Health Care Branding Strategy: 7 Tips for Market Relevance

All marketers and branding strategists want to change their customers’ world for the better. How fortunate are we, then, as health care brand builders and marketers! Our sole purpose is to better customers’ lives. And if we execute a health care branding strategy right, we also create customers who add value back to our health care brand, which in turn adds value back to our healthcare systems and hospitals.

Creating Health Care Brand Engagement

How can health care marketers create more meaningful and relevant engagement with customers who are now at the center of the healthcare ecosystem—proactively taking ownership for their health, taking control of the buyer journey, and taking control of the media they want to see? AND, how do you do this when the size of your healthcare marketing budget might not be as big as the ever-expanding health system the next county over?

Experience and analysis has taught us that a specific set of brand characteristics and behaviors can create successful health system and hospital brands that outpace competitors and create the customers who will take your healthcare brand and organization to another level.

7 Tips For Healthcare Branding Success

The following health care branding principles can help health system and hospital marketing teams reach their goals:

Lead with Guiding Principle. A guiding principle behind your brand is the starting point for creating consumer connections and rising above the competition. Call it purpose, promise, north star – it doesn’t matter the nomenclature your health system or hospital adapts. As long as you lead with it. Because it needs to lead your people and the people you serve. Unearth it, declare it, make it easy to articulate and then drive everything from that idea. Every piece of evidence shows that this central tenet drives organization performance. It attracts employees, inspires and connects customers, fuels growth and drives business.

Maintain Authenticity. We talk about this a lot. Because brand authenticity is a critical ingredient for your customers (particularly your millennial customers) who are searching for greater meaning and sincerity from your brand. No brand today becomes great unless it is totally clear about who it is, why it is, and how it approaches the market. Here’s an interesting factoid about the history of this characteristic. It dates back to June 1921 from the Ohio Newspaper “The Mansfield News,”: “Although he has no gilded medals upon his bosom, Howard Herring of the North American Watch company, walks the walk, and talks the talk, of a hero today.”

Keep Moving. Incessantly relevant brands anticipate and lead change. Of course these actions are directly linked to their values and objectives. They are committed to wowing customers and keeping them engaged, not once or occasionally, but constantly. Given the quickly evolving health care market, marketers must adapt a bias to action, which means seeing and thinking beyond the boundaries of health care to tap into what really matters to customers.

Leverage Your Distinctiveness. According to How Brands Grow author Byron Sharp, director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia…rather than aiming for meaningful differentiation, seek instead for distinctiveness. We need to quickly establish a brand within consumers mind – and being distinctive helps make a brand salient. Global market research and  consulting firm Ipsos states…Brands exist in people’s minds as an associate network acting as a mental shortcut. Distinctiveness is the shortest route to your brand. Differentiation (which may be temporary) is good. Distinctiveness (which is ownable forever) is great.

Pull with Emotion. Emotion creates unique meaning and an instinctive attraction that preempts rational reasons for making a purchase. Neurological research supports the premise that people buy on emotion and justify with facts. But it’s not an either or situation. Some categories and brands naturally lean to one approach over the other and each has its place in your marketing toolbox. The challenge is to know which is right for your health care system or hospital. Ultimately, your brand itself should guide the decision based on evaluating several dimensions, e.g. uniqueness, price, category perception, importance to prospect, and innovative or intangible services.

Brand Alignment Across Touchpoints. Brand consistency is a growing challenge today. Not only given the number of “media” touchpoints, but given your likely expanding pre-acute and post-acute continuum of care (e.g. urgent care, infusion centers, ambulatory surgery centers, behavioral, rehab) and your growing number of health system or hospital partners. However, achieving and maintaining alignment—presenting a consistent look, message, emotion, and experience across all consumer touchpoints and across all your facilities and service lines—not only creates attraction and belief, but maximizes the value of your marketing budget.

Create and Grow Your Tribe. Any relevant brand today feeds the conversation that is 24/7, always on. It creates, fosters, and facilitates communities of like-minded individuals. This is not only important across clinical service lines like diabetes, cancer, bariatrics, and pediatrics, where patients and families want (and need) to share with one another. It’s also important to your evolving wellness business, given that the “we” factor influences so much behavior. Create opportunities to let your health system or hospital brand be the platform through which communities share, learn, and grow together.

As a health care marketer today, it’s important to know that there’s no one recipe for being fresh and relevant that will work for every organization, since the needs and circumstances keep changing. However, these seven tips for a healthcare branding strategy, when applied as a complete framework within the context of how to make your customers’ lives better, can aid your efforts to shift attitudes and beliefs, attract new customers, and grow the value of existing ones.


Since 1999, Trajectory has focused on shaping and guiding the trajectory of healthcare and wellness brand growth — with a particular focus on health systems, hospitals, physician and medical practices. Reach out to have a conversation.


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.