The Healthcare Brand Strategy Challenge
As the business and delivery of healthcare continues to change forms and take on almost amoeba-like qualities, it can be difficult for health system and hospital marketing teams to align brand strategy with business strategy. In many cases, the business itself is constantly evolving, and multiple paths to ensure provider longevity are simultaneously being carved out along the non-acute, acute-care and post-acute care continuum.
The moving parts that impact healthcare brand strategy and that healthcare marketing teams and cross-functional teams might be working on simultaneously include consumer engagement capabilities, physician and provider strategies, service line strategies and care continuum expansion. When these initiatives are all being pursued together, it’s hard for a health system or hospital branding strategy to keep up with all of the changes going on across the organization.
Paradoxically, in the drive to coordinate and create a seamless healthcare patient experience across care settings and activities, the ability to create a seamless health system or hospital brand experience that aligns people, messaging, design, communication and digital experience (so everything comes together to strengthen the connection between a brand and its audience) suffers as a result.
The Power of a Strong Healthcare Brand
When managed strategically, the corporate brand – the sum of all the information, both tangible and intangible, about an organization conveyed through communications and experience – serves as the basis for creating an enduring emotional relationship between an organization and its stakeholders. It has the power to distinguish, drive demand, build loyalty, boost economic value, guide internal focus and morale. Given these stakes, brand building is not an option.
The tangible aspect of your healthcare brand is a promise. What can your customer count on? What and where is your distinct ability to make an impact? What’s the payoff? The brand promise becomes an intrinsic part of your marketing message. But to really own it, you need to be able to deliver it. And with all the potentially moving parts of a healthcare provider business strategy, e.g. consumer engagement capabilities, physician and provider strategies, service line strategies, care continuum expansion – it’s tough to be organizationally-aligned. Let alone for internal audiences to be true believers of your promise.
Building Brand Strategy & Business Strategy Alignment
There’s a common perception that business strategy is strategic, and brand strategy is marketing-led – and not a corporate-level function. However, in order for an organization to create and recognize its full value, both need to be aligned. Consider that the essence of business strategy is knowing where and how you will win. Brand strategy, as the expression of the business, covers this same ground. Both are about targeting a customer, resolving challenges, defending turf.
A starting point is mapping brand strategy to business strategy. Above is an example business model canvas, which you can pin on a wall or recreate electronically. Fill-in by mapping the components that help create and deliver value (i.e. customer segments, value proposition, channels, revenue streams, resources, activities).
This exercise puts you (and team members) in a better position to ensure that brand strategy – archetype, promises, messaging, naming, nomenclature, visual identity practices – is tightly and strategically aligned to business goals and objectives. Using your corporate brand as a unifying force (through clarity and consistency) has an impact on every aspect of your business and, ultimately, on your organization’s bottom line.
As you work through this, you’ll note that there are areas of overlap between the business strategy and brand strategy. Here are five examples:
- customer segments relate to target audience segments for marketing
- value proposition is closely related to brand positioning
- channels relate to brand touch points
- organization culture should align with brand archetype and personality
- product/service portfolio is the way the brand delivers on its promise
For incumbent healthcare providers, your organization brand is the glue that can help ensure that every encounter with your organization (regardless of how, where or when care is delivered) results in a consistent, meaningful and value-building impression. And in light of new healthcare models that are offering compelling alternative propositions and sparking new industry structures – your corporate brand becomes an even more important strategic asset.
Make the most of your health system, hospital or physician practice brand. As specialists shaping and guiding the trajectory of healthcare and wellness brands and businesses since 1999, we can help you navigate amongst the uncertainty. Reach out for a conversation.