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I came across anti-aging skincare brand Verso while doing some “role-modeling” research for brands that simplify the shopping experience.

It’s a luxury Swedish skincare brand made with a high-dose nonprescription vitamin A derivative that claims to be eight times more effective than the average product on the market and is safe enough to use during the day.

But beyond its attributes and functional benefits, what makes Verso stand out in a sea of skincare brand alternatives is its simplicity. It’s straightforward and minimalist style shines through in everything the brand says and does. Starting with its story…

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Extending to its shopability and packaging…

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Website experience…

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Brand film…

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and even through to things like company policy.

In a world that demands so much of our time, we all crave a bit of simplicity now and then. Can’t you actually feel how nice it is to be able to make a choice without being deluged with alternative products and confusing and seemingly overlapping claims.

Verso represents an unexpected and delightful brand experience. It’s one that shifts power to the consumer. Removes the typical buyer pain. And importantly, saves you time.  I don’t know enough about the business to say whether the resultant financial rewards are/will follow. But I imagine they will.

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Here’s a timely article for healthcare marketers by Kenneth Kaufman on Hospitals & Health Networks, Whom Does Health Care Serve: Patients, Consumers or People?

It’s a question many healthcare system and hospital marketers are grappling with (or at least should be), in an increasingly consumer-centric industry where healthcare brands need to think and act like consumer brands.

Here’s our take:

Beyond the technical, objective and appropriate definition of “patient”,  people today don’t want to be labeled as subservient.  Because across most categories, they’re not. And specific to the changing nature of healthcare – from people becoming more personally invested in their health care to the internet making it possible for people to pre-empt their traditional role of patient – the idea of health care providers in control and patients as subordinate is not a compelling idea.

Think about the ideal role of your brand. It would be unlocking people potential. Being a platform for them to get to a better place beyond what they can do on their own or beyond the reach of competitors. In this kind of relationship, quite the opposite of subservient, both consumers and people are far more appropriate terms.

As Kenneth states, ultimately some people will be comfortable in the traditional role of patient, while others will demand to be consumers. Most will play different roles in different health care situations. For providers, the challenge will be not to control these varied roles, but to adapt to serve them. If we have to choose one term to describe those served by the health care system, perhaps the best term is people, a word that is broad enough to suggest the diversity, nuance and universality of the health care experience.

We agree. Across all categories, including healthcare, people want to be and expect to be equal partners in their brand relationships.


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Every great brand has both a strong performance story and a strong emotional story that speaks to the consumer.

We know that know-how is important to health system and hospital brand leaders and marketing teams. It’s conveyed all the time through awards, technology and thought-leadership; in marketing campaigns, on website home pages, in annual reports. But in and of itself, know-how doesn’t draw people to you, because it’s more of a category defining characteristic. It might help you to get into the healthcare system or hospital consideration set, but it’s only one side of the “brand attraction” coin.

Emotion on the other hand, gives your brands unique meaning and a unique place in the eyes and lives of your consumers. It creates an instinctive attraction that goes beyond rational reasons for purchase. Even in healthcare, brand attraction is based on the ability to touch your consumers at a deeper level. And great healthcare brands know what their emotive meaning needs to be.

There’s a common misconception that “emotion” only applies to certain “image-based” categories. But this isn’t the case. By way of example, in recent one-on-one board and senior leadership conversations with one of our healthcare system clients, brand strategy conversations became conversations about creating symbolism, cutting through with a unique visual language, creating instantly recognizable images that help people identify with the organization.

Symbolism is the language of emotion and triggers decisions by our intuitive brains. Great brands understand the symbolic meaning in everything: and they purposefully use shapes, colors, images and sounds to evoke particular emotions. Their perfectly aligned symbolism constitutes a brand mnemonic, and a powerful language for talking directly to how consumers make decisions.

In the end, it’s know-how overlaid with emotion that helps create a stronger marketplace presence, and a more meaningful and lasting customer connection.

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Regional expansion, mergers and acquisitions, diversification and new service line offerings –– all impact your brand portfolio, and the design of your brand architecture (defined as how you organize and name your services in order to show consumers the differences and similarities between them).

Brand architecture isn’t always considered integral to the brand strategy process among healthcare systems and hospitals. But consumer goods companies like Procter & Gamble, Nestle and Unilever have long had established brand architecture frameworks and guidelines. And they do so because a well-thought out brand architecture is critical to:

a. supporting your organization’s vision, business goals and strategies
b. providing the right marketplace visibility to your services
c. the ability for consumers to simply shop them; and
d. all brands working together in the portfolio to grow value back to your healthcare system or hospital brand

This is particularly challenging in a dynamic market like healthcare where your portfolios are always being pushed and pulled. So how to ensure a brand architecture that keeps pace with with any mergers, acquisitions or any other new strategic initiative in your healthcare system or hospital? Here are five tips:

1. Start with an audit. Chart your organization’s current brand architecture to understand and assess the existing relationships between the different brands in your portfolio and how they relate to any master brand names and your corporate brand name. It’s a crucial starting point for evaluating, refining and strengthening your portfolio. Critical to remember is that any form of brand architecture should be developed from your consumers’ point of view and not from your internal vantage point.

When conducting the audit, you should have two benchmarks in mind:
1. Current and future growth strategy for the organization
2. Current and future positioning of the hospital, facility and service line brands in the market segments in which you operate

2. Brand Portfolio Evaluation. Through this exercise, you should look to answer questions including:
a. What story is your brand portfolio telling from a customer perspective?
b. Do each of the brands in your portfolio have clearly defined roles and relationships; is there sufficient separation/synergy between them?
c. How do your different brands contribute in building strategic advantage, and current/future growth and profitability?
d. Do you sufficiently cover the market given the needs of your priority services and key audiences?
e. Does market attractiveness (size and potential growth) merit investment?
f. How to integrate newly acquired brands into the portfolio in terms of relationships with master brands and the corporate brand?

The outcome of this exercise should be a rationalised set of brands in your portfolio which have been identified as strategic drivers of growth for your organization and are clearly positioned both internally and externally.

3. Brand Architecture Framework Decision. Before the final architecture is implemented, multiple scenarios need to be developed and examined. They should always do justice to current brand relationships but should also be designed with the future in mind. The key elements that influence the design of frameworks include:

a. Number of levels required in the architecture hierarchy
b. Organization branding strategy (e.g. branded house, house of brands, endorsed brands etc.)
c. Own and partner provider brand portfolios
d. Future scenarios that might need to be accommodated

4. Brand Naming Convention Guidelines. These are developed to act as a set of principles for naming new entities and service lines. Depending on the final brand architecture, naming guidelines should be able to help in naming new offerings by following the principles of the architecture. Established naming guidelines can also be of strategic help when an organisation acquires or merges brands. If any of the acquired brands are market leaders or have dominant market shares, then the organization can use the naming guidelines in conjunction with the brand architecture framework to decide what form of endorsement, co-branding, independent branding etc. is required.

5. Implementation and Communication. The fifth, and often overlooked stage, is the implementation of the final brand architecture, and its formal communication throughout the organization. This is key to getting everyone on the same page about successful brand architecture and brand and portfolio management. Brand books can be developed that can visually depict the architecture, individual training sessions and collaborative workshops can be conducted to educate on the architecture, and guidelines can be established for correctly using the architecture to develop new brands.


A couple takeaways.

First. In healthcare organizations, where change is constant, we believe that annual brand audits and brand architecture reviews should become common practice. They are crucial strategic checks to assess whether ever expanding brand portfolios are still making sense in brand architecture and whether brand management practices are showing the required results or not.

Second. Given a healthcare organizations vast portfolio of services, we’d also suggest putting an individual or a group in the role of brand custodians. These individuals or groups should be responsible for ensuring consistency of brand positioning across all entities and service lines, in sync with your brand architecture framework and guidelines.

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Are there signs that your healthcare system or hospital brand isn’t performing as it should, either inside or outside of your organization? Here’s a list of items that can help you re-energize your brands to compete more effectively, grow share and build loyalty among the audiences most critical to your success.:

1. Your brand is built on a compelling idea that transcends the clinical care you provide, and reflects its emotional benefits and the role it plays in people’s lives.

2. To be compelling, this idea also needs to be perceived as different from your traditional and expanding set of healthcare competitors.

3. Numbers 1 and 2 are based on a clear understanding of what is important to customers and how you can uniquely address their interests and passions to create stronger relationships.

4. This foundation then becomes the basis for not only telling, but delivering upon, a clear and distinctive story across every customer touchpoint across your different facilities and service lines.

5. Your customer experience is friction-free (based on identifying pain points in processes and removing them) and measures up to what they expect based on your brand promise.

6. Number 5 is the result of internal silos being broken down so that all internal audiences are working together to build your brand, beyond their individual facility or service line.

7. Your physicians, nurses, staff and even volunteers understand how they can contribute to building the brand, and have the knowledge, resources and motivation to do so.

8. Your goals are not just patient (customer) satisfaction, but delight. Delighted customers, based on their experiences, share their delight with others and recommend your services to others.

9. You use your money to not just buy ads, but to create marketing that matters (i.e. that actually helps people live healthier and happier lives).

10. Based on above, your brand is empowering, helping people do what they can’t on their own, or beyond the reach of your competitors.

11. Your brand is a time saver, providing services where and when most needed and in the most simple manner possible.

12. You periodically and consistently measure brand performance, both internally and externally.

13. You continuously circle back to this list on an annual basis.

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Three years after our rebranding of Orlando Regional HealthCare System to Orlando Health, the organization is now the official medical team of Orlando’s new MLS soccer team – Orlando City Soccer Club. And Orlando Health’s logo (our logo) has made it’s way to the front of the team’s jerseys.

But there’s more importance to this for Orlando Health beyond the logo. This strategic initiative is a great example of creating a more permanent connection to prospective customers based on sharing of common interests. It’s as though Orlando Health and the 62,000 fans who attended the game (in addition to the two million plus residents of Central Florida) are now partners in a common venture. In this case, supporting their new soccer team.

According to John Marzano, VP, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, “the partnership with Orlando City Soccer Club is grounded in a comprehensive medical relationship. Since the care and treatment of their athletes is priority one for the soccer club, trusting this level of care to the Orlando Health Sports Medicine team is a ringing endorsement of our brand promise. Extending that brand in a very visible way in conjunction with the team, the organization and the Central Florida community communicates clearly that you don’t have to be a pro athlete to get treated like one.”

This “branded program” has the ability to move the relationship between Orlando Health and its Central Florida communities to another level. They’re now “teammates”, aligned around a common purpose. One that people aren’t just interested in, but incredibly passionate about. It’s a program that gives people a reason to not only join the Orlando City Soccer Club brand, but the Orlando Health brand.

Here’s to a great season!

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You’re a hospital marketer faced with two, mutually exclusive, choices. You can either:

1. Focus your energies on creating a loyal following of passionate customers who support your hospital and evangelize everyone who will listen; or

2. Run a mass media advertising campaign to acquire a new customer (which just happens to be five times more expensive than keeping a current customer happy).

Okay, so maybe I stacked the deck with these two questions. But every day, we’re bombarded with one-way messages. How many really stick? Even for a brief moment? How many compel you to talk about them, and share your views about them, with others? Certainly there are exceptions, but you have to admit that they’re few and far between.

At Trajectory, we know first-hand the power of a sustained word-of-mouth program to align employees, patients and communities around shared goals. If it’s a program that genuinely bridges what your healthcare brand stands for and what your most engaged customers are passionate about, it can create advocates who passionately recommend your brand to friends, neighbors and colleagues – at a far greater rate than a momentary advertising campaign.

A word-of-mouth program creates advocates for your healthcare organization who:

• share unsolicited praise or suggestions for improvement
• forgive the occasional blip in customer service
• feel part of something bigger than themselves
• efficiently help to grow share, loyalty and profitability

When all the pieces are in place, word-of-mouth works. Wonderfully. Because it’s tenets are baked in to all of us. We all want to share and we all want to be part of a larger community. And ultimately, “we” make up marketing’s most powerful media – recommendation media.

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Good article in Business Journal, What Too Many Hospitals Are Overlooking, written by Craig Kamins, Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.

His main point is that engaged physicians, much like fully engaged employees, are vital to a hospital brand, or health system’s brand success. In one health system researched by Gallup, for example, engaged physicians:

• gave the hospital an average of 3% more outpatient referrals and 51% more inpatient referrals than physicians who were not engaged or who were actively disengaged
• were 26% more productive than less engaged counterparts, which amounts to an additional $460,000 on average in patient revenue per physician per year

The full article goes on to talk about the challenges of getting physicians engaged, measuring their engagement and how to improve physician engagement.

To Craig’s first point, internal engagement (regardless of whether physicians or employees) is crucial to unlocking brand and business potential. Here are five points that we’d contribute to his argument, based on what we know to be true – brands are built from the inside out:

1. Branding that’s true to the organization (that aligns and supports business strategy and should build trust and credibility for the brand inside and outside) needs to first be informed by and serve internal audiences, who must live out the brand’s promises and who live each day within the brand’s organization.

2. Internal branding is not just a Marketing, or HR, function. It needs to start with the CEO and the leadership team, and then be driven in tandem between the two functions – articulating how every employee will contribute to delivering on the business vision, strategy and objectives. It also should not be viewed as just another one-time marketing or recruitment campaign.

3. Internal branding is more akin to a marathon, not a sprint. People don’t suddenly snap into action once they’ve watched a brand video, attended a workshop or a fancy lunch in the cafeteria. Engaging employees to deliver on the brand is a process that requires planning, ongoing dialogue (e.g. regularly scheduled town halls), checks and balances and cross-functional collaboration.

4. Speaking of collaboration. Employees, as the front line of your brand, need mechanisms in place to provide feedback, contribute suggestions and help improve upon delivery of an integrated brand experience based on their specific role. It’s important that this is done with the recognition that internal audiences need to be segmented just like external audiences, which will better enable them to take ownership of their role in brand delivery.

5. What you are inside is what you are outside. Walk around. Observe. Be a fly on the wall. Do you get a sense that colleagues (whether employees or physicians) buy into your purpose, beliefs and values. This is particularly important given that your healthcare organization relies heavily on employee engagement to shape customer experience. Beyond this, does your organization align policy and practices around the brand, and clearly define the criteria and behavioral expectations that reflect employee commitment to the brand?

In the end, you need to determine how to express your distinct culture in an authentic and appropriate manner, and harness it to empower your people. If for no other reason, do it for those tangible proof points cited by Gallup.

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