The blurring lines between consumer retail and healthcare: the case of Mt. Siani

This winter, while perusing the subway marketing — which offers the longest impression a marketer can hope to achieve with New Yorkers these days — I noticed something new on the train walls. It wasn’t an ad for a one-year-old startup offering suitcases for your wanderlust or bed linens for the affordable luxury metropolitan market. It was something else positioned as cutting edge and innovative — the kind of place you’d want to work for or buy from. It wasn’t an ad from a snazzy millennial-run company, but from a hundred-and-seventy-year-old, massive hospital. As large companies are being disrupted by innovative start-ups, large hospitals are finding themselves in the same boat, fighting for market share as their primary path to growth. Now even the old hospital guard has decided to try out some new tricks.

Healthcare companies, primarily in the startup space, have been behaving more and more like CPG start-ups over the past few years. If tracked by subway ads alone*, one could say it started with Capsule, the prescription delivery service. Capsule has helped lead the direct-to-consumer movement in healthcare products. Followers in their footsteps include Hims, Inc. a “health and preventative self-care” company providing an erectile dysfunction product, and Hers, Inc., a birth control provider which advertises “without accessibility, there are no solutions.” Their ads are now plastered on the walls of West 4th St. station and the turnstiles of Times Square.

It appears that large hospitals like Mt. Sinai are feeling just as exposed to and inspired by competing startups as large CPG companies have been over the last decade. Taking a page from the consumer marketing playbook, Mt. Sinai is working to capture mindshare with subway ads. Notably, their ad featured services for the blind — in black-and-white print. You could guess a pragmatic motive, marketing to caretakers of the visually impaired. But with their other patient attraction efforts, it’s more likely they are trying to tap a new market – the millennial. Mt. Sinai is also partnering with a strong brand to win in another market segment: the male market. Through its recent partnership with Man Cave Health, Mt. Sinai is leveraging their unique market positioning – a sports theme – to attract men to it’s healthcare services – in this case prostate health education and care.

There’s another market local practitioners have noted Mt. Sinai’s active sales and marketing efforts in – the elderly poor, with Medicare and Medicaid benefits. And according to independent doctor’s, rather than posters and upgraded, sports-themed waiting rooms, they have used their own nurses and doctors to drive patient conversion. Several private specialists in Harlem have noticed a number of patients leaving for Mt. Sinai, sometimes at their front door. “St. Jude’s, a Mt. Sinai affiliate, used to park its van in front of our entrance,” one doctor noted, “and offered services to my patients.” Another doctor commented, “My patient was surprised when I was no longer covered by their insurance. It turned out on her last hospital visit, her doctor recommended switching from one Healthfirst insurance to the Mt. Sinai Healthfirst insurance. Now only Mt. Sinai services are in-network for her. She didn’t realize that was happening.” Mt. Sinai, it seems, is behaving like any large, mature company. To grow, it must reduce costs and take on new markets. Unfortunately, that means healthcare continues to become more of a business, where hospitals may focus on bringing in patients more than quality of care.

The business of health today increasingly resembles consumer retail, with a growing focus on consumer appeal and patient attraction and retention. But not all aspects of healthcare delivery benefit from business thinking. Perhaps consumers have come to expect slick marketing campaigns in other realms, but personally, I don’t want to be marketed to; I want quality care delivered.

*The measure of New York famous. Includes Dr. Zizmor, but also fast growth startups like FIGS scrubs.

My eyes are down here: how marketers are adapting to smart phone usage

As I strolled the streets of Chelsea one chilly Saturday morning, I noticed a sidewalk ad – literally, stenciled on the sidewalk. Huh, I though, gorilla marketing takes a twist.

But why did I notice this ad that blends in with old bubble gum and uses the most basic of color pallets? I realized it was because I was on my smart phone! With 50%+ global penetration of internet usage, largely driven by smart phones, the sidewalk has become better marketing real estate than a 40 foot billboard by the highway.

Second world cities have beat first world marketers to adapting to this monumental change in consumer behavior – the text neck. In Santiago, the cross walk lights are built into the curb cuts now.

And Chinese city Chongqing has set up “no phone” pedestrian lanes, so fast and slow walkers are equally accommodated – something I’d love to see rolled out in Herald Square.

Next time you are out and about, make sure you watch where you are going.

Urban Dictionary for business terms

In chatting with folks from engineers to analysts, I’ve realized not all business terms are widely known, and so I’ve made an Urban Dictionary for a few common concepts below.


An internet ad that has made first contact, but did not penetrate the attention bubble. For example, when I buy a television on Amazon, suddenly the internet gets the impression that that it’s the start of a collection of 55″ flat screen TVs.


Not to be confused with a kegger. During my MBA, I was very confused when I showed up for the Delta Sigma Pi party. 

CAGR stands for compound annual growth rate, i.e. the smoothed, average rate of growth over several years (like a bikini line after waxing). 

CAC (Sponsored by Blue Apron)

Customer acquisition cost. This is how much you’re willing to bribe someone to try your product. Think all those Blue Apron coupons you get in the mail, basically paying you to try it. 


Did the bribes work? How much is each sucker customer spending? That amount is your average revenue per user.

VC Discount

The VC Discount is the amount of venture capital money a consumer burns through by happily accepting all the CAC offers without becoming a loyal customer. This is calculated as follows:

For example, you may buy a $10 per month MoviePass to buy one $15 movie ticket per month. With no theater subsidy, that’s a 33% savings (1 – 10÷15)!


No, it’s not a pizza. A deliverable is a thing that your client or manager swears to you, in a contract signed in blood, is precisely what they want and is *very important*. You then work on the project for weeks or months, countering with your own blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe you even miss a couple of your kid’s baseball games. And as soon as you deliver it, they smile and nod, and when you leave, they put it in a drawer, never to be spoken of again.