You can’t excel across all service lines. You certainly can’t support them all. But despite this (forgetting all the politics and compromising), internal teams keep churning out new branded services.

Here are eight questions that will start your organization on its way to building a stronger portfolio that builds maximum relationship value for your audiences and maximum financial value for your organization:

1. Strategic Fit. Does the portfolio help achieve and support your longer-term strategic priorities?
2. Support Priority Businesses. Does it support the businesses that contribute to driving volume and reputation?
3. Brand Value. Does the portfolio reinforce and help build brand equity?
4. Brand Synergy. Is there a clear relationship between the brands?
5. Customer Value. Does the portfolio meet the needs of your customers?
6. Customer Opportunity. Do your brands invite the customer relationships you want?
7. Other Stakeholders. Does the portfolio meet their needs; and not sacrifice business and brand priorities?
8. The Organization. Do the brands work together to build value back to the organization?

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SAFE IN COMMON is an online global community of healthcare workers, educators, patients, community leaders, industry and advocacy groups who’ve joined together to enhance and save lives by raising awareness about needlestick injuries, providing support to those affected and bringing about the safest and simplest injection practices to people around the world.

In tandem with our client Unilife, we officially launched SAFE IN COMMON today.

It’s an important initiative, as 1.3 million people die annually from unsafe injection practices, and another 600,000 suffer needlestick injuries. By joining SAFE IN COMMON, you can support its mission by contributing to blogs, participating in surveys, sharing needlestick stories, signing the Manifesto, and promoting injection safety. You will also receive e-news updates, and have unlimited access to its online resource library.

If you’re involved in healthcare — or if you know someone who has ever suffered a needlestick injury — visit SAFE IN COMMON. Consider joining the community. Share it with others. And help us save lives.

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I just facilitated a brand workshop with different cross-functional teams of a healthcare system. It was a chance to get them excited about, and aligned around, an upcoming organization-wide initiative.

At the end of the session, we circled back to a Top 10 Brand Fitness checklist – which I thought I’d share here. FYI, we handed out this checklist on the back of a “faux” new business card. At the end of each day over the next few weeks, we asked participants to refer back to the checklist – to keep them thinking about brand and actively engaged in their organization’s upcoming initiative. Here’s the list:

1. Driving Ambition.  Is your organization clear on what it wants its brand to become; and what it ultimately hopes to accomplish for communities and patients?

2. Strategy & Alignment. Does your brand influence the total operation of your organization to ensure consistent brand behavior in your market and consistent brand experiences for communities and patients? Does the brand align with business strategy, as well as organizational structure, systems and cultural style?

3. Brand Positioning
. Does your organization clearly and simply state how it wants to be perceived among communities and patients in a way that stands out from the crowd, that goes beyond healthcare and service lines to what really matters to people?

4. Customer Reflection. Does the brand have personal relevance to your target customers? Does it build an image and reputation, drive preference and behavior. Is anyone in the organization listening/watching for cues to deliver more value for customers as they interact with you?

5. Loyalty Beyond Satisfaction. Many people wrongly assume they’re essentially the same thing. But satisfaction relates to the results of a process, while loyalty is a much longer-term proposition relating to a relationship. In an increasingly competitive marketplace where consumers have more choices, recommendations from family and friends carry a lot of weight and loyalists have a much bigger voice than those who are merely satisfied.

6. Brand Delivery. Is your brand positioning delivered through every action and form of communication that the organization has at its disposal; does every aspect of the corporate or product “experience”deliver the brand in tangible and intangible ways?

7. Cut-Through Noise. Does your healthcare brand cut-through the noise of your market and competitors, to engage and retain your best customers?

8. Co-Creation. Do you open up your healthcare brand to community and patient participation, to allow customers and your organization to continue to thrive?

9. Leadership Commitment.
Do senior leadership actions reflect your brand promises and positioning?

10. Internal Commitment & Demonstration. Is internal brand-building on the organization’s agenda; across all facilities and service lines? Are there programs in place to help you actively deliver on your brand, or is brand building reduced to a manual?

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We’ve had a number of similar conversations with healthcare marketers that go something like this: We feel like we have far too many brands in our portfolio. More than we can probably support. Every time someone  introduces a new service, it becomes another “brand” with another logo.

The truth is, not all programs and services are created equal. Not all are “brand/logo worthy.” Particularly in this economic environment, energy and resources must be focused on supporting those health services that best align with vision and business strategy, build strategic and financial value back to the organization, and meet customer/stakeholder current and future needs.

Here are seven portfolio “P”s that you can begin to use to evaluate and strengthen your healthcare portfolio:

Purpose. Do each of your brands reflect your vision, business goals and strategies?
Perspective. What story is the 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 between them?
Potential. How do your different brands contribute to building strategic advantage, and to current and future growth and profitability?
Performance. Do you sufficiently cover the market given the needs of your priority audiences?
Potency. Does market attractiveness (size and potential growth) merit investment?
Pink Slips. For those brands that don’t meet this criteria, what is our plan for phasing them out?

Have I missed any “P”s?

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, a branding + marketing company creating new brand energy by uniting organizations, creating new value and igniting new growth.

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We had a meeting with a prospective client who wants to explore, and more sharply define, their brand idea. Because they’re not quite sure if the organization’s message is really one that emanates from a well-conceived brand strategy.

So it occurs to me – is your brand reflected in everything your healthcare organization says and does? Surrounding your health system, academic medical center, specialty hospital, center of excellence…is there a big idea that defines you, distinguishes you, drives you, attracts and engages your audiences, compels them to promote it to others and is delivered through your customer experience?

Or are you falling into the trap of only creating an image wrapper (a term I’m borrowing from BrandGym’s David Taylor)? Where the brand is wrapped in communication, but delivery of the brand promise (if there is one), is no where to be found. A brand-led business, in contrast, drives off a strong brand idea, is powerfully delivered, and then reinforced through communication.

Apple’s vision can be seen and experienced in everything they do. Same holds true for Whole Foods, Harley-Davidson, Southwest Airlines, to name just a few. While many companies view “brand” as the domain of marketing (or more narrowly associate it with “image”), these organizations understand that business strategy and the brand are indistinguishable – where brand is conveyed by everything people see, hear, touch, taste or smell about your business.

So, is your healthcare organization a BRAND-LED business – where branding is not a beauty contest, but a strategy to drive volume and growth, build loyalty, attract donors, retain talent – in fact, drives your whole business.

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PatientsLikeMe is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of patients diagnosed with life-changing diseases. It was co-founded by Ben and Jamie Heywood after their brother Stephen (who has since passed away) was diagnosed with ALS. And make a difference they have, as they were recently recognized by Fast Company as #2 on the list of the top ten most innovative healthcare companies.

They state that their goal is to enable people to share information that can improve the lives of patients diagnosed with life-changing diseases. To make this happen, we’ve created a platform for collecting and sharing real world, outcome-based patient data and are establishing data-sharing partnerships with doctors, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, research organizations, and non-profits. Their collective data has shown enormous power to comfort, inspire, explain, predict and empower.

PatientsLikeMe is a wonderful role model for how modern brands will succeed by helping customers (in this case, patients) achieve more than they ever could on their own. Here are some reasons why:

1. Committing versus campaigning. Going forward, brands will be defined not by what they say to people, but by what they say and do with people (in this case, 45,000 patients).

2. Value through content. We go to the web because there’s something we need to do; a problem we need to solve. So we’re looking for information, insights and advice that we can use.  In this case, it’s content that’s literally saving and enhancing lives.

3. Collaboration. PatientsLikeMe brings together company, customers (patients) and partners (doctors, pharma, medical device companies) collaborating together to help each grow stronger.

4.  Becoming integral to people’s lives. PatientsLikeMe members don’t just share their experiences and stories; they turn their symptoms and treatments into hard data. By telling and sharing so much, members are creating a rich database of disease treatment and patient experience.

5. Transparency. While many companies, and healthcare websites, have a Privacy Policy, PatientsLikeMe has an Openness Policy. They believe that data belongs to you the patient to share with other patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and anyone else that can help make patients’ lives better.

6. Understanding How Your Audiences Integrate Technology Into Their Lives. PatientsLikeMe patients are heavily involved in what Forrester Research refers to as the groundswell. So this site is the perfect medium for them to contribute, comment, write, upload and publish.

7. Creating brand advocates. People who feel a sense of ownership in the brand, and are motivated to help it succeed will take an active role helping friends or family members make  a decision about a product. In this case, the motivation is literally a matter of life and death.

8. The product is the marketing. And PatientsLikeMe has created a better product.

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Healthcare brands that are fueled by a powerful core idea, and managed with a delicate balance of imagination and precision, have the ability to transform both organizations and their audiences.

Here are six tips for driving brand-led transformation:

1. Step outside of your box. Consider what you might be, and not what you are. Perpetuate the status quo and you’ll never see beyond what you already know. Question deeply held assumptions, consider the business from a new angle, and generate innovative ideas and ways to change consumer behavior. Consider Humana, a health insurance company that’s breaking the mold through their Crumpleitup innovation initiative designed to come up with creative ways to help people be healthy while having fun.

2. Get different. Rewrite the rules of the game. Zig when others zag. Follow the same path as others, and you’re limited to the same gains (or losses) as others. Consider Hello Health, a new healthcare organization that’s reframing the relationship between patient and physician.

3. Drive from a powerful idea. Every great business is built on a great brand. And every great brand is built on a great idea. An idea that’s simple, unique and compelling. An idea that can sustain the business for years down the road. Unilife is a rapidly growing medical device company, passionate in its quest to help its pharma and healthcare partners enhance and save lives through the reduction of needle stick injuries.

4. Get everyone on board. Transformation can only happen from the inside out. Paint a compelling picture of the future. Establish a sense of urgency. Let everyone participate in the journey. Ground change in your culture.

5. Execute meticulously. Sweat the details. Great brands get that way based on brilliant execution. Ensure your brand shines through across all its touchpoints – from products, to behaviors, communications and environments.

6. Be an open book. Open up your brand to participation. Let people contribute their own stories. Let them share their stories with others through you. Create a more powerful story together. After all, there’s always a new chapter in the works. Consider the support and participation through GSK’s Alli Drug community

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Picture 7
People really don’t care about your products and services. This might be tough to accept, but it’s true.

What people do care a lot about, however, is how you make them feel about their decisions. How you help them improve their lives. How you help them achieve what they can’t on their own. And for healthcare marketers, these benefits translate into pretty important outcomes, from preserving life, to being able to live healthier and happier lives.

This is the incredible connecting power of your brand. By being about them, but having a strong vision about your place (what it is and what it can be) in their lives. This is the stuff that cements relationships, builds advocates, drives loyalty, gets people talking about you, creates communities and attracts others to you. This is the enormous power of your brand to help you achieve what your business alone can not.

So why do we keep talking about us? How caring we are. How celebrated we are. How trustworthy we are. How smart we are. How about turning the dial 180 degrees to the care they want. The recognition they deserve. The trust they desire. How smart they are. And how about paying this off with actions versus words (but more about this tomorrow).

Be more about your customers, and they’ll be all about you.

Any comments to share?

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As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Lee Aase, manager of Syndication and Social Media for Mayo Clinic, as this month’s participant.

Here’s what Lee has to say about the future of health brands and social media:

1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that…

Are trustworthy and transparent with key stakeholders, whether they be employees or customers or patients. In this regard, social media will be a force for good because it enables open communication. When organizations don’t treat people well, word will get around even faster than in the past. In the broadcast era, companies could buy gross tonnage of advertising to try to buy a consumer perception, and if they managed media relations skillfully they could pitch positive stories about their organizations to journalists.

There’s still some place for that in the conversational era, but it will be decreasingly effective.

On the positive side, if organizations provide a fantastic, remarkable experience to most customers, social media will enable that word to spread more quickly, too.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?

Social media enable Mayo Clinic to provide in-depth information to patients and consumers, with little production cost and virtually no distribution cost. We can talk in depth about relatively obscure medical conditions, for example, without worrying about turning off the mass audience. The new market has now been called “a mass of niches” and through social media tools we can provide the specialized information people crave, particularly when they’re facing a major medical issue.

We also are much more able to listen, both internally to employees and externally to patients and consumers, and to have discussions with them. This gives us great opportunities to learn and improve.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?

We’re pretty well along the road to participation, so now we’re into the phase of seeing how we can incorporate social media into everything we do, and making all of our communications more conversational. It’s really an exciting time now. Early on, we had some understandable organizational trepidation about these tools, but as we understood that social media are just the way word of mouth happens in the 21st century, and that word of mouth has been the most important factor in building Mayo Clinic’s reputation for more than 100 years, we knew we needed to engage. And as we have had positive feedback we’ve been able to extend our social media presence even further.

4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?

Don’t let strategy become an excuse for inaction. Often organizations wait to become involved in social media until they have thought through every imaginable scenario, and that’s fine, to a point. But too frequently they go way beyond due diligence to a social media form of hypochondria or paranoia.

Realize that if your organization is worth talking about, people are already discussing you online, so it would behoove you to join the conversation. And if you’re not being discussed online, that’s actually worse: it means you’re irrelevant, not worth talking about. That’s all the more reason to get engaged.

Social media are just another way of communicating, and are cheaper and more cost-effective than traditional means. In a twist on the defense department supercomputer’s line in the Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games,” I would say the only way to lose is not to play. It’s great to think about strategy in using social media, just as it’s appropriate to have a strategy for use of the telephone. For example, you may ask whether you will have a voice mail system or whether every call will be answered by a real person, or whether you will have a toll-free number for incoming calls. But it would be extremely odd for a company to decide it wasn’t going to install phones until it had its complete strategy decided.

So by all means, give a little thought to creating a potential growth path for social media in your organization, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The sales trainer Zig Ziglar used to say that if you wait until all the lights are on green before you leave the house, you’ll never get out of the driveway. If you spend any money to communicate with employees or customers, why wouldn’t you take advantage of free tools that help you do it better?

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So you feel like the wind might finally be at your back (at least a few days out of the week). Your CFO is easing off the brake pedal. Competitors and customers are showing signs of life. The Board is once again focused on top-line growth rather than cost savings.

It’s time to restart your brand engines. Here are 10 tips for how to proceed:

1. Revisit your customer. Listen unbiasedly to understand their pain points, priorities, practices and unmet needs. Spend time walking in their shoes. Don’t be you being them. Become them.

2. Sharpen your story. Use these insights to help determine where and how you most meaningfully improve customers lives; and do it differently from others? What do you (ultimately) help them achieve that others can’t; or aren’t?

3. Be ambitious (this is actually part b of number 2 above). Beyond where you are today, what can you be in the future? If status quo wasn’t an option (it’s not for customers), what would you want to achieve?

4. Get the juices flowing inside. Brand-building really does start inside the company. If employees are educated, if they’re believers, if they’re inspired, can walk the talk, and do it consistently, customers will come along for the ride (and bring their friends).

5. Deeds versus words. Brands used to be built through imagery and messaging. But those days are just about over. Today’s power brands are involving and dynamic, deliver great customer experiences, are mechanisms for connections and community and for more meaningfully improving our lives.

6. Co-create value. Harness the collective intelligence of audiences to create greater and new value for your customers and company; along the way, creating stronger relationships, greater advocacy and deeper loyalty.

7. Tag team. An inspiring and brand-engaged CEO, coupled with a talented, imaginative and respected CMO is a tough team to beat.

8. Deliver happiness. Happy customers are happy to spread your word. And with multiple channels at their disposal, they certainly will.

9. Extend apologies. If you screw up, admit it. Trying to hide behind it doesn’t make much sense, because you can’t.

10. Execute brilliantly. Success is in the details. Which means your whole brand house needs to be in order. Every facet of your brand expression – from behaviors, to communications, environments and products – must reflect and extend your story.

Any other tips to add to this list?

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