Branding is a strategy designed to establish a unique (brand) position for a product or service in the minds of your customers. Tactical elements for implementing this strategy include identity development, design architecture, advertising, sales promotion, operational enhancements, signage, and the list goes on.
There, I’ve said it. Had to get that out of my system after reading so many new blogs and articles about branding in the last few weeks. While I’m glad to see a resurgence in the term, there are still too many definitions and interpretations of what branding means. But this is to be expected as the dynamics and tools of the marketing communications field are fast-changing, especially in hospital branding.
The promotional component of the brand strategy has also changed. Brand communications, on the heels of an explosive third dimension based on Internet usage, is now entering the Fourth Dimension. Here’s how the evolution has unfolded:
Dimension 1: Communicating the brand through traditional, off-line media. Depending on your goals, this is still a viable way to reach your consumers and create ‘heart and soul’ around your brand. Super Bowl commercials work at the highest level in this regard to create an emotional connection to a brand.
Dimension 2: Out-of-Home Media. As the population moved around, so did traditional advertising. From bus shelters to outdoor boards, baseball stadiums to theaters, reaching consumers where “they live” outside of their homes rounded out traditional advertising methodologies. Out-of-home is still a much practiced and practical approach to reaching consumers while they are on the road.
Dimension 3: On-line and Mobile. You know the facts of the digital world, its impact, and growth history. Brand promotions via your on-line, social, and web strategies make branding a 3-D proposition that complement the first two dimensions. The Pew Research Center recently released a report entitled “Digital Life in 2025.” Fifteen theses are discussed, and all are fascinating. Here are two that struck me as most relevant for hospital marketing strategies: 1) Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity… and 2) Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.
Dimension 4: Immersive Experiences. Welcome to the Fourth Dimension. J. Walter Thompson, one of the world’s largest and most influential marketing agencies, publishes an annual list of influential trends. In 2014, number one on the list is “immersive experiences.” The study suggests that brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention. Several factors are cited as contributing to this trend; better, cheaper technology, a generational shift, the demand for experiences over material things, shareable experiences, and delivery from distraction.
Think about how brands are immersing themselves into your daily life.
From music, movies, and shopping experiences, this art of branding is all around us. Oscar Meyer bacon has an app that wakes you up in the morning with the sound of bacon crackling and an accompanying scent! Entertainment experiences put a priority on the “wow” factor. According to the study, 71% of adults say that they like it when brands actively attempt to capture their imagination. For healthcare branding folks, the immersive experience is only beginning. According to Aron Roberts, software developer at the University of California-Berkeley, “we may well see wearable devices and/or home and workplace sensors that can help us make ongoing lifestyle changes and provide early detection for disease risks, not just disease.”
The Fourth Dimension adds a whole new set of big ideas to the concept of branding. Here are some questions to ask your team as you delve into it:
- How can I turn events into experiences?
- Am I using technology in the most powerful ways?
- Do I have “wow” factors built into on-site experiences?
- How can I improve traditional and on-line strategies to make them more interactive and immersive?
The digital revolution clearly added another dimension to the strategy of branding. And it didn’t end there. Wearable objects…scented apps…”wow” experiences….we’re only beginning to see the possibilities. Add this dimension to your strategy grid and brainstorm in 4-D. It’s more than bringing a brand to life, it’s making your brand a part of life.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson