Why are we still trying to fix healthcare brands?

Let’s think about branding the way thriving brands do

Most of the time when a hospital, health system or physician practice thinks about hiring Smith & Jones it’s because they’ve uncovered a problem with their brand. It could be any kind of problem, but it’s almost always something that’s having an impact on the health of the organization. Something that, if fixed, would move the needle for the organization. Or so the thinking goes.

But this thinking is flawed. And one of the first ideas we share with these clients is that if they want to be successful, they need to think about branding in a different way. They need to think about it not as something that can be fixed, but as something that must be influenced.

You can’t fix a feeling

Why can’t you fix a brand? Because a brand is, at it’s root, a feeling. Marty Neumeier, author of some incredible branding books and one of my favorite marketing thinkers, defines a brand thus:

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization. It’s a person’s gut feeling, because brands are defined by individuals, not companies, markets or publics. It’s a gut feeling because people are emotional, intuitive beings. In other words, it’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why branding isn’t as simple as fix-and-forget. You can’t just open up a person’s mind, pull out the old feeling and install a new one. No, the mind is not a car. If you want to change the way people feel you need to do it over time, continually inspiring them and sharing ideas.

5 Ways to Influence your Brand

So how do you do it? That’s exactly the question we tackle in our new book Under the Influence: the Anthology of Healthcare Marketing Best Practices. The book shares more than 30 years of valuable insights for healthcare executives, all geared towards building great provider brands that move the needle.

To us, there are 5 key elements to building great provider brands. These are the pillars around which we’ve organized Under the Influence. They are:

How to treat healthcare consumers Smith and Jones spends 30% of our time understanding how patients make healthcare buying decisions. It’s critically important to our client’s success. After all, what people believe about a given organization, or the healthcare industry in general, is the thing we’re trying to influence.

The power of branding. While you can’t fix a brand, you can fix the way you handle branding. Under the Influence shares some of the most powerful ideas we use when we guide organizations through Protocol.

Setting a game plan No, planning is not the sexiest part of branding, but it’s absolutely critical to success. Under the Influence looks at subtopics like budget planning and navigating the complex hierarchy of a health system.

Building a brand culture Providers are coming around to something that retail has known for decades: customer experience is the most powerful way to influence your brand. For most providers this is the single biggest opportunity to influence your brand.

Storytelling for the world we live in People buy emotionally, not rationally. That’s why healthcare advertising that focuses on stats and awards so rarely creates a real business impact. Storytelling is the key to better branding, and Under the Influence shares our thoughts on great storytelling in today’s always-on world.

Under the Influence is available for free

Under the Influence is free to download, and hardbound copies are for sale on Amazon. We’d also be happy to send you a hardbound copy for free if you think we might be able to help you influence your brand in the right direction. For that kind of help, you can sign up for a conversation with our President (and author of Under the Influence), Mark Shipley here.