Understanding the value of a clearly defined healthcare brand

The healthcare industry becomes more competitive every year. Hospitals, physician practices, walk-in clinics and free-standing care centers all compete for the healthcare consumer’s attention and care dollar. Patients are more savvy, self-directed and better informed than ever; they research care options and shop for healthcare brands much like retail consumers do. When you factor in trends such as mobile health, online information sources and patients’ increasing willingness to travel for care, the healthcare marketing landscape today bears little resemblance to that of just 30 years ago, when providers didn’t even need to advertise.

Now healthcare organizations must aggressively market their business just to remain competitive. They strive for any advantage to move their organization above the rest. The competitive strategies employed by healthcare providers vary widely as they scramble to create, sustain or regain marketshare. Many invest in new facilities and expanded services. Others gamble their resources on high-priced advertising campaigns, attempting to dominate their markets by sheer top-of-mind awareness. Yet, surprisingly few invest in the subtle but powerful strategy of brand building.

In an issue of Protocol titled, “Why Branding Still Matters in Healthcare,” we outlined four important reasons branding should remain a priority for hospital marketers:

  • Strong healthcare brands control their own destinies: By identifying an honest competitive position and marketing it to their internal and external audiences, they can drive perceptions and expectations of their brand. They can also weather the pressures of economic and market influences without being forced to take Draconian measures.
  • A clear brand position aligns physicians and staff: They understand their part in the company’s mission, expected behavior and the common goals that help the organization deliver a positive, consistent patient experience.
  • Brand tools ensure consistent communications; Maintaining a strong brand identity requires constant vigilance. Brand standards help marketing teams focus and test core messages in any media channel.
  • Branding supports multichannel and social media initiatives: A consistent voice, a memorable point of difference, and a strong identity help hospitals and practices translate into the social realm and every customer touch point, whether it’s a one-to-one interaction in the hospital environment, conversations in the social network, or mass communications through paid media channels.


How to create strong healthcare brands

In our 28 years of healthcare marketing experience, we’ve found that a strong position (a differentiating, relevant and inspiring brand) supported by time-tested brand communication tools can help marketers look beyond the symptoms to uncover the most promising pathway to a successful business outcome. A clearly defined brand position makes every marketing effort more effective.

Do you need more proof? Just look at some of the top U.S. hospital brands, organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital or Mass General. These brands operate from positions of power. Consumers know what to expect from them, and what they will deliver. Barring a big mistake, these healthcare brands don’t have to work as hard to maintain their leadership positions.

Read about Smith & Jones’ step-by-step guide to branding and positioning for hospitals and physician practices in “Building a Hospital Brand,” the September 2013 issue of Protocol, the marketing report for healthcare CEOs and C-level executives.

To learn more, download the white paper, The How-To Guide for Brand Building, or read these other posts in this series:

22 Questions to map your brand universe

Writing a successful brand positioning statement