Healthcare branding — creating a more meaningful and lasting connection

Your health system or hospital brand is perhaps your organization’s most precious asset, and certainly your healthcare marketing team’s most precious asset. It’s the bridge that connects your patients and communities to your organization. But the expectations about your brand among those who you rely on to keep the trajectory of your organization moving upward (among an expanding set of alternatives) have evolved. Which means your healthcare branding also needs to evolve to ensure your relevance and your place in the healthcare conversation.

Healthcare Branding Expectations

In the past, your healthcare branding didn’t need to stretch the way it does today — beyond your category to the world at large. Today, you really do need to look across the marketing landscape, because the expectations and practices of your customers know no boundaries. People expect more from you before they invite you into their lives and reach into their wallets to consume your products or services. In the cases where choices exist, healthcare is no exception.

Today, your prospective customers expect you to have a larger agenda. Beginning with a purpose (aka North Star, big idea, mission, essence, organizing principle) that lends itself to taking a stand. In the words of author and organizational consultant Simon Sinek— people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Which for many people today, means not only articulating purpose, but activating against it to demonstrate why your organization exists, why people should care and why customers should choose your offering over the competition.

Supporting Evidence

The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study reveals that nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world now buy on belief, a remarkable increase of 13 points since 2017. These Belief-Driven Buyers will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about. This belief-driven mindset has gone mainstream. Belief-Driven Buyers are now the majority in every market surveyed, across all age groups and all income levels. Almost as many consumers aged 35-to-54 buy on belief as 18-to-34-year-olds, and the most impressive gains come from the older cohort, with an 18-point increase among people 55 years old and up.

Notes J Walker Smith, Kantar Futures’ executive chairman, in an article he wrote for the American Marketing Association in June 2017 — Politics and lifestyles can no longer be treated separately. Lifestyles are the central focus of brands, so as politics and lifestyles blend, brands will need a new vocabulary for addressing consumers.

Across categories, a few examples of activating against purpose include:

Patagonia Common Threads

Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative, with the program’s five R’s (reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, reimagine) detail a pact between the company and its customers, to work in tandem to move towards a world where we take only what nature can replace. The effort follows Patagonia’s long list of environmental programs and promises.

Nike Colin Kaepernick

You might not agree with Nike’s decision to build an ad campaign around Colin Kaepernick (as many people did), but it ultimately boosted sales 31%. Nike had previously stated that it “supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.” While the bottom line was obviously a key driver in this decision, it also reinforces the fact that consumers shop with their principles.

Lyft and ACLU

Lyft, the taxi app, provides a good example of taking actions that reinforce brand’s owning their position. The brand has publicly railed against policies of the Trump administration and, in the wake of the travel ban, announced it would donate $1m to the American Civil Liberties Union over four years. It also offered free rides to protesters attending the March For Our Lives, which was organized by students advocating for tighter gun laws.

2019 will find more brands trying to figure out how to stand for something and how to do so authentically while maintaining growth. The best initiatives will be those that are as useful as possible, around which your organization can rally and give employees a reason to be passionate.

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If you’re a healthcare marketing executive looking for ways that your brand can make a genuine statement and reflect an issue that consumers care about, reach out to our healthcare marketing agency for a conversation. Let’s do something good together. Because doing what’s right is good for your brand.

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.