Who Really Wins with Negative Advertising?

Posted in Medical | April 29,2011

In the last 15 years, LASIK Surgery has become the number one elective surgical procedure in the world. That’s not surprising given its consistent, predictable and proven outcomes, the increasingly affordability and patients’ appreciation for the life-changing, image-enhancing difference it makes.

As the CEO of one of the nation’s most successful advertising agencies specializing in marketing medical practices, I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand how rapidly changing technology has advanced the field of laser vision correction and how it has continually raised the bar on every aspect of the procedure, including safety.

I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing many thousands of LASIK Surgery patients to get their feedback on the procedure. I have to say that I have found more than 98 percent of LASIK Surgery patients to be extremely satisfied – even thrilled – with their results. Patients describe a liberating freedom that comes with no longer having to wear corrective lenses. Many find that LASIK has given them a boost in the competitive job market. Others rave about the difference it has made for them in recreational sports, from golf and tennis, to skiing and volleyball. What resonates the most though is the obvious boost in their self-esteems and the patient’s genuine appreciation for the surgeons who have performed their procedures.

So that is why, with patients’ approval rating for LASIK so high these days, I find it particularly disturbing that some LASIK vision care centers are resorting to negative advertising and mud-slinging public relations tactics. This is not only unethical, but it damages the reputation of the LASIK industry at large, a medical specialty that many of us have worked so hard to build.

When prospective patients do an Internet search about LASIK, as most educated consumers do these days, they may often uncover websites and blogs that are not educational or helpful, and that certainly do not foster confidence in the procedure. Instead, the websites are intended to damage the reputation of competing vision care centers by the posting of inaccurate, defamatory content – primarily fabricated complaints from imaginary patients.

The vision care centers resorting to these underhanded tactics are trying to boost their own competitive edge in the marketplace. But in doing so, they are damning all of us.

Reading negative comments about disastrous outcomes can be quite alarming for someone questioning whether LASIK is right for them. In fact, it is likely to be a major deterrent. Patients have to believe that they can place their utmost trust in a surgeon and a LASIK vision center for something as important as their eyesight. But instead, they may come to the conclusion that undergoing LASIK is not the safe, precise, relatively simple and highly effective procedure we know it to be. So why does this negative practice continue?

The LASIK Surgery market is no different from any other industry that relies on consumers’ purchasing power and buying preferences. It is a matter of building and maintaining brand awareness, differentiating your business from another and securing confidence in your product.

You might be surprised to learn that the greater Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is the number one metropolitan area in the U.S. for people undergoing LASIK Surgery. That makes competition for patients’ attention fierce. Just in the Metroplex alone, somewhere between $12 million and $14 million in advertising dollars is spent every year by LASIK centers. With that kind of money being spent, you certainly want it to be worthwhile.

As we say in marketing, all is fair in love and war. Everyone enjoys a little healthy competition. But not at the expense of someone else, especially the patient.

Lead, follow or get out of the way,

Cyndi Miller CEO, Miller Public Relations