Time Capsule: Best Buy’s “You, happier™” Slogan Says a Lot About Unhappiness (Both American and Healthcare IT)
I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).
I wrote this piece in September 2008.
Best Buy’s “You, happier™” Slogan Says a Lot About Unhappiness (Both American and Healthcare IT)
By Mr. HIStalk
To me, the most important part of the Sunday newspaper is the Best Buy ad. I don’t really need what’s in there (nothing they sell is essential, like food or clothing). I’m doing my patriotic duty, which calls for irresponsible consumer spending to keep the shaky economic wheels turning. I usually grab a computer gadget (who can resist yet another USB drive?) or a sure-to-be-unopened DVD boxed set of a TV show that I never watched when it was on.
This week’s ad had a new slogan under the Best Buy logo (right above the must-have LCD TVs). It said, “You, happier™.” They put that little TM in there, daring competitors to even think about appropriating such an ingeniously alluring come-on.
(TV may be nothing but trashy reality shows and endless commercials, but those can apparently masquerade as satisfying entertainment when beamed into a 52” plasma HDTV with surround sound. Insanity is watching Adam Sandler movies over and over on Blu-Ray and expecting different results).
Not that I don’t trust Best Buy’s motives, but I’m beginning to think that “You, happier™” isn’t working. According to a recent survey, US citizens are #16 in the list of countries when it comes to overall happiness. Everybody’s broke, so maybe we’re as happy as we’re going to get racking up credit card debt to fuel the pointless accumulation of consumer goods.
I was also thinking about the parallel with US healthcare. We’re mid-pack there, too, coming in at #37 as WHO sees it (edging Slovenia but trailing healthcare juggernauts Costa Rica and Dominica).
Providers waste a lot of money on poorly conceived IT purchases. That alphabet soup of ERP, CPOE, and BI looked appealing. So did all those juicers that late-night TV watchers ordered in a depressing quest for happiness (does anyone other than the 165-year-old Jack LaLanne really pulverize $3 worth of raw carrots to get a skimpy glass of awful-looking juice that still tastes like raw carrots?)
I love going into Best Buy. I’m happy roaming the HIMSS exhibit hall. I’m uplifted at the idea that I can trade money for, in the immortal words of Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, total consciousness. No fuss, no muss, just plug and play, or at least that’s the message. Don’t even think about trying to sell customers self-sacrifice and focused diligence when the guy next booth over is promising immediate gratification and a sweeping “vision.”
When healthcare IT enables great things, it’s because vendor and customer did a ton of work. That 10 percent of the iceberg that’s visible, the pretty screens and shiny servers, doesn’t begin to tell the story, although it often makes the sale. Home Depot’s hammer display doesn’t show bashed thumbs and blisters, I’ve noticed.
Conspicuous consumption of IT is highly unlikely to make “You, happier™” any more than passively buying self-help books or hanging on Oprah’s every word. What you get is a false sense of accomplishment that’s easily disproved by unchanged outcomes or efficiency. An hour later, you’re hungry again.
The industry doesn’t benefit long-term if customers are dissatisfied with vendors because they bought products naively, unwilling to contribute the sweat equity required for success. Maybe it would help if magazines and trade shows stopped trying to foist their breezy equivalent of Best Buy’s slogan on the industry: “You, Most Wired™.”