Part 1 of 5 In today’s tough economic climate, the wellness of a healthcare organization’s brand is more critical than ever. This can mainly be attributed to the complex and highly competitive nature of the industry. Awareness with strong identity and messaging are a good start. But aside from basic marketing, successful branding goes a lot further. It must start from inside a healthcare organization’s core. At its soul. From that point, everything that the organization does—from brand promise, to advertising, to employees working as brand ambassadors—complete brand alignment is essential. Why?
In the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer: An Annual Global Opinion Leaders Study, trust and credibility in brands exceeded all other corporate attributes. Where else is trust more important than in healthcare? Healthcare decisions are emotional. Personal. Sometimes it’s a matter of life and death. You may wonder, well, where does a brand come in? Brands sound like toothpaste or toilet paper. But that’s also the similarity. Studies show that people are most loyal to brands that are most personal. Brands that you feel, that you touch. Things that comfort you and make you feel better. This is where healthcare needs to see itself today.
So where does an organization start? A brand assessment is a good place. Not unlike a SWOP analysis, a brand assessment will uncover brand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. However, it goes much deeper than that. With the right research, an effective brand assessment will help your organization uncover desired goals within the organization and contrast those with patient perceptions. The right discovery work will identify what makes your organization different from your competitors. From that key information, branding communication tools with creative signals are developed.
Once communication tools are in place, the following steps are helpful to the implementation process:
1. Launch the brand strategically. Explain to staff why branding is so essential. Take measures to ensure employee pride and ownership. Employee perceptions trickle down to patients. Customers can sense when there is lack of transparency and empathy. It is crucial for a holistic brand framework to be implemented consistently with genuine care for patients.
2. Make sure your organization is well-informed and consistent with the use of the brand’s identity. Provide detailed brand guidelines. After the launch, continue employee brand education with attention-getting, motivating and inspiring reminders.
3. Consider that your brand and the mediums by which you communicate are ever-evolving. Identify and implement on-gong measurement. Continually reinforce your brand infrastructure. Be consistent in messaging but stay fluid with changing technology.
4. Develop a social media plan to disseminate your brand message and stay connected to your customers. We'll be talking more about social media on Wednesday.
Over time, strong branding will reap very tangible rewards. We know that people will pay more for a brand name than a generic alternative. This is especially true when it comes to one’s healthcare. People trust brands because of what those brands represent. Whatever the brand distinction in the eyes of consumers, a branded healthcare organization is worth more than a non-branded one. Successful branding will give an organization a big advantage over its competitors. Making a promise known to customers, then living up to it, is key.
Edelman, Richard. “2010 Edelman Trust Barometer Executive Summary.” Edelman.com. 2010. 8 June 2010 http://www.scribd.com/full/26268655?access_key=key-1ovbgbpawooot3hnsz3u