The art of health system rebranding: 8 tips to get it right

A health system rebranding is a major milestone event where everything is evolving: strategically, creatively, internally and externally.

To clarify, when we talk about re-branding, we mean changing the name of the organization and enhancing all of the core strategic, design and internal cultural components that must work together to build organization image, reputation and trust.

Typical reasons for a rebrand may include:

• A merger or acquisition
• The organization’s goals shifting in a new direction
• Updating a brand that no longer resonates in an evolving marketplace
• An organization name that no longer reflects the depth and breadth of its offerings

Over the past 19 years, Trajectory has worked alongside many healthcare leadership, board and marketing teams on these major initiatives. Most recently, Tower Health. We’ve witnessed the power of what a successful health system rebranding can mean to an organization, its internal team members and the communities it serves. Here are eight tips to keep in mind to ensure you realize the returns of a health system rebranding.

Eight tips to health system rebranding success

1. Alignment around the initiative. This must be job one. Board and leadership must be aligned with these tenets:

• The objective business case needs to change
• The financial commitment it will take to effectively support it – the capital expense, the brand launch and the sustained effort required to make it stick
• The operational commitment to aligning the organization around its new identity, along with weaving new brand promises into measurement yardsticks.

2. Respect history, but don’t cling to it. One major reason to rebrand is to maintain the relevance of your health system or hospital. Today, in the midst of so much change – reforms, the drive from volume to value, consumerism and a drastically changing competitive environment – you either evolve or you’ll fade away. While it’s beneficial to have a legacy to genuinely build upon, it’s dangerous to cling too tightly to it when so much around you is changing.

3. Don’t rely too heavily on patient and community perspectives. There are times when it’s appropriate for current and prospective customers to weigh in on your intended tactics. But asking your long-standing hospital-based “sick-care customers” their point-of-view about your future vision and its accompanying signposts is not one of those times. Remember that we have a predisposition to anything that is more familiar to us. So be careful about letting them steer your ship.

4. Build a cross-functional team of brand champions. A rebranding affects the entire organization. As such, there should be a senior cross-functional team of flag-bearers for the initiative outside of the formal leadership hierarchy. This teams role should be that of sounding board, facilitator and change leaders. Ideally, they should be able to win CEO approval for their decisions.

5. Update your brand architecture. Brand architecture refers to the naming, structure and hierarchy of all of your offerings within your health system or hospital.  As the face of your organization, it helps employees and customers better understand the relationship among your parent brand, hospitals, facilities, service lines, etc.  As these are the everyday pathways into your brand, it’s important that the names and relationships reflect the strategic intent of your rebranding.

6. Plan and act in a series of phases. Done right, a rebranding must pass through deliberate internal phases: launch (where employees here it/feel it), post-launch (where employees learn it/engage in it) and ongoing (where employees live it). A change process is not a one-time, brief display of fireworks, it‘s a long-term process – and you don’t want stakeholders to view the process as merely “surface changes.” This is the one opportunity you have to drive home the changes made, promote buy-in and build participation in your organizational transformation.

7. Don’t stop short of building a brand-led culture. There’s only one way to ensure that your health system rebranding has the power to unite your stakeholders in creating new and greater value. It requires your brand be center stage and in alignment from the inside out. It requires a brand culture. At Trajectory, we define brand culture as squeezing every bit of meaning, purpose and direction out of your brand to drive the everyday actions of the people who drive your business performance.

8. Maintain post-launch momentum. Prior to, and during launch, there’s anticipation, excitement and action. But after the launch, momentum needs to be sustained. Because this isn’t business as usual. A rebrand must be looked at as a stepping-stone to creating long-term change within your organization and creating broader impact externally. To achieve this, there needs to be measures, incentives, guidelines and mechanisms for training and feedback – to increase buy-in and to help each individual play their role in delivering on your repositioning and promises. In summary, the rebranding must be operationalized.

Are you considering a re-brand? Reach out and let us help.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment as an opportunity to move customers, brands and businesses upward to a new destination.