Oct
05

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“Not pretty” can be beautiful.  Open, sincere and honest works best in healthcare branding.

Hospitals are under intensifying pressure on so many fronts. Regulators are expecting the impossible; better, faster and cheaper, and the public is no longer the voiceless, captive audience, but consumers of healthcare with the ability to broadcast to the world, their dissatisfaction or praise in five seconds.  The implications are too numerous to address or attempt to answer in a simple blog post. But there is one concept healthcare marketers should be mindful of while building a brand for the future.

A hospital brand must be bona fide

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines BONA FIDE as – “In or with good faith; honestly, openly, and sincerely; without deceit or fraud. Truly; actually; without simulation or pretense.”

The “without simulation or pretense” is particularly important. In simple terms, do not attempt to make something that is not the case, appear true. Even more simply put, be yourself.

In an age where social media and consumer opinion sway brand reputation, the elephant has left the living room, but lives larger than life on the web and healthcare brand marketers cannot attempt to fight the tide or ignore its presence. Rather it behooves hospital marketers to define their brand with a combination of good faith, honesty, openness and sincerity. Weaving the good and the bad (and the sometimes ugly) into an authentic and honest brand story that can gain the trust of your audience. In short, making it bona fide.

Making this point from outside healthcare…using a guitar (of all things)

I was recently struck by an online post about the sale of a used acoustic guitar. It was written by “Erin” who, I’m pretty sure doesn’t work on Madison Avenue. None the less, in her simple prose, Erin illustrated that no matter what is being sold, nothing can compare to the power of an honest story and of communicating a unique promise of value that resonates with its intended audience. The post was as follows:

“I have a 1991 Gibson J-100 acoustic guitar that was not cautiously cared for though loved and constantly played, in honkytonks, parking lots, around campfires, on river banks, year round and round the country.., it is not pretty but it is beautiful. The headstock is repaired and it wears the tread of the road well. It plays easy and true. Any ideas, ballpark, of what I might expect to get if I sell it? Thanks.”

Erin had me at “it is not pretty but it is beautiful”. For those who aren’t familiar with quality acoustic guitars like a Gibson, when they’re played consistently, they actually sound better, the older they get. The pretty finish fades, but the tone becomes richer, its beauty grows. Beauty “wears the tread of the road well”. Pretty does not.

Perhaps your organization has had some very public challenges. Arguably your strength and beauty lies in openly communicating how you’ve dealt with these challenges, your striving to better serve your community and who you’ve become as an organization.

So for a hospital brand, like most that are “not pretty,” the ability to communicate “wearing the tread of the road well” authentically makes for a beautiful brand. And at the very least there’s a great country song entitled “She ain’t pretty, but she’s beautiful” just aching to be written on a well-traveled old Gibson acoustic. Thanks, Erin.

 

 

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Jan
22

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Hospital merger and acquisition activity remains robust. In 2012, the number of deals was more than twice that of 2009 (Irving Levin Associates).

Regardless of the reasons for the transaction, being able to position the new entity for success, attract and retain patients and drive new growth requires coordinating the three related activities of Brand, Buy-In & Marketing.

Without this planning and oversight, hospitals and healthcare systems in the midst of transitioning through a merger or acquisition (regardless of which side of the M&A an organization is on) will encounter:

• a brand that struggles to support the newly-formed organization’s vision, promises, values and goals
• a fractured internal audience that must be relied on to deliver unified messages and experiences
• external marketing promises that aren’t synchronized with delivery of care
• inefficiencies resulting in sub-optimal return on marketing investment

At Trajectory, we’ve guided many healthcare organizations through these transitions, and understand the unique challenges they face. Here’s a checklist of 10 activities to consider as your healthcare systems, hospitals and physician groups transition from pre-merger competitors to post-merger partners:

BRAND

1. M&A brand team: created across your organization’s to proactively act on and communicate leadership decisions and to navigate the range of tangibles and intangibles on the table, e.g. logistics, preparation, training.

2. Brand compatibility: short-term financial and market share strength will not overcome the need to develop a singular brand vision, positioning, key messaging framework and set of values.

3. Portfolio efficiency: how will the merger or acquisition impact your brand portfolio in terms of overlapping organizational, facility and service line capabilities? You can check here to begin to determine if your portfolio is delivering maximum ROI.

BUY-IN

4. Cultural fit: what’s the process of integrating medical staff and employees, across all functions, and all initiatives, on both sides of the M&A table. And whose culture leads?

5. Open communication: have you established feedback mechanisms (both offline and online) for both internal and external audiences to share their perspectives about the impact the M&A will have on their lives.

6. Engagement & Alignment: are your organization’s really on the same page? You don’t know, and can’t act upon, until you measure.

MARKETING

7. Marketing philosophy and approach: is marketing considered an investment or expense? Does it tend to be brand or service line-driven? How will you align your two organizations relative to each one’s key revenue generating, strategic and mission-driven service lines?

8. Social media practices: it’s not likely that each of your organization’s have the exact same philosophy, goals, strategies and tactics as it relates to social media. How will you best harness the power of your “social currency”, i.e. the value you’ve created and the conversations, communities and advocacy you’ve worked so hard to cultivate?

9. Local community commitment: do your organizations have the same commitment to your local communities; does bigger now mean less touch in order to serve the health needs of the larger region?

10. From follower to leader: how will you adjust your approach from being the #2 or #3 player to becoming a stronger market share leader?

Have you experienced these issues as a healthcare marketer in the midst of a merger or acquisition?

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Jan
09

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In the changing and challenging healthcare marketplace where patients have now become more empowered and more scrutinizing customers – and organizations are facing reimbursement (and therefore marketing budget) cuts – clearly defining and differentiating your brand is a must.

Healthcare marketers, whether system, hospital, specialty physician-based, or other, can take a cue from these two outside category sport and leisure brands – Nike and Brooks Running (who repositioned and differentiated itself in order to hit its stride again).

Nike vs. Brooks Running

They’re both in the same market, competing for the same customer, both successful – but with different positioning and different approaches to marketing.  Nike is the undisputed champ of all things athletic, as validated by its number one position on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2013 list, known for its technological ingenuity.

With its latest invention, NikeFuel, the parent brand has taken sportswear to a whole new level – not only does the new bracelet satisfy consumers’ need to feel engaged and social (via NikeFuel’s online community), it allows Nike to track customer behavior AND serves as a permanent, walking advertisement.  Nike has transcended through sportswear into “tech, data, and services,” so its only natural that its marketing should wear a digital track suit.

However, Brooks Running is a completely different story – at one point, tried to compete with Nike on the “full-on athletic” front, but realizing it could not, has since repositioned itself as a premium performance running-only athletic-wear company.  In stark contrast with Nike’s bold and sometimes controversial advertising, Brooks runs towards the light with “Run Happy” and prefers more grassroots avenues of marketing – focusing on social media and word of mouth. In recent years, Brooks has seen a surge of success, growing sales from $180 million in 2009 to $409 million in 2012.

So, what can healthcare marketers glean from the success of these two sport and leisure heavyweights?

1. Don’t rest on laurels (or languish from complacency). This year marks Brooks’ centennial – if CEO, Jim Weber hadn’t taken the risk 12 years ago to launch a rebrand of the company, we may all be wearing Nike shoes today. Take a cue from companies that tried to innovate/reinvent too late (RIP Blockbuster, Borders, Tribune Publishing…sorta).

“Business models are not meant to be static…In the world we live in today, you have to adapt and change. One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that’s happy with its success. That will wind up being your death in the end.” – Mark Parker, Nike CEO

2. Know who you are. Nike and Brooks’ goal is to build a captive audience of repeat customers, as well as new ones (similar to healthcare providers), which starts with putting a stake in the ground regarding who you are, who you’re for, what you do and why you matter.

3. Total commitment. Both Nike and Brooks have stayed true to their respective positionings’ and remain focused on delivering on them through their actions (similar to healthcare providers demonstrating their focus of why they’re the smart and best choice for an individual’s healthcare and well-care).

“Focus, focus, focus. Strong brands are built over decades, not years. If you keep changing what you stand for, no one will really know and trust your values, philosophies, spirit and point of view.” – Jim Weber, Brooks CEO

Ultimately, the only sustainable difference you have is your brand. Which starts with getting your idea right, promises right, voice right, delivery right.

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Jan
03

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Given the squeeze on hospital finances, healthcare systems and hospitals must find efficiencies wherever they can – including their marketing budgets. One area of review that might yield big savings (at the same time building CFO affection) is for healthcare marketers to evaluate the health and wellbeing of their brand portfolios.

How do you determine if you’re spending as efficiently and strategically as possible behind your brands? And if your portfolio has the right mix of brands to support your business strategy?

We’ve created a tool that we call “The 7 Portfolio P’s.” Presented in summary fashion here, it provides a good starting point for evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of your brand portfolio.

Purpose. Do each of your brands reflect your organization’s vision, business goals and strategies?

Perspective. What story is the brand portfolio telling from a customer perspective?

Place. Do each of the brands in the portfolio have a clearly defined role; are relationships clear; is there sufficient separation/synergy between them?

Potential. How do your different brands contribute in building strategic advantage, and current/future growth and profitability?

Performance. Do you sufficiently cover the market given the needs of your priority services and key audiences?

Potency. Does market attractiveness (size and potential growth) merit investment?

Pink Slips. For those brands that don’t meet these criteria, what is your plan for phasing them out?

Today, your reality as a healthcare marketer is likely having to do more with less. Which means that you can’t afford to waste your precious marketing resources against a brand portfolio that’s not yielding a fair return. Similar to periodically evaluating your financial portfolio to ensure that you’re protecting your wealth now and into the future, do the same with your brand portfolio.

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Oct
20

Who would have thought that our healthcare branding work would make it to prime time? Not featuring our advertising, but for our branding work for Orlando Health.

We had the good fortune to partner with the organization on its system-wide rebranding a few years ago. So who would have thought that settling in to watch Parks & Recreation this past week, we’d see our logo – adapted for the fictitious Montesian Memorial Hospital.

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I’m hoping that one of the director’s from the show can give me the name of one of the senior executives from Montesian, as they really need a new logo

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Nov
14

It’s an exciting, fulfilling and proud day here at Trajectory, and for one of our clients – as The Reading Hospital is now Reading Health System.

We rebranded and relaunched them today, after more than a year’s worth of branding and marketing discussion, debate, planning and creating.

By unveiling a new system name, logo and tagline, a simplified brand hierarchy and naming structure, and a more compelling set of promises and market positioning that better reflect the organization’s collective vision, they’re building on their strengths to more effectively advance in the changing world of healthcare.

The new tagline – Advancing Health. Transforming Lives. – conveys the essence of the Reading Health System brand. It’s genuine to their desire to advance the health of their communities beyond “sick” care, and conveys their desire to transform lives by being a source of energy, optimism, knowledge and support.

Congratulations to our client, Reading Health System – and to its wonderful physicians, nurses and staff. Not only for the previous 144 years of service to your communities and your region, but for the many years of Advancing Health and Transforming Lives to come.

You can see our internal brand vision video, along with some of the new external marketing campaign television, on our YouTube channel.

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Sep
21

It’s not often that a health system CEO shares his perspectives about rebranding.

So I’m glad that Thomas Kleinhanzi, President and CEO, Frederick Regional Health System wrote this wonderful article that appeared on Becker’s Hospital Review website – Rebranding as More Than Marketing: Frederick Regional’s Journey to Excellence.

He writes about his recent rebranding of his health system. And it’s a wonderful testament to the value that a true strategic re-branding should deliver both inside and outside of the organization.

Here are some key points from Thomas’s article, woven in with some of my own. Good rules of the road from a CEO about how healthcare system and hospital marketers should approach rebranding.

1. No goals, no reason. It’s unfortunate that too many rebranding initiatives, lacking firm strategic goals and a strategic process behind them, result in not much more than a name change and a logo update. So how to help prevent this? It’s critical at the outset of any branding initiative that a healthcare system or hospital marketer first be able to answer this basic question – “what’s the problem that this rebranding will solve”? If there’s no good answer, there’s no good reason to proceed.

2. Brand and business alignment. According to the CEO, this particular rebranding didn’t signal a new start or an effort to reposition the organization. Rather, it was the culmination of nearly a decade of changes that took place, all of which were driven by a desire to define the organization as a regional leader in the delivery of progressive and innovative healthcare. So in this case, it was a matter of finally, and importantly, aligning brand and business strategy.

3. United by purpose. The focus of the organization’s efforts are now guided by its vision statement – “Superb Quality. Superb Service. All The Time.” But Thomas states that beyond guiding the organization’s activities and priorities, the words have come to reflect the who, what and why of the organization itself. These words are now part of its DNA. When this kind of clarity exists internally, it paves the way for cross-functional teams to align around, and deliver on, common goals.

4. Magnet for physician talent. With each step forward in the delivery of its vision (internally and for its communities), FMH attracted interest from more doctors and medical personnel interested in working there. The health system also began to draw national attention – accreditations, CMS “top performer” recognition, etc. Success builds on success.

5. Buy-in. A solid foundation was laid from the start, with the goal of both hospital team and community believing and buying into “Superb Quality. Superb Service. All the Time.” It was always meant to be more than just a slogan, but a way of life. According to the CEO, the “secret is to garner support, buy-in and belief in the cause.” And the benefits of that realization are evident every single day across FMH. It’s a case of actions speaking louder than words, across an entire organization.

6. A journey, not a race. This CEO urges any organization to remember that “rebranding can’t be a quick fix”, and that it “should never be reduced to simply slapping a new name or a new logo on the organization and then moving on. Rather, it should capture the essence of all that the organization is and aims to be in the future. It should represent what the organization means to the board of directors, its leadership team, employees and the people it ultimately serves. Branding is the culmination of a multidisciplinary process that honors the organization’s rich history and background, and captures the excitement of possibilities.”

Back To Vision. In the end, Thomas states that “it’s all about vision.” I’d agree, as vision is one of an organization’s most sustainable competitive advantages.”

On behalf of all healthcare system and hospital marketers, thanks for sharing your comments Thomas.

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Sep
03

“Culture,” as Peter Drucker once said, “eats strategy for breakfast.”

Featured in July/August Harvard Business Review is the article Cultural Change That Sticks, written by Booz & Co. execs Jon Katzenback, Ilona Steffen, and Caroline Kronley.

Leading with a story of Aetna’s (not so unique) struggles in the early 2000’s, they point to the fact that “it takes years to alter how people think, feel, and behave, and even then the differences may not be meaningful. When that’s the case, an organization with an old, powerful culture can devolve into disaster.”

Through their research, they found that almost every organization that attained peak performance – including Four Seasons, Apple, Micrpsoft and Southwest Airlines – got there by applying these five principles. And they all viewed culture as a competitive advantage and an accelerator of change.

These principles are:

1. Match strategy and culture…as culture trumps strategy every time
2. Focus on a few critical shifts in behavior…change is hard, so you need to choose your battles
3. Honor the strengths of your existing culture…so major change feels more like a shared evolution vs. a top-down imposition
4. Integrate formal and informal interventions…reaching people at an emotional level and tapping rational self-interest
5. Measure and monitor cultural evolution…to identify backsliding, correct course where needed, and demonstrate tangible evidence of improvement

Helping clients to create new energy from the inside-out is important and fulfilling work. But for real change to take hold, not only inside but for customers and partners, it must be genuine to the organization. Starting with its culture.

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