Marketing in Healthcare Management Case Study

Marketing in Healthcare Management

Over recent years, the healthcare industry has faced significant changes. Today, managers struggle to maintain the standard of healthcare through the effective and efficient management of resources. Yang (2010) notes “that the concept of marketing have been transformed from transaction marketing into relationship marketing” (p. 235). According to the American Marketing Association, marketing includes the processes and activities that create, communicate, deliver, and exchange valuable offers for clients, customers, partners and society in general. It is not embodied by a single technique, but instead is a broad strategy that builds relationships (cited Rooney 2009, p. 241). In an increasingly competitive industry, marketing can garner valuable market share for an organization or cost them valuable consumers.

Although marketing is not simply limited to promotional strategies, but instead includes activities including product conception, pricing, distribution channels, public relations, customer service, and overall strategic planning, this paper will explore the concept of healthcare marketing through the critical analysis of a healthcare campaign titled “Save the Boobs.” The background of the campaign will be given, as well the reasons for formulating this campaign. The segmentation of the audience will be presented, and the seven Ps of marketing services will be used to explore the effectiveness of the campaign. Particular reference to the promotion and elements of the communication models will be given, followed by an evaluation of the success of the campaign. Lastly, an explanation of what could have been done differently will be presented. These recommendations will be supported by the application of marketing theory.

Campaign Background and Situation Analysis:

The “Save the Boobs” campaign was developed by the Canadian organization Rethink Breast Cancer. The ad features a buxom young woman walking slowly around a swimming pool, in a bikini. Other pool party guests are admiring her as she jiggles in semi-slow motion. Words cut into the scene that say, “You know you like them. Now it’s time to save the boobs. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 20-49.” The purpose of the campaign was to provide a memorable piece of advertising that would encourage men to be more aware of the dangers of breast cancer, as well as younger women, who often perceive breast cancer as an older woman’s disease (“Save the boobs,” 2009).

Using a SWOT analysis gives further insight into this campaign. The primary strength of the Save the Boobs campaign is that it is memorable. it’s difficult to forget a beautiful, bikini-clad woman jiggling around a swimming pool. For this reason, it’s also incredibly effective in garnering the attention of viewers. In a society where most television viewers have hundreds of channels to choose from, and commercials that are often either missed as viewers surf between more than one channel or fast-forwarded through when programs are recorded, this is a campaign that has the ability to cause viewers to stop and watch. Of course, it’s primary weakness is that for many women the ad is seen as too sexy and a campaign that is sexist and degrading to women, making it ineffective for the people breast cancer directly affects — women.

The primary opportunities this campaign may consider are those centering on increased education for both men and young men. Although this one campaign has gone beyond the Canadian market where it was originally released, the viral nature of the global news coverage of the ad may be something the organization wishes to repeat. This can be accomplished by creating similarly racy and controversial ads in future campaigns. Threats to this campaign lie in the controversial nature. The negative press could backfire on the campaign and draw attention away from the true goal of the campaign — breast cancer awareness.

Segmentation of the Audience:

Stakeholder management, according to Huber, Scharioth and Pallas (2004), is a popular term for describing the interest groups that have a sake in an organization, company or institution. Putting stakeholder management into practice involves garnering support for a project from stakeholders. The stakeholders for the Save the Boobs campaign vary greatly. First, the general public has an interest in the topic of breast cancer. An estimated 23,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2010, and 5,300 women will die from this disease, in Canada alone. In fact, one in nine women will statistically develop breast cancer in their lifetime (“Stats & factoids” 2010). The medical community, feminist groups, the media, and other breast cancer awareness groups all have a potential effect on Rethink Breast Cancer and their Save the Boobs campaign.

There are four primary segmentation variables in marketing: geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral. Geographically, the Save the Boobs campaign was originally targeted at a Canadian audience, this is reinforced by the fact that the “star” of the commercial is a popular Canadian MTV announcer. Demographically, the target audience is primarily young adult males, with young adult females being a secondary target. Psychographic segmentation, according to Kurtz and MacKenzie (2009) “divides a population into groups that have similar psychological characteristics, values, and lifestyles” (p. 275). The psychographic segmentation targeted by the Save the Boobs campaign is people who are not typically concerned with their health, in general, and breast cancer specifically. Lastly, behavioral segmentation centers on the consumer behaviors that are exhibited in the marketplace (Assael 2005, p. 414; Reid & Bojanic 2009, p. 130). Behaviors common to the targeted market in the Save the Boobs campaign are a general lack of concern regarding breast cancer, which will include behaviors such as not conducting monthly breast exams.

The Seven Ps of Marketing:

To define the marketing mix, the seven Ps of marketing can be used. These seven Ps include: product, place, price, promotion, process, people, and physical evidence (Anselmo 2010, p. 8; Crane 2001, p. 15). The product being offered in the Save the Boobs campaign is breast cancer education. The place for this campaign is primarily in Canada, although thanks to the controversial nature and the ensuing media coverage, it has been shown in a variety of countries around the world. Pricing, for this campaign, is not financial, but centers on the individual’s health. As the last line of the commercial points out, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in younger adult women. Promotion for the Rethink Breast Cancer organization includes not only television commercials, but also a strong web presence. The processes used in the organization center on education. The characteristics of the people involved in Rethink Breast Cancer affect their marketing campaign, as they are a younger, trendier group of people, which is reflected in their campaign. Physical evidence to provide tangible evidence of quality service for the organization is actually not physical, but virtual, in the organization’s web presence.

Promotion & Elements of the Communication Models:

The promotion facets of the marketing mix typically consist of: advertising, personal selling, sales promotion (Aggarwal & Gupta 2001, p. 359), and public relations (Marsh & O’Connor 2007, p. 50). The Save the Boobs campaign is an example of advertising in that it was a non-personal presentation of the organization’s ideas about the importance of breast cancer awareness. As the organization is one that conducts their primary activities virtually, personal selling typically only occurs through their various fundraising events, such as their annual Breast Fest Film Festival or their annual Boobyball (“Events” 2010). Sales promotions are also not applicable in the traditional sense, as the organization doesn’t “sell” a product or service, instead sales promotions come in the form of their fundraising events that occur several times per year. Public relations, however, is critical for Rethink Breast Cancer. The organization strives to maintain a young, hip, trendy image to promote breast cancer awareness, to build the brand image of the organization. Yet, campaigns like Save the Boobs may actually damage public relations for the organization.

Furthermore, there are nine elements involved in the communication process, including: message, media, sender, encoding, decoding, receiver, noise, feedback, and response (Guffey 2003, p. 11; Weiten 2009, p. 205). Rethink Breast Cancer is the sender and they have sent the message that they want to increase breast cancer awareness in men and younger adult women. This message is encoded with their campaign for Save the Boobs. The media, in this particular communication, is television. The message is then decoded by viewers as they watch the ad., and they become the receiver of the message. The response is the reaction of the receiver after watching the commercial and has varied from enthusiasm, for the unique campaign, to outrage, for the sexist portrayal of women. The feedback Rethink Breast Cancer received should be that more people are now aware of the potential for breast cancer in younger women. Lastly, noise is the unplanned distortion of the message and is what occurred with the viewers who were upset at the sexual nature of the ad, which distracts viewers from the true message.

Evaluation of the Success of the Campaign:

Rethink Breast Cancer’s Save the Boobs campaign met the general goal of making people more aware of breast cancer. It was especially effective when evaluated for the specific demographic segmentation the organization was targeting. Young adult males were particularly inclined to watch the commercial, thanks to the buxom, bikini-clad beauty as the star. In addition, young adult females were more likely to relate to the star of commercial, more so than if they had cast a middle-aged housewife. Although these demographics were more likely to watch the commercial, such a small portion of the commercial was devoted to the actual message, it’s difficult to determine the effectiveness on whether or not these viewers would take action, such as learning more about breast cancer or conducting monthly self breast exams, or other behaviors that would help with early detection of breast cancer, to ensure the likelihood of survival.

Regarding the seven Ps of marketing, the Save the Boobs campaign was more effective than originally anticipated regarding the place of the message, thanks to the added bonus of the controversy that surrounded the campaign and the global play of the commercial thanks to world news leaders like CNN and postings on Promotion could have been enhanced, however, if the message was given more attention, in lieu of some of the gratuitous jiggling. Physical evidence also was significantly lacking. Although viewers can go to the Rethink Breast Cancer website, a tangible piece of marketing material was not available, such as a brochure.

Although the campaign was an effective piece of advertising, in that it grabbed viewer’s attention, caused a flurry of media due to the controversy, and was memorable, there were other areas where it was lacking. Sales promotions were not linked to the campaign itself. In addition, the controversial nature of the questionably sexual theme of the commercial may have a negative effect on public relations.


As the marketing manager for the Save the Boobs campaign, for the Rethink Breast Cancer organization, there are several things that can be done differently, in order to improve the effectiveness of the campaign. The campaign’s controversial nature would be addressed first. Although the current ad featuring the young MTV host bouncing around the pool, with slow motion close ups of her breasts as onlookers ogle her, does catch the attention of red-blooded males, it also offends some of the primary demographic directly affected by breast cancer — women. Although this campaign may have been primarily targeted towards men, alienating women in the process is not beneficial for the long-term organizational image of Rethink Breast Cancer. For this reason, the campaign would have been better for public relations if it wasn’t so sexually exploitative, but retained some of the spirit, and attraction, to ensure it garnered the attention of their primary target audience. This would also help ward off against the threats looming due to feminist organizations and other unhappy viewers at the sexual content of the campaign.

Regarding the marketing mix, the organization misses out on an opportunity to incite action in the viewer. The promotion should include some sort of physical evidence, such as calling a phone number to receive a pamphlet about how to do breast self-exams, or to receive a brochure on the Rethink Breast Cancer annual events. This would further give viewers a chance to interact with people in the organization, rather than simply going to the organization’s website or doing nothing at all. This people component would further build the image of the organization, in the mind of the general public and help build the organizational image. In addition, this can help the organization help monitor the effectiveness of their campaign. The response rate can be measured by the requests for these materials. This can then be used to determine which time slots and days of the week, as well as channels, are the most effective for their marketing dollar. Although this campaign may be seen as a type of public service announcement for increasing breast cancer awareness, there is also a secondary goal of increasing publicity for Rethink Breast Cancer, which also includes garnering donations. Therefore, it’s important not only that the organization use their previously donated resources wisely, for marketing, but also effectively to get more future donations.

Personal selling opportunities could have also been created if the campaign was tied to an upcoming fundraising event, such as one of their film festivals or balls. The advertisement could have been changed to include information about an upcoming event, and details on how to get tickets. Special discounts on tickets could be offered through the campaign to not only encourage new people to come to a Rethink Breast Cancer fundraiser, but also to help, again, track the effectiveness of their marketing campaign.

The message of the campaign, that men and young adult women need to be more aware of the dangers of breast cancer, especially for younger women, shouldn’t be altered. This is valuable information, and serves the educational mission of the organization. However, it is the encoding of the message that needs to be changed. As mentioned, the sexually demeaning tone of the campaign definitely needs to be changed. Less focus on the star’s breasts and more on the reaction of the male (and female) pool party-goers would still give the same idea the campaign is going for, but without being as offensive. The improved encoding of the message would also contain more of the message itself. As it was produced, the actual meat of the message — that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in younger adult women — only appears for a couple of seconds, barely enough time for the viewer to read it. For this reason, viewers may be more inclined to remember the breasts in the commercial and not the reason why the commercial is so important to the breasts.

These changes in the encoding would make drastic changes in the decoding results. First, the users who had a negative response to the campaign may not have been so offended if the message was encoded differently. In addition, perhaps more focus on the actual message would make the campaign more effective in actually educating viewers, rather than just stirring up controversy. Although in its current form, the campaign is memorable, as a whole, the message may be lost.

This is the biggest mistake in the campaign. Although marketing communications need to capture the receiver’s attention and be something they remember after the communication is over, the communication needs to also effectively motivate the receiver to take the desired action. For the Rethink Breast Cancer organization the desired action is to learn more about breast cancer and possibly donate to their organization so they can further their educational efforts. Although there is a very small percentage of the communication that educates the viewers about the dangers of breast cancer for younger adult women, it doesn’t motivate the viewer to take any specific action.

For this reason another change that would be made, in addition to toning down the encoding of the message, would be to associate it with some physical evidence. Rethink Breast Cancer has a very effective website. The site features a host of educational information, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and other resources people can turn to. Visitors to the website can sign up for the organization’s newsletter. They can learn how they can become involved in fundraising events, volunteer, shop to support the organization, and even get downloads they can use on their own blogs and social media pages. Website visitors can also learn more about the research being done to combat breast cancer, as well as the organization’s Career Development Award, which awards young researchers $35,000 to $70,000 per year to pursue their breast cancer research projects (“Research” 2010). The Save the Boobs campaign should have directed viewers to the organization’s website, as a virtual piece of physical evidence.

For an actual piece of physical evidence, the campaign should be changed to include an associated physical brochure that viewers can request. This could be an educational resource, such as directions for a self-breast exam or the ways women can reduce the risk of breast cancer. It also could be information tied to an upcoming event. Offering a special discount for those who have viewed the commercial, to one of their fundraising events, can encourage new people to attend these events, in addition to raising awareness.

Lastly, the channel Rethink Breast Cancer used for their Save the Boobs campaign, as it was created, may have better chosen. The commercial was originally aired on a variety of television channels in Canada. However, if the organization had only released it on more male-centric channels, such as sporting channels, this may have caused less controversy. Given the racier nature of the commercial, this campaign may have also been more appropriate for release via an Internet channel. Internet advertising could be further targeted to the campaign’s desired demographic. In addition, Internet campaigns typically are given more slack when it comes to the politically correct nature of the material. A racier campaign, like the Save the Boobs campaign, may not have received as much controversy as a television campaign. Although this my not have resulted in the media coverage, due to the controversy, the Internet would have given the campaign global viewership, without as much damage to the organization’s reputation and the negative public relations that resulted.


In the end, the Save the Boobs campaign is one of the most controversial breast cancer awareness campaigns to date. The campaign has a significant strength in that it garners viewers’ attention, especially young adult males who were targeted for this campaign. The bikini-clad, buxom star definitely is memorable. However, the backlash that the campaign encountered, as well as the lack of significant attention to the awareness and educational information is a significant weakness and poses a threat to the organization. As a primarily female concern, this campaign that could be perceived as sexually degrading to women is a not necessarily the most effective form of encoding the message.

One key lesson learned from this analysis is that a strength in a marketing campaign can also lead to a significant threat. These two factors have to be carefully weighed to ensure the benefits of a marketing campaign outweigh any negative results. For the Save the Boobs campaign, the memorable, attention-grabbing communication that received global media coverage due to the controversy surrounding it, lost too much in the backlash of that controversy. Not only did it negatively reflect on the organization, but the hype meant the message itself was lost in the controversy. This is a lesson that can be applied to any marketing campaign. In addition, an additional lesson learned is an effective marketing campaign needs to incite action in the receiver of the marketing message. This was another failing of the Save the Boobs campaign, despite being memorable, there was no call-to-action for viewers. it’s important that a marketing campaign covers all the important elements to be the most effective as possible.


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Crane, F.G. 2001, Professional services marketing: strategy and tactics, Haworth Press, New York.

‘Events,’ 2010, Rethink Breast Cancer, [Online], Retrieved 8 December 2010 from:

Guffey, M.E. 2003, Business communication: process and product: study guide (4th ed.), Thomson/South-Western, Cincinnati.

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