Why Hospital Branding is Vital to Success
Success hinges on a strong hospital brand
Brand-building delivers a sustainable competitive advantage in a world where there are few other sources. For hospitals fighting the battle for market share against an increasingly diverse set of competitors, attention to branding is vital to success. Through disciplined and consistent hospital branding, your brand is the one asset that can help you distinguish your organization, foster relationships and drive profitability. Regardless of category, behind every great business is a great brand – built on a foundation of disciplined branding behaviors.
Three fundamental and revealing questions
To start, your hospital needs to plant its brand flag around its area(s) of expertise, as you can’t stand for everything to everybody. If cross-functional hospital and marketing leadership can’t quickly and consistently answer these three questions…
…you have a hospital branding problem. And if this exists, all the money in the world won’t deliver your fair share of marketing returns. Because If leadership is hard-pressed to answer these questions (particularly the more important and distinguishing “How” and “Why” which leads to competitive advantage), marketing teams can’t. Which means their agencies can’t. Which means promises go unfulfilled. Resulting in fractured trust, precious dollars being wasted and future survival being put at risk.
Your hospital brand is your ultimate competitive advantage
Multinational market research firm Kantar Millward Brown defines a strong brand as one that is:
- Meaningful: It appeals more, generates greater love, and meets customers’ expectations and needs.
- Different: It is unique in a positive way and stays ahead of the curve for the benefit of the consumer.
- Salient: It comes to mind spontaneously as the brand of choice for key needs.
At Trajectory, we would add that for today’s modern consumer other behaviors like Trusted, Participative, Empowering, Consistent and Purposeful are also important elements that strong brands need to deliver.
Our view is that a strong brand is more important than it’s ever been. Hospital services tend to meld together. Media channels and marketing messages have all fragmented. Audiences are bombarded with an increasing number of ever-changing choices. A strong and consistent brand cuts through the confusion, and makes it simpler for audiences to choose.
The ROI of hospital branding
Recent years have seen dramatic growth in the use of Return on Investment (ROI) as a primary metric for marketing decisions. It governs choices about strategy, media and messaging. But ROI can encourage marketers to think short term and to reach only for the low hanging fruit in their market.
For CMOs who are tasked with delivering ROI, brand building doesn’t just drive incremental volume, it also delivers incremental margin. The two together drive long-term profitability in a way that short-term data-driven offers and messages simply can’t.
Five tips for better hospital branding
There isn’t one set playbook for building a brand. But there are some principles that can guide best practice. And you can’t pick and choose which ones to follow. They are all related and support one another. Together they’ll help you to build a strong and sustainable hospital brand.
1. A Central Brand Idea
Every business needs a brand, and every brand needs an idea. A proposition that consumers buy into, beyond just a proposition that they can buy. Regardless of what you call it — whether your north star, essence, purpose or guiding principle — your central brand idea is an important internal and external beacon for your organization.
At Trajectory, we refer to this beacon as a Big Energizing Idea. Big in that it transcends a category, unifies a brand’s point of view and can be brought to life everywhere; and Energizing in that it aligns all audiences around the same idea.
2. Aim For Distinctiveness
There’s marketplace power in a brand that looks, feels and sounds distinctively different. A case in point is Amazon building their smile device into a powerful brand property that has been in use since its launch in 2000. This distinctiveness builds strong memory structure – and immediately conjures up all the rational and emotional benefits they offer.
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.
3. Be Consistent
Brand consistency is the key to earning customer trust and elevating your ROI. And alternatively, inconsistent branding dampens reputation and creates marketplace confusion. Being consistent, but incorporating innovation over time, is a key component of successful brand building.
First and foremost, brand consistency is about trust. If we use the analogy of two people in the early stages of a relationship, it works like this:
- For me to trust you, I have to feel like I know you
- For me to feel like I know you, I need to be aware of you, recognize you and remember you
- For me to recognize and remember you, you need to show up in a way that’s consistent
The same rules apply to your hospital brand. Your branding should provide the glue of consistency in your message (both your words and visuals) and actions. And it’s this consistency across all of your facility and service lines that not only creates attraction and belief, but maximizes the value of your marketing budget.
4. Engage Emotionally
Branding is a verb. Which means every interaction is an opportunity for your hospital branding to strengthen your emotional connection with communities and patients. Emotion creates unique meaning and an instinctive attraction that preempts rational reasons for making a purchase decision. Neurological research supports the premise that people buy on emotion and justify with facts. All strong brands have a strong emotive fit with consumers in a particular need-state, and it is this that connects them so effectively with the System 1 brain that drives much of our daily decision-making through emotion and intuition.
5. Brand-Led Experience
Patients don’t choose providers in isolation. Context is important. And In today’s world, patients expect more. They’re influenced by the B2C brands they use every day, which provide personalization and convenience to deliver exceptional experiences. In a Harvard Business Review research report, 73 percent of business leaders believed that investing in customer experience played a critical role in helping them increase business performance. From physical environments to customer service processes to digital interactions, designing brand-led experiences can help you strengthen patient relationships and encourage word-of-mouth referrals, both of which impact revenue.
A Central Brand Idea, Distinctiveness, Consistency, Emotion and Experience – five accessible ingredients that are available to all marketing teams (regardless of budget) to bake into their hospital branding.
Since 1999, Trajectory has partnered with hospital, health system and physician/medical practice clients to help their brands rise above the noise to grow better business. Reach out for a conversation.