22 Questions to Map Your Brand Universe

Our protocol for brand building and positioning

In a recent white paper, Smith & Jones’ shared our step-by-step process for brand building and competitive positioning of healthcare organizations. To accompany this content, I’ll publish a series of blog posts that look at the key phases of our process, and share some of the insights on brand development that we’ve gained over the last 28 years.


Begin at the beginning: the Diagnosis Phase

The brand building process should begin with a thorough diagnosis of the situation at hand. In addition to input sessions with key stakeholders and decision makers, we analyze the organization’s past and present market position, their audiences and their competition. Below are the questions we seek to answer in the Diagnosis phase. Answer each question honestly, and you’ll have a better appreciation of the qualities that made your brand what it is today.

The history of your brand

1) How and when did your organization originate?

2) What does it offer to the community, your patients and care providers?

3) How has the brand been represented in the past?

4) What is its current positioning in the mind of the consumer?

5) What is its current market position?

6) How do the people behind your brand talk, act and think about the patients they treat?

Recognizing where you are on the path to what you want to become helps you chart a course that will correct shortcomings and align your staff to a shared mission.

The audience(s)

7) What are consumers’ current perceptions of your brand, your competitors and the category as a whole?

8) What do physicians and healthcare professionals think?

9) What interests them, makes them happy, keeps them up at night?

10) What do you offer that can improve their quality of life?

11) What would make them choose your brand again?

12) What are they willing to believe about your brand that is somehow different and more desirable than the competition?

It’s important to consider both external and internal audiences, and then to figure out what makes each of them tick.

The true relationship drivers

13) What factors do patients, employees and doctors consider when choosing a healthcare organization?

14) What are the relationship-building attributes that resonate emotionally with your audiences?

15) Are the drivers tangible or intangible?

16) Which attributes do you need just to be considered?

17) Which offer the highest return on investment and which aren’t worth spending time or money on?

18) What’s important to your community that you can do better than all your competitors?

Determine which attributes really influence the patient’s (or doctor’s) decision to come back to your brand. This may focus your competitive position and messaging.

The competitive idea space

19) Who are your direct AND indirect competitors? (consider any organization, person or product that offers an alternative to your organization’s care)

20) When you reverse-engineer their brands, how are they positioning their organizations?

21) Are their messages different or the same as yours?

22) Are the things they’re saying true?

After you’ve completed this exercise, you should have a clear picture of the competitive idea space. This will help you see where there is saturation (similarity and repetition in messaging) and where there is opportunity (untapped ideas that will help your brand stand out from the background noise).

Analyze each dimension for insights

Once you have all the facts, you can begin to identify the essential kernels of truth about the brand, the audience, their emotional stages and your competition. What distinguishes your brand from all the rest? What will engage your audiences and inspire them to want a relationship with your brand? Discovering the truth about the brand – that one believable, relevant, memorable and deliverable promise – is the key to finding a position that will be meaningful, different and ownable over the long term.

In my next post in this series, I’ll look at how to write a brand positioning statement that addresses these insights. To learn more, download the white paper, The How-To Guide for Brand Building, or read the first post in this series:

Understanding the value of a clearly defined healthcare brand