Healthcare branding: start with “their” story

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When it comes to healthcare branding, it’s crucial to first craft a better story.

Story telling is central to our lives. Has been for thousands of years. Stories are how we learn, share, relate, grow and make sense of the world. In fact, the oldest known literary work (above) is “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, composed in Babylonia and written on clay tablets more than 3,000 years ago.

If you’re a healthcare marketer trying to get attention today, you better have a really good story to tell. But a really good story isn’t about technology, awards, population health, volume to value, Dr. fill-in-the-blank or a patient-centered medical home. Those are just the means, not an end in itself.

Healthcare branding is the expression of the value of your organization, facilities, or services. It communicates attributes, beliefs, characteristics and values that clarify what your particular brand is, what it stands for and its ultimate purpose. Expressed first through your story. Which then flows down stream to positioning, messaging, marketing, crafting content, through to experience delivery.

We’re fortunate that in healthcare, we can make a real difference in people’s lives. But our stories often fall short of delivering on this opportunity. We water them down with facts, figures and insider language. But no one is waiting for more information. We’re already drowning in it.

In his excellent manifesto – Believe Me – Michael Margolis states the stories we choose literally make our world. Our identities, our beliefs, and our values all live and breathe in the matrix of stories. It’s the prima materia of how we each perceive reality—our culture’s collective agreements. A search for answers begins to show how the dots are connected. It is hard not to see the huge implications of storytelling in an increasingly brand-driven, and experience-based economy. It’s all about the stories.

He goes on to say that every experience is stored in the mind with a story attached to it. This means every brand is only as strong as the stories people tell about it. This explains why “word-of-mouth” is the new marketing Holy Grail. We only spread stories that are worth talking about—either the really bad stuff that upsets us, or the good stuff that makes our day.

As healthcare marketers, we’re trying to influence, persuade, or convince others to believe in our message. We want to have an impact on their lives. To do this, we need to tell a healthcare branding story that others can find themselves a part of. We need to make our stories, their stories. A few good examples include Bupa UK, GE’s Fire With Fire and Reading Health System’s Gave Me More Miles.

The solution is not just about creating a great story for your brand. It is about knowing your audience and their story and how your brand fits into theirs. Finding this story can unleash opportunities to connect to your audience in a more relevant, authentic and value creating way. Because it establishes an emotional connection.

Every healthcare brand has a story to tell. Healthcare marketers who tell it best will win.

Want to tell a better story? Let’s co-author together.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, a brand and marketing firm specializing in creating momentum for businesses across the health + wellness continuum. The common threads are consumers who want to get well, stay well and play well, and brands that fulfill these aspirations and goals.

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