The Cast Iron Approach to Non-Personal Marketing

“Traditional Chinese chefs say that as soon as the food leaves the Wok, it looses its Wok Hay.” That's Anthony Bourdain, profiling the cast iron skillet in a segment of Raw Craft.1 “What you are tasting is residual, intangible… the sum total of every meal previous.”

Perhaps the same could be said about the today's healthcare brand experience, as marketers vie for a contextually appropriate and tactical mix. But as some channels become crowded out, more traditional and sometimes overlooked ones have the finesse necessary to get a brand over the top. This is the “Wok Hay”—a critical, cumulative mix – and just as we see a resurgence of the cast iron skillet in cooking, isn't it time to take another look at the full spectrum of channels in marketing?

But what's actually behind the comeback of the cast iron skillet, over some of the more ‘technologically advanced skillets'? According to one site, cast iron cookware provides you with great heat distribution, which is ideal for complete control while cooking. Yet inevitably it's the natural seasoning that takes the culinary experience to another dimension. As Bon-Appetit describes, cast iron is for meats that require a hard sear, stir fries, perfectly golden roasted vegetables, fried eggs and (perfect) cornbread… but don't throw away the other cookware from your kitchen quiver. Cast iron isn't for every culinary occasion.

Similarly, the omnichannel approach has many flavors of messaging, and needs to a full kitchen of tools to reach into the contextual elements of your target audience.

For example, getting analytics and measurability from messaging through apps and EMRs has been great for marketers… but locked-in data, more administration, and poor UX has had a backlash from doctors. Microsites and web channels have been a boon for testing advertising and delivering digital materials, but more sites means less time spent on each site per physician. Research has shown that if possible, physicians try to delegate that work to their staff so that they can focus on patients, and that they tend to spend 50% of their time in direct patient care.

In other words, there are a lot of tried and true tactics that get overlooked because of a lack of ‘new' appeal, despite advances in technology that have allowed even non-digital channels to demonstrate real return-path data.

For the savvy marketer, that means going left when everyone is going right, or choosing to cook with cast iron when everyone else is waiting for a better Teflon.

1 - (Wok Hay is a Chinese expression that describes the captured ‘breath' of a hot, seasoned wok.)