If you have recently launched a new brand at your healthcare organization, you are well aware that your brand is not a logo – your brand is an intangible asset that resides in people’s hearts and minds. It is defined by expectations developed over time though communication and, more importantly, through actions.
While you have good reason to celebrate a successful launch, it is important to know the public unveiling of your new brand is only the beginning. Maintaining what you’ve created is a continuous journey of aligning operations with communications to ensure you continuously deliver an authentic brand promise.
Here are five guiding principles to sustaining your brand:
1. Be a visible leader.
Effective leadership is like oxygen for your brand. It is an essential driving force that ultimately determines whether your employees live your brand promise, and whether your customers experience it.
Take every opportunity as a leader to demonstrate commitment to your brand in words as well as actions, promoting an aligned, shared vision across the organization. Integrate your key talking points into all employee communications. Reinforce your commitment at executive and board meetings by including brand strategy as an ongoing agenda item. Reiterate what differentiates your product or service, and work to ensure those points of differentiation continuously elevate your brand above the competition. Use your brand strategy as a key filter for business decisions, keeping the big picture in mind as you guide your organization in delivering your brand promise. Hold your organization accountable for delivering on the brand promise every day.
2. Measure, measure, measure.
When you developed your new brand strategy, you did so with data from surveys, in-depth interviews and local market studies. You gathered information from your customers, community stakeholders, industry leaders and employees. Similarly, as you work to keep your brand strategy sustainable, it is important to continue gathering input and measuring perceptions.
Insights from data help redefine differentiators, invigorate key messages, rally your team around a brand promise and execute an authentic brand experience that makes positive emotional connections with customers.
Consider a results dashboard to track and trend key data that provide the insight needed to maintain brand authenticity. For hospitals, metrics might include quality indicators, customer engagement activity, brand awareness levels and customer feedback.
3. Keep an eye on competitive activity.
You spent significant time and money developing your new brand strategy and the marketing materials to support it. Your competitors noticed, and they are likely taking action to ensure they’re not left behind. They may be adjusting growth strategies and geographic focus. They may be altering their marketing and advertising plans, possibly increasing their media spending to reduce your share of voice and share of market. Some of this activity will be readily apparent; some will not. It is imperative that you know what your competition is doing in the marketplace and how customers are reacting.
Acquiring competitive information may require significant time and resources to collect and interpret. Hospitals can consider products like SOViews+, which is updated annually. SOViews+ consolidates and synthesizes the information health systems and hospitals need to make informed, strategic marketing and advertising investments. Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to dedicate time and effort to understand competitive market activity.
In the healthcare industry, NRC Health’s Market Insights provides detailed customer perception reports that can be customized to compare your system or hospital to a distinct set of competitors. This information, updated monthly, is a valuable resource for understanding how your brand is performing. Regardless of your segment of the health industry, measuring customer perception is essential to understanding what actions you will need to undertake as you continue your rebranding journey.Your #HospitalBrand is a valuable business asset. Maintain & evolve what you have created. Click To Tweet
4. Ensure culture is your brand driver.
The health of your brand internally (your culture) is as important as customer perception and competitive activity – perhaps more so – because brand is a byproduct of culture. To promote and encourage internal brand adoption:
- Maintain cultural and strategic alignment. Understanding and embracing the link between strategy, culture and brand is key. Your organization’s culture is inspired through leaders and demonstrated through core values. It is a powerful strategic asset and a sustainable differentiator that requires ongoing focus and commitment.
- Enlist internal brand advocates. Branding extends far beyond the marketing department – brand advocates can and should span all levels and departments within your organization. These individuals can encourage a shared sense of purpose, keep others focused on the brand strategy and help implement tactical components to fulfill the brand promise.
- Audit internal brand adoption. Ask your brand advocates to track key desired behaviors. Provide clear guidelines on the activities and cultural attributes you want employees to demonstrate. Empower employees to innovate to deliver products, services and experiences that align with your brand promise.
- Adhere to your visual brand guidelines. Although you likely inventoried your corporate identity assets and brand presence as part of your rebranding effort, there are ample opportunities for branding oversights or mishaps. Create and distribute a simple brand identity checklist for everyone to follow. Be sure your new logo, tagline, tone, color palette and other visual elements are followed consistently. Be diligent about it, and engage your brand advocates and other passionate team members to assist in this effort.
5. Continue to tell your brand’s story.
Preserving brand health involves telling the brand story at every meaningful opportunity. Encourage employees at all levels of your organization to refer to your brand talking points as they communicate in person, online, over the phone and every other touch point for connecting with consumers. Lead by example.
Take talking points a step further by developing a compelling story about your brand. According to Harvard Business Review, stories are essential in today’s information-rich (and often data-overloaded) environment. Telling stories creates “sticky” memories when emotion is embedded in the story. Take time to develop a narrative around your brand that creates memorable and positive associations. What is the inspiration behind your brand? What specific challenge(s) have you overcome that made your brand what it is today? What role do your employees play in that brand story? What role do your customers play?
Your brand is one of your most valuable business assets. Invest time and energy to maintain and evolve what you have created. Keep your brand healthy through strong leadership and close attention to consumer and competitive activity as your healthcare business grows and transforms. Look for opportunities to strengthen your brand internally, and continue to share the meaning and purpose of your brand to enhance connections with your customers. Your efforts will be rewarded with loyalty and preference, both internally and externally.
As a side note for healthcare organizations that wish to embark on a rebranding journey but seek expert guidance through the process, brand scout+ is an excellent resource for leaders to consider. Learn more in this blog post on revitalizing your brand.
About the Author
Carol Dobies is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 25 years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.