co-workers would be shocked and awed.
It turns out she was right about that last part, not in a good way.
After about a fortnight of fear and trepidation, I finally chose to trust her, and reluctantly slipped into “the pants.”1 They were a color [see at right] I had never seen naturally occur in nature,2 except maybe on a spawning fish, and I felt a deep internal urge to migrate upstream and fulfill my destiny.
Walking in to the office that day, I was nervous, but unprepared for the scope and passion of the negative response. Just one glance, and people tended to shield their eyes. Never mind the eclipse — they needed special glasses just to look at my clothes. Much mockery ensued, and I chuckled along as best I was able. “Nice pants!” was the sarcastic go-to for most of them. Those I didn't know as well mercifully said nothing, but I could see the puzzlement and horror on their faces.
Tired of bringing such unwanted attention to myself, which for a shy Canadian can be lethal, I shut my office door and snuck out to my car after most colleagues were gone. To preserve my remaining self-respect, I resolved to never be seen wearing those pants in public again — a promise to my dignity that I've faithfully kept.
As with all negative experiences in life, many valuable lessons can be drawn from the ashes of this humiliation, some of which you may find particularly useful as you fine-tune your facility marketing strategies:
1. Thinking outside the box, or in this case the color palette, carries unknown risks and is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to suffer scorn and derision for your possibly misguided decisions.
2. What's the worst that could happen if this initiative fails? Ask that question clearly, and get comfortable with the answer. “Start with the end in mind,” advised Steven Covey, who would never have been caught dead in those pants.
3. Some people, even presidents, believe all publicity is good publicity, that it doesn't matter if what you did was loved or hated, because at least it was noticed. They're lying. It matters.
4. Avoid presenting yourself as something you're not — or in my case, as an ultra-hip fashion trendsetter who apparently thinks he's still 26.
5. The line between marketing success and failure can be thin. And sharp. And painful.
6. Never do business with anyone wearing Tangerine Tango trousers.
None of this, of course, is to advocate long-term care marketing timidity, because high risk can certainly bring high reward. You should always have the inner strength and professional courage of your convictions to step out on that limb, tempt fate, take that chance, and risk failure with impunity.
But you might also want to bring a change of clothes along, just in case.
1See accompanying photo, which is brutally real and unretouched.
2In subsequent research, the closest color chip I've been able to find is Pantone 17-1463, called Tangerine Tango, which I also just learned was the color of the year in 2012. 2012? I had no idea I was so fashion-forward.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.