Healthcare branding — how to shift demand

As a healthcare marketing executive, I’m sure you’d agree that the ultimate point of your healthcare brand isn’t to generate awareness or buzz — it’s to shift demand in your favor. As the requisite first stage in this process, healthcare branding used to be much easier when the ground wasn’t as shaky. But the healthcare landscape keeps shifting and the ability to plant your healthcare branding flag — through your meaning and signals — isn’t going to get easier anytime soon.

The impact is being felt by organizations and staffs across every element of the traditional health system and hospital business model. For industry incumbents, the stakes are high. And they need to seize the opportunity to shape the future, or else be left behind. According to Jeff Jones, Managing Director, Huron…

managing disruption requires a vision for the organization’s future and a strategy to get there. The right vision and strategy allow organizations to effectively allocate resources to their current business model and to the business model of the future.

Healthcare Branding To Future-Proof Your Brand

How to continue to adapt and future-proof your brand in the midst of all these changes? Begin by ensuring the relevancy of your healthcare branding. It’s the one element that you can, at least kind of, control. And while the future health system landscape is impossible to clearly define (at least for me), there are a couple key trends that have been thrust upon healthcare providers compliments of the disruptors who are changing the rules of the game. As a result, these trends will likely play a part in your future, and thus are good starting points to consider vis-a-vis your healthcare branding.

These two trends include:

  1. The need to emphasize individualized experiences through your healthcare marketing strategy to differentiate and achieve competitive advantage.
  2. The need to create new consumer engagement strategies to attract and retain millennials.

The common theme is that your current and prospective customers are migrating to brands that offer a stellar experience, treat them like individuals and allow them to shape the brand and feel a genuine ownership of it. Think “participation.” Today, brand success is predicated on the extent to which consumers are active participants in a brand’s programs — as this is what makes a brand truly relevant to consumers’ lives. Important to note, scale isn’t required to be a participation brand. Any brand can join the club.

Participation Brand Requisites

There are four healthcare branding practices that successful participation brands share:

  1. Leading with meaningful meaning. Your customers see beyond your healthcare services. They’re yearning to align with beliefs and values that mirror their own. A bigger meaning — one that’s communicated, demonstrated and genuine to your healthcare branding — is their starting point for participation. At the same time, meaning aligns and sets a clear direction for all functional teams. A strong brand with a compelling and consistently expressed meaning provides purpose and direction for employees, and contributes to their overall satisfaction.
  2. Creating a fluid brand canvas. Just as a painter needs paints and a canvas to bring their artwork to life, brand meaning needs to be translated into specific signals — consisting of promises, personality, positioning, logos, symbols, places, experiences, events and other devices. These signals provide shortcuts to help customers navigate a world of choices. But today, anyone can adjust the signals and amplify or distort them. Which they do. Managing their transmission requires opening them up for participation, planning for their input, listening and responding as together people “participate” in your marketing.
  3. Powered by community. For brands to garner participation, they need places – either physical or digital – for their audiences to engage and connect. Consider the physical Citi Bikes locations. MasterCard’s digital Priceless hubs. Peloton’s virtual group rides. All are examples of building brands through shared engagement with people, not just for them.
  4. Moments that move lives forward. Today, disposable messages are greatly outweighed by the moments that help move people’s lives forward. People who then actively evangelize on your behalf. Consider the analogy of two gears engaging one another to advance something forward. When brands advance customers, customers in turn advance the business.

Is it possible for healthcare marketing teams to build these kinds of participation brands? Certainly. It starts with developing a more comprehensive understanding of the needs of the patients and communities you serve – and where investments in more consumer-centric “participative” approaches will drive business and marketing results. At the same time, given today’s rapidly changing healthcare market, it requires your team and your healthcare marketing agency to look beyond those you most directly compete with – to experiential competitors (who might replace you) and perceptual competitors (who are changing customer expectations across categories).

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Want a different perspective on how your healthcare branding and healthcare marketing strategy can shift demand in your favor? Reach out to our healthcare marketing agency for a conversation.

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Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.