Customer orientation - sometimes it is easy

You work it out

Q: Imagine you have a maternity hospital in Taiwan. Who will your main customers be?
A: Erm, maybe, perhaps ... young Taiwanese women?
Q: Very good. What is the most obvious, stereotypical thing that young Taiwanese women go crazy for? Hint: it has no mouth. *
A: Ah. Obviously that cat:

Q: OK, what would be a good decorative theme for your maternity clinic, if you can get the licence?

A: Erm... This?

The maternity hospital in Yuanlin has hit on a gold plated winner, I am sure. Not only have they got a clear and apparent USP (still amazingly rare in the medical world) and a powerful affinity market, they will be reaping outcome benefits from the psychological effects of branding their facility with a much loved and highly reassuring character. How scary can a nurse in a Hello Kitty apron be? (By the way: it's crucial that the logo is huge and not just a pocket emblem.)

This sort of thing would be easy for small medical practices to do - especially ones catering for the young. It needn't be an expensive licensed figure, just something that shows a bit if humour, understanding and humanity instead of those terrifying white coats. It's costume, folks, costume.

* I am privileged to know several young Taiwanese ladies, and the answer to this question is most apparent after about 20 seconds in their charming company.

Hello Kitty pic from Sanrio.
Thanks to BoingBoing for the heads up.


Kat said...

Gawd. Where to begin.
Personal opinion is no basis for general criticism. However. You did say "you work it out", and I did think about it beyond "yet another argument for efficient birth control".

-What would be the appropriate icon in a European setting? In an American one? (Before you answer that last one, iirc, Disney does not license its characters for hospitals and sues joyfully and enthusiastically). Are you willing to repaint your entire maternity ward when Spongebob Squarepants goes out of style?

-Isn't the idea that because (some? the majority of? isn't that a stereotype in itself?) young Taiwanese women go apeshit over this design it's a good idea to inflict it on everybody a bit... patronising?

Any type of medical practice, maternity wards included, benefit from patient-oriented design. Setting up a stereotypical patient for the purpose and endowing him/her with something as specific as a preference for mouthless cartoon characters, on the other hand, might be a bad idea. Note that this stuff ends up on BoingBoing because the majority of readers is amused by "wacky things Asians do".

To get personal: If I had a choice of neato designs for the environment in which I press an object through an orifice much smaller than the object passing through it, I'd want something decked in R. Crumb stuff. Hello Kitty would only make want to strangle the midwife, the doctor and the anaesthesist with the umbilical cord, which would make the child's survival chances slim at best. Not the desired outcome of a maternity ward design.

Since I realize, though, that tastes for specific brands and designs differ (at least here in non-stereotype-land), I would happily trade my personally comforting R. Crumb designs for something more ... neutral. Like, say, soothing colours and coloured lights, my choice of music (that's interchangeable!), mostly-neutral imagery (Non-cartoony animals. Plants. Landscapes.) and people I trust having a place near me where they can be (and look) comfortable and relaxed. If you want to go really crazy, perfume the air.

Most of this, you'll find, is exactly what many maternity wards already offer. Especially music is a much better source of comfort than a trademarked mascot: it can be individually selected by the patient and carries more meaning, it is not a permanent change and it costs ZIP! Zero, nada, zilch - at best, you've got the costs of a CD player on your hands. Ask a nurse sometime: Some women bring a heavy metal CD, some bring classical, some bring techno - and for each of the mothers, it is perfect and individual.

That's how I hope it stays, too. Your post has inspired a nameless dread in addition to the one I already have of the growing population of anime fans. And of maternity wards.

Adam StJohn Lawrence. said...


thanks for your thoughts. It comes back to the Twingo argument.

In testing, the Twingo car's design was, on average, very, very unpopular. There were many other, more conservative designs that loads of people thought were OK. Many people HATED the Twingo design.

BUT a small percentage absolutely LOVED it.

Crucially, we don't buy cars that we quite like if we can buy a car that we love - and the Twingo became one of the most successful European cars ever.

The Taiwanese ladies have a choice of maternity clinics. Many of them will prefer something like you describe and will have dozens of clinics to choose from. Others - probably a highter percentage than the Twingo lovers, given Hello Kitty's success in that demographic - will LOVE this idea and will want to give birth there.

You don't need to please all the people. You just have to please some people more than anyone else.



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