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.

Three Solutions for Navigating Market Changes in Healthcare

picture of boat on the oceanNo other industry has seen quite the magnitude of change as healthcare. Today, nearly every facet of the industry is radically transforming as our core business focus shifts from illness to prevention. Providers and vendors are forced to transform their practices as they secure a meaningful role in the industry.

As I recently shared in an interview with the Kansas City Business Journal, “It always used to be about healthcare, and now we’re seeing it morph into life care … being able to take care of patients beyond just when they’re ill, but keeping them healthy for a lifetime.”

To build a sustainable and adaptable healthcare company in the midst of this changing market, healthcare executives should focus on strategy in three core areas: leadership, culture and fully integrated, consumer-centric care models. Let’s examine each of these three areas in more detail:

1. Complementary and strategic leadership

The right mix of personalities in the right executive positions at the right stages of growth is critical, especially in an industry undergoing widespread disruption like healthcare. In the book, Rocket Fuel, authors Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters describe the explosive combination of two seemingly opposite roles: the Visionary and the Integrator.

The Visionary is the dreamer, the champion for innovation, the person who looks at the big picture and provides passion and inspiration to others. The Integrator is the complementary force to the Visionary, responsible for governing day-to-day issues, aligning the team with goals and engaging with clients. As the degree of market complexity increases, so too does the organization’s need to be a “visionary” in its approach and an “integrator” in its execution. By clearly defining these roles in your organization – and delegating responsibilities that take advantage of each individual’s strengths – will you be able to clear the obstacles keeping you from achieving your strategic goals.

2. Focus on culture

Chances are the vast majority of your employees come to work each day motivated by the good they can do in the lives of patients and those seeking information about healthcare. That mission to make a difference is a powerful ally because your culture is closely connected to your brand.

The rise and influence of the Millennial generation in the workforce is making the need for that cultural connection more prevalent than ever before. A 2015 Fast Company article reports that 50 percent of Millennials would take a pay cut to find a job and/or company that matches their values, and 90 percent of them want to use their skills for good.

The opportunity to use social responsibility as a brand platform is potentially very powerful, both externally and internally. Healthcare organizations can embrace corporate social engagement as a strategy for building brands, fostering loyalty and enhancing employee recruitment and retention. Your mission hasn’t changed despite the market transformation, but now is the time to truly integrate your mission with your culture and live your brand.

3. Emerging care models expand to focus on health and life

The visionary leader goes beyond the “sick care” model to establish a fully integrated, consumer-centric model of health and life services. Organizations must pivot to offering community-based services that encourage consumers to adopt new, healthy lifestyles. This means digitally connecting with consumers where they live, work and play using innovative telehealth options.

Think of it as putting a personal care provider in everyone’s pocket, extending care via smartphones to where it is most convenient for consumers. Or envision building a community -based continuum of healthcare and life services through public-private partnerships to emphasize access to healthy foods, fitness and health education—so much so that it becomes pervasive in people’s lives.

Virtual connectivity also encourages thinking beyond your immediate neighborhoods and examining the potential to directly contract or build referral agreements with specialty care centers across the U.S. for high acuity and complex chronic care conditions. As your organization embraces these and other new models of care, it is imperative that leaders adapt your organization’s culture and brand accordingly while empowering the whole team to skate to the new puck.

Look to the Future

Healthcare leaders must watch trends and study data to learn more about the market’s evolution—but they must also go further to find insights buried deep in the data and figure out what to do with them. In other words, you must be able to answer the age-old question, so what? Determine what matters amidst all the change and disruption. Take time to understand the transformation in the market and how best to adapt. Then, use that knowledge to drive results-oriented and future-focused change at your organization, and bring this new health model to life. The successful organization in the new healthcare world needs the vision to see the future, the flexibility to adapt to it, and a clear strategy to bring itself safely through it.

Carol Dobies is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for more than 25 years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on the Facebook page.

The Dynamic Between Share of Voice & Share of Market

An Infographic for Hospital Marketers

Share of voice is a critical metric for consumer marketing. Quite often, when hospitals evaluate share of voice and competitive positioning in the context of the full competitive landscape, they find their ad spend is not enough. Why? Because increasing share of voice is essential to market share growth.

For example, if your hospital is the local brand leader, excess share of voice is a worthwhile investment because it supports greater gains in market share than it does for competing brands. Likewise, if you’re competing against a brand leader, your advertising strategies need to be several times more effective than the brand leader’s to grow market share. The following infographic explains the dynamic between share of voice and share of market in more detail:

Ad Atlas Infographic: Share of Voice-Share of Market

Click to download the infographic.

The key to creating and executing effective ad strategies is data. To learn more, scroll to the top of this page to download our Strategy Brief: The Hospital Marketer’s Guide to Smart Advertising Strategies. For the tools you need to analyze your positioning and guide your hospital’s advertising strategies, it’s time to discover ad atlas+.

Breaking Through the Noise

Optimize your share of voice to grow market share

As a healthcare marketing leader, you know how noisy the competitive landscape can be. As the industry shifts toward a consumer-centric healthcare marketplace, it seems every hospital and health system is vying for the same patients—and they all have advertising dollars devoted to buying the largest megaphone.

In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are bombarded by advertising messages at every turn; one estimate suggests consumers are subject to 3,000 to 5,000 messages each day. Healthcare is no exception, so what is your strategy for determining reach, frequency, and key messages to best position your healthcare organization? After all, if you’re in the orchestra, it’s better to play the trumpet than the piccolo.

Amplify Your Voice for Bigger Gains

Clever ads alone rarely produce sustainable results, so the relationship between your ad buying strategy and your market share growth should be treated with care. It is important to understand the correlation between share of voice (SOV) – defined as your organization’s percentage of the total media buying in your industry for a specific time period – and share of market (SOM), which is your percent of the total revenue for that same time period. You probably already know your market share, but your SOV can be more complex. Knowing your SOV relative to your competitors, however, can be critical to your strategic advertising efforts for top-line growth.

The Nielsen Company published research that sheds light on this relationship between SOV and SOM. They found that with everything else equal, you are more likely to gain market share if your SOV is larger than your SOM. This “excess” share of voice is shown to have a very direct effect—an increase of 0.5 percent additional market share when your SOV is 10 points higher than your SOM.

Of course, rarely is the math that simple. The same research found that a lot of factors play into this, including the size of your brand, whether you are the brand leader in your industry or a brand “challenger,” and of course, the level of sophistication in your creative campaign. If you are the brand leader, for example, a 10-point differential can net you as much as a 1.4 percent market share boost.

Even with multiple variables, savvy healthcare organizations can still make this research work for them. Dave Beckert, a media planner, gives this advice:

“Smart marketers investment spend (SOV slightly exceeds SOM) to some degree to deter attack. To show major gains in SOM, you must create or exploit disequilibrium … using advertising spending as an offensive weapon, based upon an analysis of the competitive situation.”

Use the Right Tool for the Job

As the former VP of Marketing for a major academic medical center, I cannot overemphasize how necessary it is to have competitive market data driving strategic recommendations for media planning and creative concept development. In addition to providing the foundation of those recommendations, I needed the competitive data to secure support for the marketing and advertising budgets I proposed. The only problem was that collecting a comprehensive market analysis of competitors was incredibly arduous and time-consuming.

Now, that’s no longer true. The need for robust competitive market data is still great, but the work that goes into creating those market profiles is not, thanks to an innovative product called ad atlas+.

ad atlas+ for smarter healthcare advertising (screen capture)

Click to enlarge image and learn more.

Custom designed for hospitals and health systems, ad atlas+ packages comprehensive competitive market profiles into a single interactive tool, empowering you to view and compare what competitors are saying in your local market with only a few clicks. ad atlas+ lets you watch competing television spots, click through banner ads, hear radio promos, view print ads and more. Additionally, ad atlas+ provides a market analysis of each hospital’s key positioning messages, SOV and ad spend. These analyses provide much-needed clarity and the competitive advantage to aid in capturing a larger SOV for your healthcare organization.

I recommend ad atlas+ because it was designed for healthcare marketers by healthcare marketers, and it offers meaningful insight to guide healthcare advertising strategies. You can finally answer such questions as, Should we be buying magazine display ads? and Will that many TV spots even make a difference? ad atlas+ gives you the power to see your local market differently – and when you can stand up and see who is playing in the orchestra, you can finally decide if you need to pick up a louder horn. If you’re a healthcare marketer, that should be music to your ears.

Julie Amor is the Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare and has more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on our Facebook page.

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.

Corporate Social Engagement: What It Means for Healthcare Brands

corporate social engagementWhat do toothpaste, beer, shoes and hospitals have in common? A mission to do good. If you have been watching television or online ads lately, you may have noticed an upward trend of companies infusing corporate social responsibility into their brands. Corporate social responsibility refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society. However, it is often viewed as a corporate-driven, top-down, obligatory duty that does not connect employees with the mission of the company.

Thanks in large part to the influence of Millennials (those born between 1980 and the early 2000s) in the workforce, corporate social responsibility is transitioning to a more palatable approach called corporate social engagement—a thoughtful, mission-driven approach that brings companies and employees together to make a greater social impact.

While corporations have a long history of writing checks to support charitable organizations, efforts to truly engage and inspire employees to be part of the cause have historically been lackluster. Only recently has engagement become an expectation for companies seeking to build their brands, improve customer loyalty, and attract and retain talent.

In fact, Unilever—a marketing firm representing some of the world’s most recognized brands—has added social purpose to its own brand positioning, even making it their primary brand platform.

This shift in advertising has been quite apparent, with companies promoting their causes rather than their products. For example:

  • You may have seen Colgate® toothpaste recently use Super Bowl 50 to shine a spotlight on the need and value of water conservation. In its 30-second television spot, the company encourages people to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth to “make every drop count.”
  • Stella Artois, a Belgian beer company, launched their “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign, a new initiative aimed at ending women’s journeys to fetch water.
  • TOMS® has long promoted itself as a “One for One” company. As explained on the company’s website, every time a TOMS product is purchased, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth and/or bullying prevention services to people in need around the world.

It is not hard to see the trend. Millennials are driving a consumer economy focused on sustaining the world—and their influence has grown. The Millennial population as a whole has surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And in 2015, with 53.5 million strong, Millennials became the largest share of the American workforce, according to Pew Research Center.

So how does all this fit in with healthcare? Hospitals and healthcare companies by nature have a mission to do good. Using social responsibility as a brand platform is an opportunity ripe for the taking. Like the companies featured above, healthcare organizations can embrace corporate social engagement as a strategy for building brands, fostering loyalty, and enhancing recruitment.

Corporate social engagement as a brand and loyalty strategy

Millennials choose products and services provided by companies that are committed to making a difference in the world.

In fact, a recent Nielsen survey found 55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions.

Consumer attributes common among Millennials include:

  • Active and highly participatory
  • Value corporate affiliation with a social cause
  • Seek brands with benefits beyond the bottom line
  • Believe companies and individuals should work together for greater social impact
  • Want to be actively engaged to do good in the world

Healthcare is about engaging consumers and gaining lifetime loyalty, in part, by sharing the story of how your health organization is making the world a better, healthier place. Healthcare organizations can expand their brand platforms by using cause-marketing to drive brand affinity.

Corporate social engagement as a recruitment strategy

A 2014 Bentley University study of more than 3,100 people found that Millennials are not as enthusiastic about entering the business world as they should be, considering the demand for them in the workforce. This could be in part because Millennials have a negative perception of traditional businesses. As a result, Millennials say they seek out employers who are committed to social responsibility:

  • 85% prefer to work for a socially responsible or ethical company
  • 95% prefer to work for a company with a positive corporate reputation
  • 91% prefer to work for an employer based on social impact efforts

We are just beginning to see the Millennial influence in our workforce. What is taking root now is likely to grow and spread and flourish—it’s not just a passing trend. After all, the oldest Millennials are still in the early stages of their careers. It would be surprising if they didn’t bring major changes as they continue to join the workforce and advance into positions of influence. With the healthcare industry facing an impending workforce shortage, healthcare organizations can attract and retain a talented workforce by inspiring employees to become loyal employees, brand ambassadors and engaged consumers simply by doing what they want to do: change the world.

Infusing corporate social engagement into your brand

Corporate social engagement is not simply about making monetary donations. It has to be meaningful to employees and the cause must relate to the mission of the organization. Without a strategy for corporate social engagement, employees can become disconnected from the cause and lose interest in the mission. Based on my experience, the most successful corporate social engagement strategies include a three-way approach, offering employees options: giving money to a corporate-sponsored cause, joining a corporate-sponsored community initiative, and/or extending care into the community through corporate-sponsored community service.

Using this strategic approach in a purposeful, mission-driven manner will position your health organization to do more than provide care, services or products – it will engage employees in becoming brand ambassadors who are happy to be part of the organization and build a brand that extends beyond its core services. As a healthcare marketing strategist, I see infinite possibilities for the healthcare industry to build a brand platform on corporate social engagement. Enlist your employees to expand your corporate footprint by giving, joining and serving in order to make an honest impact in your communities.

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.

Five Ways Millennials Empower Us to be Better Healthcare Marketers

MillennialsConsumer healthcare marketers know millennials – generally defined as people born between 1980 and the early 2000s – are one of the most challenging segments to win over. There are countless blogs and articles about how millennials think, how to reach them and how to motivate them to act. So let’s turn the conversation around and take a moment to look at how the millennial generation has made us work harder and smarter – and in doing so, helped us become more effective healthcare marketers.

Here are some of the top characteristics of millennials we should all truly appreciate:

  1. Millennials are entitled.

This is an opinion you will find on any online search for information about millennials. It doesn’t sound like a positive attribute, but their sense of entitlement is building higher expectations in healthcare and contributing to the industry’s need to be more patient-centric. Millennials want to make informed decisions about health—and they want it to be easily accessible on their desktops and mobile devices. They want virtual care models, text message notifications and online appointment setting. They demand convenience and often refuse to wait, which is contributing to the rise of more urgent care outlets, forcing traditional physician practices and hospitals to rethink their patient experiences.

  1. Millennials have natural truth detectors.

Millennials are very perceptive and quick to identify when advertisers are giving it to them straight – and when they are not. As a healthcare marketer, you must avoid corporate speak and be authentic with your messaging. Otherwise, you put your brand at risk of poor social media reviews. After all, millennials feel it is their right and moral obligation to protect the social good by sharing experiences and observations online.

  1. Millennials take a stand against campaign messages that conflict with their values.

Millennials support creative messages and brands that align with their values. Remember GoDaddy’s controversial puppy commercial planned for the 2015 Super Bowl? After a preview of the spot aired on a popular talk show, social media exploded with outrage over the ad. The company pulled the spot the very same day. If the creative aspect of an ad isn’t relevant, timely, tasteful, concise and compelling, it will fail quickly in the eyes of millennials.

  1. Millennials lead technology adoption.

Marketing has always been on the leading edge of technology that facilitates connections between people and companies. Today we are learning a great deal from millennials. They are self-assigned researchers and testers of new digital technology, especially social media and mobile apps. Engaging target audiences on mobile devices has never been more crucial because more than 85% of millennials now use smartphones. That’s why, as a healthcare marketer, you must always consider mobile strategies with ease of access, simple messages and fresh content.

  1. Millennials do their research.

Millennials like to learn the facts. In a matter a minutes, they will determine if an organization, physician or product is worth their consideration. Providers who are very transparent with price, quality and outcomes data will have an advantage over competitors who are less forthcoming with information. The assumption is if organizations aren’t sharing this data, they must not be proud of it.

There is much to be said for the qualities of millennials. Although some may be perceived as challenging, I find they stand up for what they believe, want and need. Most of all, they are raising the standards for healthcare marketers and providers. As healthcare marketing professionals, it is up to us to step to the plate and deliver the information millennials need to make informed decisions about health. If we don’t, I’m sure we’ll hear about it.

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.