Consolidation and Integration Require New Brand Strategies for Healthcare Companies

Brand authenticity comes when you align what you say with what you do.As healthcare industry leaders look to increase efficiency, grow market share, improve outcomes, and meet consumer expectations for health and life services, many are finding solutions through consolidation and integration.

Predictably, when organizations join forces, they experience a cultural transformation that affects all aspects of the company, including its brand. At a pivotal time like this, it is essential that leaders skillfully align company culture with the business strategy and brand strategy. Of the three, the latter is the most often undervalued or overlooked by companies that fall short of their full potential post-merger. Those who address all three with equal importance are the ones who succeed…the ones who lead.

Case in point: CVS Health. Once a traditional pharmaceutical retail chain, the company now owns 50 percent of market share in the retail clinic space. Cited as “arguably the country’s biggest health care company” by The New York Times, CVS Health’s business model has positioned the company to deliver on its publicized promise of “helping people on their path to better health.” A series of consolidation moves over the last decade set the stage for the organization’s transformation, including the 2006 acquisition of MinuteClinic, the 2007 merger with pharmacy benefits provider Caremark, and the 2013 purchase of Coram, a home infusion services company.

Incidentally, CVS Health further bolstered its brand promise in 2014 when it announced the discontinuation of tobacco sales. In doing so, the company forfeited $2 billion in annual revenue but moved the dial on something priceless: brand authenticity.

And that’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak—brand authenticity is the much-coveted marriage between what you say you do (e.g., helping people on their path to better health) and what you actually do (e.g., providing highly convenient access to healthy products and services). Aligning words with actions across an entire enterprise is no small feat, especially post-merger, but it is as possible as it is imperative. The most important ingredients are skills, experience and a unified commitment to the new brand promise.

Increasing Capabilities through Consolidation

According to a report from the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, healthcare is currently the third most active industry in mergers and acquisitions (behind only computers/electronics and professional services). The healthcare industry announced more than 1,000 deals valued at $176 billion in 2016, and more than 1,200 deals valued at $417 billion in 2015. This trend is expected to continue. According to Kaufman, Hall & Associates, 63 percent of hospital and health system leaders surveyed for Futurescan 2017-2022 predicted their organizations will consolidate with another hospital or system within the next five years.

It’s not just health systems. Companies all across the healthcare industry are consolidating, often bringing together unexpected partners to create a platform of products and services that engage consumers in innovative ways. As healthcare organizations expand their footprints, diversify into new business segments, and bring innovative products and solutions to market through consolidation, they will likely find it challenging to integrate cultures from two companies into one. Is it a big undertaking? Yes. Does that mean it should be bypassed for efficiency sake? Definitely not. While difficult, transforming the culture to align with the new promise is essential for delivering an authentic brand experience, which is, in its own right, essential for customer satisfaction, loyalty and trust.

Just look at how others are broadening their capabilities through consolidation:

  • Nonprofit entities Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives announced last year they were exploring a merger that could be one of the most sizeable deals of 2017, creating the largest not-for-profit hospital system with revenues of $27.6 billion.
  • Roche, the world’s largest biotech company, made six acquisitions and investments in genomics companies in just over a year to boost its standing in the drug discovery arena. By acquiring organizations with operations that complement its own, Roche is positioned to accelerate its understanding of genetic causes of disease and further establish itself as a leader in the field.
  • UnitedHealth Group, a leading managed care company, announced in 2015 it was combining OptumRx, its freestanding pharmacy care services business, with Catamaran Corporation, a provider of pharmacy benefit management and technology solutions. The combined company links data typically found in disparate systems—including demographic, lab, pharmaceutical, behavioral and medical treatment data—enabling clients and consumers to make better decisions regarding care effectiveness and pharmaceutical compliance.
  • In January 2017, Optum and Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) announced a merger to create a comprehensive ambulatory care platform that will operate in 75 markets, representing about two-thirds of the U.S. population. Together, Optum and SCA will serve millions of consumers each year through 20,000 affiliated physicians and hundreds of care facilities.

The Power of Brand

What do all these examples have in common? Through mergers and acquisitions, they are creating new opportunities to broaden their scope of capabilities, and as a result, extend their promise. They are thinking outside their own enterprises and finding innovative ways to make a deeper impact on health and healthcare. However, even the most experienced leaders and smartest strategies can only take the promise so far. In the end, the authenticity of the actual experience becomes the most critical success factor.

Creating a brand strategy—in preparation for consolidation or anytime—involves defining how the brand resonates both internally and beyond: what should the customer experience look like post-consolidation, and how will the new brand promise be communicated—and kept—for customers? Finding the right answers takes a significant investment in time and resources, but it is well worth it. A newly consolidated company has much to communicate and even more to do, and success depends on doing everything well.

For expert guidance navigating your own organization’s brand strategy, discover brand scout+.

For insights to drive a new marketing and positioning strategy, discover maps+.

About the Authors

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 25 years. Carol co-authored this blog with Julie Amor, Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, who brings more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands to our firm and our clients. 

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.

From Brand Challenger to Brand Leader

Three Strategies for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations to Take the Lead

Picture of triumph on a mountaintop to represent making the ascent from brand challenger to brand leader (healthcare marketing)Like any competitive environment, healthcare markets include two key types of players:

  • Brand Leaders – The most dominant or recognizable brand in the market typically enjoys the greatest market share. Also known as a market leader, a brand leader usually drives the largest profit margins, making this spot highly coveted by competitors.
  • Brand Challengers – Challenger brands are not the category leaders in the market. Rather than simply competing in an existing product or service line category, a brand challenger aims to change mindshare by finding new ways to differentiate or segment its brand from the market leader.

With the right strategies and tools in place, challenger brands have an opportunity to rival long-established leaders by creating and executing effective, data-driven marketing and advertising strategies that help them effectively compete.

According to The Nielsen Company, “Challenger brands have to take a different approach.” In terms of advertising and market messages, Nielsen’s research suggests that for every 10% excess share of voice achieved (which is calculated by subtracting market share from share of voice), challengers only see 0.4% market share growth, compared to 1.4% market share growth for leading brands. As a result, a brand challenger needs an advertising strategy that is at least 3.5 times more effective than the market leader’s strategy to truly move the dial and capture greater market share.

[View our infographic to learn more about the dynamic between share of voice and market share.]

The key to creating and executing effective market strategies is data. When you use data to drive marketing, branding and advertising plans, your healthcare organization will significantly improve its ability to compete in market. Fortunately, the tools and expertise to support data-driven decisions that create healthier brands are readily available. These three approaches combine strategy with data to deliver a competitive advantage:

1. Evaluate your current brand position to reveal new opportunities

What you convey about your brand – and how you hope others perceive your brand – must always align with the experience you actually provide. To continuously build volume, preference and market share, it is important to give your brand a thorough, objective evaluation.

Exploring consumer and employee perceptions of your brand will inform your brand strategy, which should outline your differentiators and brand promise (as well as how to keep that promise), serving as a filter for future business, marketing and creative decisions. In addition, assessing your competitors’ communication brings insight to create a sustainable value proposition for your brand. This ongoing process requires continual maintenance and dedication over time.

[To determine your brand’s health, view our step-by-step brand assessment and strategy checklist.]

Brand building is a complex, interconnected process that requires authentic insight, objective decision-making and careful, sometimes even calculated effort. Insights from brand scout+ empower you to identify differentiators, design key messages and rally your team around a brand promise that will ultimately create a more authentic experience for your customers.

2. Use data-driven insights to guide marketing and positioning strategies

A marketing and positioning strategy is the compass that allows companies to successfully navigate the nuances of an ever-changing healthcare market. A smart and sustainable strategy should always precede marketing tactics. When you formulate a strategy before moving to creative tactics, you enhance your organization’s ability to elevate your market position relative to your competitors. Leveraging the power of information through market research, competitive studies and consumer insights will allow you to make more informed decisions to drive greater market share and brand equity.

Effective marketing and positioning strategies – also known as maps+ – provide key insight into your organization’s market position (including where you are now and where you can be in the future), as well as your competencies and capacity, viable differentiators, opportunities and challenges, and more. From there, you can develop on-point marketing imperatives and tactical plans to improve your market positioning, and grow market share.

3. Analyze competing campaign messages and performance to fine-tune advertising strategies

Understanding your competitors’ market position, share of voice and advertising spend are critical knowledge points to making informed advertising decisions. According to Nielsen, a brand is more likely to gain market share if its share of voice is greater than its share of market. Simply put, increasing share of voice is essential to market share growth – but how do you increase share of voice?

A comprehensive competitive market profile leads to better, more proactive recommendations for your organization’s local advertising strategies. Timely, reliable data and creative samples from competing campaigns and market presence—including key positioning messages, share of voice, media mix, spend analyses and creative samples—are key to gaining traction in your local market through advertising.

A competitive market profile from ad atlas+ evaluates each competitor’s brand position and messaging strategies, matching them against the industry’s top consumer drivers to identify the space they claim in your market. These insights inform and assist your efforts to be more competitive and targeted with your media dollars.

Empower your organization by creating a healthier brand, formulating a smarter marketing and positioning strategy, and challenging the competition. Keep an eye on your competitors and identify new opportunities for differentiation or segmentation in your market. Through the use of data-driven insight, objective decision-making and highly strategic planning, you will be better equipped to reach your targets with pinpoint precision and ultimately drive market share, top of mind awareness and consumer preference.

Marketing Is Not a Department

Why Healthcare Marketing Leaders Need to Inspire Others in the Organization to Deliver on the Brand Promise

brand buildingWhen we present a strategic marketing plan to a hospital, for example, we start with a simple statement that has enormous value. It sets the tone for the entire data-driven document:

“The strategic marketing plan is a blueprint to support organization-wide growth. It is used by hospital and physician leadership, practice managers and the marketing department to guide the execution of organizational and marketing initiatives that will contribute to market share growth.”

In other words, marketing is not a department. While the quote above is specific to hospital marketing, the overarching concept is true for any healthcare organization. And our brand plans carry a similar message: brand is all about what an organization does. Everyone in the organization has a role in delivering brand authenticity – the behaviors and actions of everyone in the company come together to form the brand. When we emphasize this to clients, we see heads nodding, but few really understand what it means. Our job as healthcare marketing and branding experts is to make certain that leaders at our client organizations understand that brands are symbiotic with culture. Or, stated another way, brand building is not an initiative that belongs solely to the marketing team.

Today’s competitive healthcare market requires engagement throughout the organization to deliver on the brand promise. While the marketing department can strategically share the right message with the right audience using the right method, it is the experience each customer has with the organization that creates the brand. That’s because purchasing healthcare isn’t like purchasing your everyday product – it is far more complicated, involving far more moving parts. Before selecting a doctor or a hospital, consumers have to piece a lot of information together. They look at online ratings and reviews, social media posts from friends and neighbors, and content on health-related websites. They also have conversations with multiple people at the various hospitals and practices they are considering. Some of the information they obtain comes from communication created by a marketing department, but the vast majority is organically assembled by the experiences consumers have with the brand.

So, isn’t it logical for each person in your health organization to have a role in ensuring the right purchasing decisions are made? Logical, yes…but few outside the marketing team will claim responsibility for customer engagement, much less marketing.

A 2011 McKinsey Quarterly report summed it up nicely: “At the end the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product—it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience—it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.”

As such, everyone in a given organization needs to be accountable and universally accept that marketing is the organization. This is a notion that continues to challenge many in the healthcare space. For example, recently we were exploring how one of our healthcare clients might better engage his organization to deliver on the brand promise. While the employees were conceptually on board with the notion that everyone in the organization is accountable for delivering on the promise that is communicated by marketing, they expressed concern about who would ultimately be charged with driving market share growth. We explained the marketing leader is the catalyst – the individual responsible for fueling the company’s customer engagement engine, while the marketing team is responsible for designing, building and deploying new customer engagement approaches and brand-building strategies across the organization’s departments. The marketing leader must influence everyone at the organization – not just the marketing team – to row together, getting the organization further, faster. In doing so, the marketing leader creates brand ambassadors who exponentially increase the reach of the marketing team and engage employees in new ways that make them more vested in the organization’s performance.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is a clear and compelling business case for connecting with employees as brand advocates. Data show people want to hear from employees more than any other spokesperson on issues like organizational performance and business practices. Plus, an engaged workforce is typically happy to be part of the organization and willing to go the extra distance to help enhance the organization’s overall performance (especially when the company is engaged in societal issues, as our Chief Strategy Officer, Julie Amor, discussed recently in Corporate Social Engagement: What it Means for Healthcare Brands).

In today’s era of consumer engagement, marketing and branding are no longer the purview of a single department. As mentioned, your customers no longer separate marketing from the healthcare service – it is the service. After 24 years of helping healthcare clients deploy strategic marketing and brand plans, I encourage you to build a culture of brand authenticity and engage your entire organization in the role of delivering on your brand promise. It’s time to influence others in the organization—to coach them on effective customer engagement tactics and reward them for building tighter relationships with customers. Your customers will appreciate hearing directly from your employees and your leadership will appreciate the accountability to organizational performance.

Ready to Revitalize Your Healthcare Brand? You’ll love this Step-by-Step Checklist

brand scout+

Uniquely designed for healthcare marketers by healthcare marketers, brand scout+ is your source for essential information to guide your brand strategy. (Click to learn more.)

As healthcare leaders and marketers, we all know the importance of a healthy brand – and a healthy brand, like a healthy body, requires maintenance and dedication over time. What you convey about your brand – and what you hope others will embrace about your brand – must always align with the brand experience you actually deliver. To continuously build volume, preference and market share, sometimes you need to give your brand a thorough, objective evaluation.

When that time comes, you have two options: you can find a partner who specializes in healthcare branding, or manage and complete the work internally. There is no one-size-fits-all answer – it depends on an array of factors including your in-house capabilities and capacity. Make an informed decision about whether to DIY or outsource using the following checklist and questions to govern the brand assessment and strategy process:

1. Brand Audit: Measure current perception of your brand and your competition

Use surveys, in-depth interviews and local market studies to systematically assess your healthcare brand from these varying perspectives:

  • Your customers/patients
  • Your community stakeholders
  • Your healthcare leaders (executive team and board of directors)
  • Your employees (physicians, nurses, etc.)

Next, audit your communications. Ask yourself how authentically your healthcare organization appears in:

  • Advertising campaigns
  • Promotional materials and sales collateral
  • Web content and social media
  • Proposals and estimates
  • Customer communications
  • Internal communications

Then go one step further by assessing your competitions’ communications, which will provide insight to guide your decisions in step two.

2. Brand Differentiation: Create a sustainable value proposition

Based on current perceptions revealed in the brand audit, identify three key attributes that describe how you differ from your healthcare competitors. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a proven process to accurately identify what makes you stand out from the competition?
  • Can you objectively determine if the differentiators you identify are realistic and authentically different from the competition?
  • Can you readily determine actions your organization currently does that align with the brand differentiators you’ve identified?
  • Are you diving deep enough to uncover new opportunities for differentiation based on current gaps among consumer brands in your local marketplace?

3. Brand Strategy: Develop a one-page synthesis of your brand position

This internal use document should clearly and succinctly convey the following:

As you create your brand strategy document, ask yourself if it meets these important objectives:

  • Can the brand strategy be deployed as the filter for future business decisions?
  • Will your executive team use the brand filter when making key organizational/business decisions (e.g. capital purchases, new business development)?
  • How can your board of directors use the brand filter?
  • Is the document designed for organization-wide understanding and use? No jargon, no rambling – just the brand strategy in simplified terms to engage everyone.

4. Leadership Adoption: Roll out a process for ensuring what you actually do aligns with your brand differentiators

This is a critical step where your leaders outwardly refresh how they live the brand, and where they inspire others to follow suit:

  • Give your executive team key talking points and a 30-second elevator speech that stays on point with the brand strategy from start to finish.
  • Seize all opportunities to integrate that message into weekly employee communication.
  • Embed the differentiators in materials your executive team routinely uses.
  • Include your board of directors in this same process.

5. Touch Point Mapping: Devise a plan to ensure your employees live the brand

Create a matrix of current and planned behaviors for each department. Internal brand adoption takes time – and adequate guidance is essential. As you build the matrix, ask yourself:

  • How can you guide each department to live the brand throughout relevant daily activities? What your employees DO every single day, and what they say in every single customer conversation, needs to align with your brand promise and differentiators.
  • Are there significant changes that need to be made to ensure alignment?
  • Do you have a measurement system and/or incentives in place to ensure departments keep their commitments to living the brand?
  • Do you have visual aids throughout your departments as reminders of the brand promise?

6. Brand Champions: Identify brand-passionate employees to gain organization-wide support

Brand building extends far beyond your marketing department. Designate a group of employees to serve as brand champions who inspire others to live the brand. Ask yourself:

  • How do you want to appoint the brand champions – ask for volunteers or delegate?
  • Which employees are your best exemplars of the new brand?
  • How can you represent all departments?
  • How will the brand champions work together, and who will facilitate their work?
  • How will you empower the brand champions to take action and sustain their influence?
  • Should you set up a private Facebook group to facilitate virtual engagement with your brand champions?
  • What kick-off activities/events can you implement for the brand champions?

7. Internal Communication Strategy: Make a plan for internal roll-out

Establish a strategic and tactical plan for unveiling your new brand to key stakeholders, leadership and employees, and continuously reinforcing the brand across your healthcare organization. Questions to ask:

  • Does your plan include a top-down communication component?
  • How long will it take to gain internal adoption before you can take the new brand to market?
  • What tools can you develop to support the brand, and how can you integrate the new brand into existing employee materials?
  • Can you return to your communication audit to adapt internal versus external communication aids with ease?
  • How will you engage your brand champions in the internal communication strategy?
  • How frequently will executive leaders communicate about brand progress, and what mode of communication will they use?

8. Marketing Strategy: Develop strategies and tactics for external communication

When you are ready to launch the new brand externally, create a one- to three-year strategy and tactical calendar. Once you have collected data-driven insights for market share, market forces and growth potential for the organization and each of its key products or service lines:

  • Stratify your key brand messages by audience.
  • Align your in-market tactics and media plan with your external communication strategies.
  • Integrate across all communication channels.
  • Ensure consistency throughout, from external to internal brand elements.
  • Remember to use the brand strategy as a filter for your tactical decisions.

9. Creative Strategy and Execution: Bring your new brand to life with integrated creative materials

Create new content, complete with new design elements and visuals that align with the core purpose of your healthcare brand.

  • Translate the new brand in ways that communicate effectively with various demographic groups.
  • Give your color palette, fonts and images a brand boost.
  • Consider a common element or thread necessary to connect your old brand to your new one, ensuring your consumers understand your brand evolution.

10. Market Studies: Continuously measure your efforts and document competitive gains

To maintain a healthy brand, you must monitor:

  • Internal brand adoption
  • Improvements in external awareness and perception of your brand
  • Progress achieved in improving your brand’s competitive positioning

Brand building is a complex, interconnected process that requires authentic insight, objective decision-making and careful, sometimes even calculated effort. Whether embarking on a self-assessment or soliciting professional healthcare branding expertise, it is well worth the extra effort – bringing your brand back to life in the hearts and minds of your customers always is.

brand scout logoFor healthcare companies seeking professional branding expertise, we encourage you to learn more about brand scout+, an innovative product that delivers healthier brands.
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What is Your Superpower?

superhero-webIdentify Your Competitive Advantage

Believe it or not, you do have a superpower. Do you know what it is? That may seem like a silly question, but looking within yourself to identify your core strength is actually very empowering. Most people can put their fingers on their superpowers fairly quickly, with just a little introspection and perhaps a touch of feedback from their peers.

However, while the same is true for companies – that each organization has a core strength or purpose that sets it apart – many company leaders struggle to identify their organizations’ unique competitive advantages (a.k.a. superpowers). Those who can articulate their company’s superpower often do so in overly simple or extremely complex ways. If you think your superpower is nothing more than your company’s product or service, you’re oversimplifying. On the other hand, if you need several sentences to describe your superpower, you’re making it too complicated. The key is distilling your superpower down to ONE THING your company does differently from and/or better than anyone else in the industry.

In his book, The One Thing, author Gary Keller explains how there is “one thing” behind every successful person that helps him or her reach set objectives. “No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ‘one thing’ stands between you and your goals,” Keller writes. This statement can easily apply to the corporate environment in terms of focusing on an organization’s core business strength and purpose in the world.

For example, what do you think the “superpower” is behind brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Dove? Here are my speculations:

  • Coke: We make people smile.
  • Nike: We inspire people.
  • Dove: We empower beauty.

With those examples in mind, what would you say is your company’s superpower? Do you save lives? Do you expand knowledge? Do you improve health? Do you empower people to make better decisions? A word of advice: Avoid the temptation to say “all of the above” – you can’t be better than the rest at everything you do. In other words, before you can do everything well, you have to do someTHING exceptionally well – what’s that one thing?

In our work with companies across the healthcare industry, we have found one of the biggest barriers to identifying an organization’s superpower is a lack of a data-driven processes. Data often reveal the true story, offering factual, unbiased insights that help define the unique point of competitive differentiation. When companies know and understand their unique competitive advantages, it gives focus and meaning to how they move forward, ensuring their actions support their core missions and live up to the full potential of their superpowers.

As healthcare branding experts, we cannot overemphasize that brand differentiation and market positioning require a firm grasp on your competitive advantages and customer expectations. Conduct research and look closely at your health organization’s data to discover exactly who and where your customers are, what they want, and how to reach them in meaningful ways. To do that, you must think beyond what your product or service IS, and focus instead on what it DOES for your customers.

What is the Difference Between a Brand Promise and Mission Statement?

Brand promise vs. mission statementFor some, distinguishing a company’s brand from its mission statement can be confusing. During brand sessions with clients, someone in the C-suite will usually ask, “Why do we need a brand promise when we have a vision and mission statement?” Given the way we define brand, I can understand the confusion. Both are all about what you do, but their foundations and purposes are not the same.

You create a mission statement to describe what your company does from an internal perspective, often to inspire and motivate your employees.

A brand promise, on the other hand, is externally focused. It is crafted to hold your company accountable for delivering a consistent customer experience.

At Dobies Healthcare Group, we tend to be rather zealous about our definition of brand. To emphasize that brand is not encapsulated in a logo, tagline, slogan or campaign, we repeatedly say, “Brand is what you do – it’s how you present yourself every day and how your customers experience your company.” It starts with the promise you make to your customers – but your ability to keep your promise ultimately determines the health of your brand. In other words, your brand is the culmination of expectations your customers form over time based on your actions. It is an intangible asset that lives in the hearts and minds of your customers. Your customers are emotionally connected to your brand.

Your mission statement should emotionally connect your employees to your company. Your mission statement describes what the company does, and, hopefully, gives your employees a very good reason to wake up and come to work every day. A good mission statement distills what your company does into a couple of sentences and underscores your organization’s purpose.

For example, our mission statement at Dobies Healthcare Group underscores two things. First of all, we come to work every day because we fundamentally believe our work makes a difference in how people think about health. The creative messages we send into the airwaves for a community hospital, for instance, inspire consumers to take their health more seriously. Sometimes we compel consumers to choose a primary care physician or schedule their heart risk assessments; other times, we educate consumers about how to find, use and understand hospital quality data. We help them think differently about their health.

Secondly, we succeed when our strategy, words and designs inspire people to make better, more informed decisions about health and contribute to improved care and quality of life for patients. For one of our medical device manufacturer clients, we showcase how automation in anatomic pathology reduces errors, streamlines workflow and ultimately gets patients an accurate cancer diagnosis quicker than ever before. Simply put, our work illuminates the better decision.

What about our brand promise? We promise to always engage strategy first. No matter how big or how small the assignment may be, “strategy first” is what we do every day. Our clients expect it. They know they can count on us to uphold our brand promise by infusing strategy into everything we do. And we know that consistently delivering on those client expectations is an essential aspect of our brand health.

What about your healthcare company? What is the expectation you want your customers to form about your organization, and how do you intend to equip and inspire your employees to make that happen? Your mission statement and brand promise, when crafted carefully and strategically, are the firsts of many essential steps, touch points, actions and communications that together comprise your brand.

Healthcare Branding Series: How to Make the Most of your Healthcare Brand in 2015

It’s a new year! If your goal is to improve your hospital or healthcare practice brand in 2015, we have several tips to get you started on a path to success. This week’s topic is what it means to live your brand.

Living your Brand: Why, How, What and Who

Live your brandWhen you communicate a brand promise, you create expectations – meaning, your brand is much more than the advertising messages you convey. For your healthcare brand to be authentic, your patients and visitors must have experiences and interactions that align with your message. For example, if you say you excel at patient satisfaction but your front-line staff sometimes delivers less-than-stellar service, your organization is not living its brand. Pay attention to how well the real patient experience aligns with your brand promise. If you find anything lacking, make the changes necessary to improve and follow through. And remember, outcomes aren’t everything, so focus on patient needs beyond clinical care as well.

Start by educating employees on what your brand stands for and how they contribute to its authenticity (or lack thereof). Use touch point mapping to guide this process, which means plotting consumer interactions or experiences with your organization to more conclusively capture and understand every opportunity for improvement. You can use this approach to identify employees who already do a good job of putting your core values on display, and designate them as brand ambassadors. They can act as role models for co-workers on how to live the brand. Ideally, when done correctly, every employee will become a brand champion in time.

Improving your hospital or practice brand is a complex undertaking, so you won’t see changes over night. These tips can get you started, but it takes some time to enhance consumer perception of your organization. We encourage you to check out our next topics in this series:

Rolling Out Our Brand New Logo

The story behind our new look & what it means for healthcare marketers

Can you spot what’s different about us? Hint: look in the upper left corner of your screen.

We have a new logo!

We are VERY excited because our new logo illustrates something unique about us: our three-part process for making companies healthier. Known as Discover-Connect-Promote, this process is an integral part of what we do and how we make healthcare brands come to life.

For years, Discover-Connect-Promote has played a big role in how we present ourselves in the market. We talk about it on our website, we explain it in our proposals, and we feature it in our company brochure. Having proved itself successful time and time again over the last two decades, it seemed natural for us to build this process into our signature look. With its graphical element that combines what we do with who we are, our new logo is smart, contemporary and fun…just like us!

So, what do we mean by Discover-Connect-Promote exactly? When we apply this three-part approach, we make everything come together seamlessly for healthy returns on our clients’ marketing investments:
Discover-Connect-Promote process image

First, we discover the difference. We dig deep to uncover what makes each client unique. We look closely at all the right data to explore where the target customers are, what they want, and how to reach them in meaningful ways. Brand differentiation requires a firm grasp on current positioning and customer expectations, so we listen, we probe, and when necessary, we challenge. We engage at a deeper level than most because we want our clients to succeed.

Next, we connect the dots. Most clients select us for this very reason: we think and operate strategically. In addition to market research and trends, our planning considers operational readiness, competitive reactions and more. Because we lead with marketing strategy, we connect everything we do to the client organization’s business plan.

And finally, we promote what works. We make brands come alive by blending strategic thinking with creative campaigns and communications. Clever advertising in and of itself rarely produces long-term results – that’s why our creative campaigns build on the client’s brand promise and align with the organization’s strategic priorities. By taking the time to discover the difference and connect the dots before creating ad campaigns, we ensure we’re promoting what works to captivate customers where they live, work and play…each and every time.

And there you have it! That’s the story behind our new logo and what it means for healthcare marketers who partner with us for marketing, branding and advertising initiatives. What do you think of our new look? Let us know in the comments!

Emotional Branding in Healthcare

Be Authentic. Align Experience with your Brand PromiseAs any successful healthcare marketer can attest, advertising alone does not build emotional connections with healthcare consumers. Patients need to personally experience “compassionate, personalized care” when they interact with your brand, or what you’re promoting simply isn’t true.

To connect emotionally in ways that build affinity and loyalty, make it authentic by carrying that connection through the entire patient experience. Research shows the difference between having ‘emotionally connected’ customers, as opposed to those who are just ‘highly satisfied,’ can be measured in dollars and cents. Through those measurements, we see emotional connections create more valuable customers. For the skeptics out there, consider this:

A recent article, called Making Better Marketing Decisions: A Left-Brain Argument for the Right Brain, examines the potential for emotional drivers to increase profitability in major consumer industries. The author cites an example from the banking sector, in which scientific research and mathematical modeling were used to reach an accurate understanding of the specific attributes that drive purchase and loyalty behaviors. For banks, the data showed that, compared to highly satisfied customers, “emotionally connected customers own more banking products, carry higher credit card balances and advocate for their bank’s brand more often.” As a result, data further suggest an estimated $14.2 million boost in net present value profit is on the table when the number of emotionally connected customers grows from one to five percent.

Granted, banking is different from healthcare, but the overarching lesson is the same: healthcare marketers need to tap into emotions and right-brain functions in their marketing and branding strategies. For an off-the-cuff case study in what emotional branding can look like in healthcare, let’s briefly explore what they’re doing at the Cleveland Clinic health system:

With an executive team that includes a Chief Experience Officer and strategic priorities aimed at improving the patient experience, the Cleveland Clinic has made great strides since 2009 at connecting emotionally with consumers. After taking a deep, data-driven dive into the hearts and minds of their consumers, leadership began making operational changes to enhance the experience they deliver. Non-clinical touch points like patient scheduling, facility aesthetics and an emphasis on addressing patient fears and concerns have all been improved. They also adopted a new clinical model that has multidisciplinary specialists collaborating seamlessly on patient care, which enhances the patient experience on multiple levels from convenience to well-coordinated care.

In other words, the Cleveland Clinic’s patient experience now extends far beyond the medical outcomes it has long been known for, and into other areas where the experience feels less about clinicians treating patients and more about people helping people.

With its reputation for looking after patients’ physical AND emotional well-being, the Cleveland Clinic can now authentically convey its ability to treat patients as individuals with unique concerns, lifestyles and circumstances. If the Clinic distributed this widely viewed “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care” video four years ago, however, the message would’ve fallen flat because the patient experience in 2009 did not reflect the genuine understanding and compassion so eloquently depicted in the video. Now, with an elevated patient experience to back it up, the message is resonating well with people, as evidenced by the video’s nearly 100,000 views on YouTube and countless shares on other social sites.

If you’re not already taking strategic steps to create emotionally connected customers, you can’t afford to wait. The concept is taking hold within the healthcare industry, so build personalized, meaningful bonds with your patients now before your competition beats you to it. Because once an emotional bond is made, it’s hard to persuade that customer to try another brand…and that’s the whole point.

Building a New Brand

Our Clients' Authentic Brand AtrributesLast week, one of our clients unveiled their new brand to employees. It was an amazing day for the associates who joined the company meeting to hear the long-awaited announcement. The CEO and partners presented our branding approach and explained the work we undertook to arrive at the new corporate identity and, more importantly, the new brand.

The process they described wasn’t just about selecting a new name and tagline. It was about emerging in the market under a new brand, with a new brand promise and set of brand attributes that will differentiate the company for years to come. Employees were fascinated by the process, and the message really resonated with them when the CEO described brand as “what you do.”

This excerpt from the CEO’s script shows how she outlined our process:

“When we started, we engaged Dobies Healthcare Group to help us with this process. You will recall the survey you all took. Carol asked you about words and phrases. She asked you how decisions were made and what type of environment you worked in. She asked you how we dealt with mistakes and about our organization’s personality.

She also asked us [the leadership team] about what we wanted as leaders, how we made decisions and how we thought about our company.

She walked us through a Branding Framework. We talked about how we wanted our company to run. We looked at organizations that have an Expert Brand, such as BMW, Mayo Clinic and Apple. They stand out as the industry’s preeminent leaders.

We looked at organizations that are customer-centric and customized, such as Lands’ End, Zappos, and Target. They try to make their clients a part of who they are; they include their customers in their brand experience. And we talked about Authentic Brands, such as Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Ben and Jerry’s. Their products make peoples’ lives better; they support growth and help the customer be better.

The idea behind the Branding Framework is that an organization will have trouble delivering on its brand if the styles of leadership aren’t in line with brand attributes…

I am very proud to have led the leadership team through this branding process. I watched them weave very different leadership styles together to arrive at a singular authentic strategic intention (brand platform). Using findings from employee interviews and leadership/culture indexes, they discovered the key behaviors that were keepers and those that needed to be jettisoned with the old name. Although it was a lot of hard work, they had a tremendous amount of fun as they turned “NewCo” into a dynamic new brand.

I can hardly wait to share the new brand with you and reveal more details about the brand promise and corporate identity. But, now is not the time. Over the next six to eight weeks, leadership will lead each department through a series of meetings to discover and adopt touch points aligned with the brand. During this time, work groups will deliver new systems and processes. Staff will get comfortable with new key messages, and hundreds of items will be reprinted with the new company identity.