Wassup with Triple Rule Out?

March 21, 2005

It’s a shame, but GE Healthcare is the only imaging company doing direct-to-consumer marketing. There should be more of it.

It's a shame, but GE Healthcare is the only imaging company doing direct-to-consumer marketing. There should be more of it.

The Fantastic Voyage clip? With the doc at the controls of 21st century technology and the scene suddenly backing out to the operating room? Inspired is all I can say. And that little bit of humor, when it's suddenly clear the doc has been lost in his imagination - you gotta love it. Not just the tie-in to GE's Imagination Breakthrough theme but how the concept is so specific to the company's own technology.

That's what direct-to-consumer marketing is all about, targeting specific submarkets with technology uniquely suited to them. GE's trademarking of the phrase "Triple Rule Out" and associating it with the LightSpeed VCT is right in line with this. But sadly, there's a problem.

GE is casting its "Triple Rule Out" idea all over the place. When their marketing people use it in interviews, they want us (the media) to put the little ™ behind the phrase if we use it in print. (We didn't do that recently in the magazine, and we've been told to expect a letter from GE corporate explaining how this trademarking thing works.)

Some people might say GE is going too far, trademarking a medical phrase. But that's not the problem, not when you're going to the public. They're just applying a marketing principle: Take a common term, such as "rule out," then give it a twist that makes it your own, as in "triple rule out" becoming "Triple R/O™." When people use the phrase, they think of your product.

Brilliant, right? The problem, I think, is that GE isn't going far enough. They have to get everyday people to use Triple Rule Out so they make the subconscious connection to the VCT.

To see how to do it right, they need to look to the folks at Budweiser. These guys hit the bull's eye a few years ago with their "wassup" campaign. Again, they took a common phrase - what's up - and made it their own ("wassup"), so every time somebody used it, they thought about Budweiser.

I loved those commercials: The guy on the phone, chillin', watchin' the game, and his bro' calls to ask what he's doing. Just great. Budweiser canceled them way too soon.

So, I was thinking. The Triple Rule Out idea could use a little punching up. The "wassup" idea still has some life in it. Maybe ... GE hooks up with the boys from Bud, they work out the legal wrinkles, and we, the viewing public, get what I call "The Triple Rule Out Conference Call":

A technologist at the console of a LightSpeed VCT answers the phone:

Wide-screen picture of the GE logo and a picture of the VCT, at the bottom the legend: "Triple Rule Out. True. True."

Now that's direct to consumer.