Healthcare branding — baking your brand into your business
The Power of Healthcare Branding
Like a real estate holding, your healthcare brand is the one piece of property that is uniquely yours. And like a piece of property, your goal as a healthcare marketing executive is to enhance this property so that it becomes more attractive and grows in value over time. In the case of healthcare branding, this equates to growing attractiveness and preference among prospective and current healthcare customers, healthcare professionals, prospective partners and other stakeholders.
Building Brand Value In Today’s Healthcare Market
There are three things that all healthcare marketers will likely agree are true. First, marketing spend levels are never what you’d want them to be. Second, it’s really tough for brands (even in high-involvement categories) to stand out in our mind and memory. Third, it takes a long time and a lot of continuity to build brand distinctiveness. When it comes to healthcare branding, fresh consistency tends to trump new and unfamiliar.
Consider all of the brand elements you have in your healthcare marketing strategy arsenal. Together, all of these brand elements 1) contribute to building distinctiveness; 2) help bring your brand to mind and; 3) encourage purchase. These elements are critical to manage because symbolism is the language of emotion and a key set of triggers for decisions by our fast, intuitive system 1 brain. Daniel Kahneman, Israeli-American psychologist and economist notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, states that “System 1 runs the show. That’s the one you want to move.”
It’s easy to literally picture the leading brands across a range of different categories — Amazon, Airbnb, BMW, Burberry, Citi, Ikea, Intel, Red Bull, Subway, Tiffany’s, etc. All of these brands understand the symbolic meaning in everything. They exploit colors, shapes, logos, characters, images, fonts, tone of voice, advertising styles, music, packaging, product design, recipes, service delivery and sensory cues such as sound, smell, and taste to evoke particular emotions. This aligned symbolism constitutes a brand mnemonic, and creates an ownable (enduring and distinctive) language for brands to talk directly to consumers’ decision-drivers. These brand assets compel attention and build recognition amidst competing alternatives, serving as a ‘mental shortcut’ to identify that brand. As these assets are consistently used across multiple touch points, they reinforce the mental structures that consumers associate with the rational and emotional benefits that the brand promises to deliver.
Brand Assets and Alignment
As a healthcare marketer steering the fate of your healthcare brand and business, you must be able to create distinctive brand assets that are consistently integrated into all healthcare communications and experiences to cement them into long term memory. This familiarity creates an emotional reassurance for your brand, which in turn helps nudge people to purchase. The corollary to this is when a brand drifts into the back of our minds, which diminishes the opportunity to be considered when a consumer is ready to buy.
Aligning look, message and emotion across every different touchpoint is a tremendous challenge today for brand owners. Managing brands that are always on — across geographies, agency partners, channels and consumers weighing in to how your brand is expressed — is no small feat. But achieving and maintaining alignment delivers returns not only in enhanced relationship-building, but in maximized return on marketing budgets. This alignment is also key to being able to evolve your brand to create new opportunities to drive brand growth, while ensuring you do so in a consistent manner by leveraging your distinctive and relevant brand assets and the associations and emotions that built your brand in the first place.
Five Tips For Building Healthcare Brand Value
Since 1999, Trajectory has practiced a disciplined and comprehensive approach to developing healthcare branding strategies that have consistently produced strong and lasting results for our clients. Here are some broad guidelines that will help pave the path to your healthcare branding success.
Align With Business Strategy
As the face of your business, rule #1 is that your healthcare branding needs to align with your current and going-forward healthcare organization business strategy. Which means that your brand is informed by your strategic plan, and then engineered to uniquely create and deliver value through daily brand management across corporate, hospitals, service lines, outpatient, etc.
A Central Brand Idea
Every business needs a brand, and every brand needs an idea. Regardless of what you call it — whether your north star, essence, purpose, central organizing idea, etc. — your central brand idea is an important internal and external beacon for your organization. For today’s more conscious consumers, your big idea is a crucial driver of success, and it must be big enough to sustain your organization for at least a handful of years. In the words of management consultant Simon Sinek — people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Across numerous surveys, Millennials report that the number one way that brands can engage them is to have an “authentic purpose.” Brands from the likes of MasterCard to Amazon to Red Bull are pioneers for authenticity in branding and marketing, and your healthcare branding must follow suit as expectations cross category boundaries. Today, no brand becomes great unless it is totally clear and consistent about who it is, why it is and how it approaches the market.
Emotional Bonds Through Every Interaction
Branding is a verb. Which means every interaction is an opportunity for your healthcare branding to add value and strengthen your emotional connection with communities and patients. Here’s a really simple way to say it – bake your brand into every bit of your business by putting your unique and genuine fingerprint on every interaction.
Connections From The Inside Out’
A strong brand brings employees together to work towards common goals and align around a larger idea. Specific to healthcare, employee engagement and alignment is crucial to being able to build a culture of service excellence – where your unique brand experience is largely shaped by staff, nurses and professionals on the front lines who interact daily with customers and must meet their rising expectations. Together, these internal audiences should create a potent team of brand ambassadors who “live” the organization’s brand and build momentum from the inside out.
Distinctive Design, Communications & Experience
There’s real marketplace power in a brand that looks, feels and sounds different. Case in point is Amazon building their smile device into a powerful brand property, which has consistently been in use since its launch in 2000. This is a great example of taking a brand asset and activating across all channels. This consistency builds strong memory structure – and immediately conjures up all the rational and emotional benefits they offer. The Amazon ‘smile’ is on its way to becoming as iconic and powerful a brand property as the MacDonald’s yellow arches, the Tiffany Blue Ribbon and the Nike ‘Swoosh’, to name a few.
The same can be said for brand voice, and brand experience. Consider the distinctive and consistent voices (across all communications) of Innocent Drinks (informal and easy-going), Old Spice (unexpected humor), Dove (human, inspirational and friendly) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering (hope and advancement); as well as the distinctive experiences of Best Buy (for example), with their ‘Geek Squad’ installation & repair service, Apple’s Genius Bar tech support station, Cabela’s in-store experience and Oscar’s “new kind” of online healthcare insurance experience.
Since 1999, our healthcare branding and marketing agency has practiced a comprehensive and imaginative approach to building healthcare branding strategies that have consistently produced strong and lasting results for our clients. Reach out if we can assist your organization.