Simply having a brand is no longer enough. Healthcare businesses need a strong, trustworthy brand that makes an emotional connection with consumers and professionals alike. You must deliver a unique experience that others cannot replicate. Only then does a brand deliver on its true purpose: to create economic value by generating higher returns and growth, and by mitigating risk.
What is a brand?
Let’s start by defining brand. According to BusinessDictionary.com, a brand is a “unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competition. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind.”
It’s just as important to define what a brand is not. Branding is not marketing, advertising or public relations, says brand interactive agency Parkerwhite in its Branding in Healthcare white paper. Those activities are ways of communicating a brand to the marketplace. Parkerwhite offers this definition of brand: “A recognizable identity that has a personality, values and traits. It is an active business asset that provides differentiation, shareholder value and longevity.”
Why is branding so important in healthcare?
If you’ve been in the healthcare space for any length of time, you’ve no doubt witnessed dramatic changes, with one of the most significant being healthcare becoming more of a commodity. What factors are responsible for these changes? Here are three top reasons:
- Dynamic Environment: Today, healthcare organizations face more competition than ever before — and not just from local providers who offer similar services. Disruptive technology, alternative options and facilities outside of the U.S. may all pose a threat to traditional healthcare organizations. The increase in mergers, acquisitions and partnerships is another reason to ensure your brand is strong, consistent and distinct, allowing you to bring value to the table.
- Consumer-driven Marketplace: Individuals are now responsible for a greater share of their personal healthcare costs, making them more selective about which providers and hospitals they choose. With online research and comparisons — in terms of cost, experience and satisfaction — consumers are more knowledgeable and have higher expectations than ever before.
- Recruitment and Retention Challenges: Your brand attracts not only prospective patients, but also doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and other clinical staff members. It must convey trust, security and stability to prospective, as well as tenured, employees.
What steps can you take today?
First and foremost, understand what makes you different, what separates you from the competition. One recommendation is to aim for distinctiveness, not merely differentiation. When someone mentions your brand name, what follows in the conversation? If it’s not what you believe your brand does or should stand for, you may need to rethink your marketing efforts.
Next, execute consistent branding across all channels and to all segments of your audience (consumer and professional). This includes a clear visual identity that is reinforced consistently in patient education materials, marketing collateral, apparel and signage. Train your employees to be brand ambassadors so they deliver on your brand’s promise, which in turn leads to consistency in the patient experience. Over time, those experiences will build your brand’s reputation and help to establish it as trustworthy, credible and valuable.