Amidst the disruption, strong healthcare brands will prevail

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The good old days of healthcare system and hospital branding and marketing are over. How will you survive and thrive in the new paradigm?

Competition is no longer just down the street, nor limited to the traditional confines of healthcare. Boundary lines have been redrawn, and national retail pharmacy brands, big-box retailers and both established and new technology companies all want a piece of the action.

At the same time, proactive consumers have replaced passive patients. No longer tied to the hip of their physician, they have choices, information, resources and technology tools – an entire ecosystem of health and wellness resources to take more control over their health. And, complements of the Affordable Care Act, there are more than 30 million new consumers who’ve entered the market for healthcare services.

Healthcare is in the midst of disruption. It’s being pushed, pulled and morphing into a health market that crosses multiple verticals and demographics, intersects consumers looking to get well, stay well and play well and moving to a model of value-based care.

Where it stops nobody really knows. But everyone knows that the traditional model is on borrowed time. Oliver Wyman, in their report titled the Patient-To-Consumer Revolution, refer to “Health Market 2.0 as a space where new kinds of companies offer combinations of services never seen before, redrawing industry lines and engaging consumers in new ways.”

But even within this fluid environment, there’s one thing that no competitor, no matter how well resourced they are, can take from you. That is, they can’t stake a claim to your brand ideas – who you are, what you believe and why people should care.

It’s our belief that healthcare systems and hospitals must seize the opportunity to take their place at the new “health and wellness” table by taking control of their brands. It’s the one asset that is sustainable into the future – regardless of business model – and the one asset that in the midst of the rise of consumerism and more empowered consumers, is at the heart of your relationships.

Five implications for healthcare system and hospital leaders are as follows:

1. Who you are is beyond what you deliver. What you deliver looks much the same to the outside world and doesn’t distinguish you from others. Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, Nike and Converse, Virgin and United – all similar in their offerings, but your mind and heart quickly gravitate to one brand promise or the other. Same for your hospital vs. the one on the other side of town? Or how about vs. the retail pharmacy and its health partner down the street (a la Rite-Aid’s Health Alliance Program)? What you deliver can be ripped off tomorrow. Bravely declaring who you are is sustainable, distinguishable and pulls people towards you.

2. Demonstrate brand beliefs . How you behave in the world – and in your new consumer-oriented health vs. healthcare market – is becoming increasingly important. Create easy linkages to your brand by becoming more relevant to people’s everyday lives – engaging them in their own health and empowering them by making health and wellness easy and personalized anywhere and all the time. While some traditional healthcare services might be shrinking, the demands of “health 2.0” communities will still be as great as they’ve been in the past. Use your muscle to find your organization’s soul, its authentic purpose, and creatively express that in actions as well as communications.

3. Bring mobile/social front and center. Your customers increasingly rely on a mobile device (be it smartphone or tablet) as their first screen, their doorway into your healthcare system or hospital and as means to manage their own health. As a result, they’re expecting better, more personalized, real-time experiences. Their journey with your healthcare brand must take into account mobile (which is really digital, social and search all wrapped up in one) as an integral part of their lifestyle. More about mobile here.

4. Create a seamless brand experience. Customers shouldn’t be burdened by the artificial barriers that exist between your services, departments and channels. How can your brand truly live up to its potential (and how can it help people live up to their potential) when its interactions are artificially siloed. The more you can get over your own infrastructures, the more value you can provide, and the more loyalty, engagement and advocacy you’ll gain as a result.

5. Look outside your immediate industry. No longer can you meaningfully benchmark your organization against other healthcare systems and hospitals. Because your competitive set has drastically expanded. And customer expectations have followed suit. Just because you’re in “healthcare”, doesn’t mean customers compartmentalize their healthcare experience from outside industry experiences. What they get from Open Table, Amazon, Southwest, et al, they expect from you. “Brand experience” is “brand experience”, irrespective of category.

Regardless of how “healthcare” shakes out, one thing is certain. It will. It’s up to you whether your brand has a seat at the table.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, a brand consulting and marketing agency specializing in creating momentum for customers, brands and businesses across the related categories of health, wellness and beauty.

2 thoughts on “Amidst the disruption, strong healthcare brands will prevail

  1. This perspective is very true. We are increasingly working with our ‘health’ clients to uncover their genuine brand ‘truths’ and to help them make a difference in their customers’ lives. Opportunities have evolved beyond marketing services to communicating solutions that help people live their best and healthiest lives. It is an exciting time that presents new challenges for healthcare – and non-healthcare clients alike.

  2. Thanks for your comment Randi.

    Yes, it’s a very fluid and exciting time right now. Lots of opportunity for brands that build for a future increasingly focused on “health” and that understand value vs. volume is going to be the new normal.

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