Boosting the Value of Your Healthcare Brand
Making an emotional connection with consumers is key
Director of Marketing Communications
Simply having a brand is no longer enough. A healthcare business needs a strong, trustworthy brand that makes emotional connections 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 mitigating risk.
What is a “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.”
Then again, 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. Rather, those activities are ways of communicating a brand to the marketplace. Parkerwhite defines a “brand” as “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, chief among them that healthcare is 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. can threaten 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. Online research about healthcare costs, experiences and satisfaction has never been more accessible, and 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 assistants and other clinical staff members. Thus, it must convey trust, security and stability to prospective and 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 do you think follows in the conversation? If it’s not what you believe your brand does or stands for, you might need to rethink your marketing efforts.
Next, execute consistent branding across all channels and to all segments of your audience (e.g., consumer and professional). This includes building 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 that they deliver on your brand’s promise, which in turn leads to consistency among patient experiences. Over time, these experiences will build your brand’s reputation and help to establish it as trustworthy, credible and valuable.