Healthcare Brands Require Strong Internal Engagement

Healthcare Brands Require Strong Internal Engagement

Whether a hospital system, specialty practice, medical association, or device company, healthcare brands will only thrive with strong internal engagement. This is especially important with the rapid consolidation in the healthcare industry today. For providers, where referrals among medical staff members and sub-specialties make or break the system, engagement is paramount. When we conduct focus groups with internal teams at leading health systems, most employees do not know the “5 W’s and H” within their own organization; “who it consists of,” “what’s expected of them,” “why should they care,” “where they should refer,” “when,” and “how.” As a result, organizations experience great leakage of patients, and revenue. Communications strategies help address many of the unknowns. Internal campaigns including brand overviews, videos, books, and other tactics can explain the size and scope of the organization. Of course, graphic standards manuals are essential in terms of presenting the brand in a consistent and unified manner, no matter which architecture strategy is being developed. Online tools and staff profiles will also help facilitate referrals from one practice to another or among sub-specialties. Most healthcare professionals understand “when” referrals should be made, although soft reminders are sometimes needed for family physicians who would rather treat their patient rather than “lose” them to a referral. Key here is to develop protocols which ensure the primary care provider gets their patient back after specialty procedures or consultations are performed. That takes care of most of the W’s and H. Let’s focus on the “why.” Really(!?), employees have to be told why they need to care about keeping patients within the health system? Unfortunately, they do....
Can you write a healthcare ad without using the seven “deadly” words?

Can you write a healthcare ad without using the seven “deadly” words?

George Carlin will always be remembered as an original with many great comedic acts, but his “seven deadly words” bit (what you can’t say on network television, back then…) is a classic. Under this theme, branding expert Paul Szablowski (former Senior V.P., Brand Engagement of Texas Health Resources, CHW, etc.) and I teamed up on an article of a similar title for a popular healthcare marketing publication. It’s been about ten years since it was published, but that article generated more talk value than any I’ve received since. The article was about the seven “deadly” words you shouldn’t use in hospital advertising because they make little sense to consumers and are non-differentiating for the brand. After attending a recent healthcare advertising trade show and competition, I am prompted to again write about these words and why hospital marketers should not be using them. Because I heard a lot of them! Okay, here’s the list: Interdisciplinary – Ask ten consumers on the street what this means to them and their health and you’ll quickly understand why it’s a waste of space and benefit. Other like words that don’t officially make the list, but should, include continuum, integrated, and coordinated. World-class – technically two words, but often used as one thought in healthcare. After a decade, there is still no need nor regulatory act to substantiate such claims and as a result even a two-bed hospital in you know where, can claim to be “world class.” By the way, in case you’re looking to be less global and more local, “nationally-recognized” doesn’t do it, either. Quality – okay healthcare folks, it’s...
Why some brand identities make you cringe

Why some brand identities make you cringe

When you stop for a brief moment, and let’s face it – a very brief moment, to look at a brand identity, there are some that make you nod approval and others that make you cringe. You know, that look on your face when nose and lips almost meet and your eyes squint. What makes a brand identity cringe-worthy? Why can’t they all be simple and powerful like Apple, Nike, and FedEx; each telling a story well beyond the icon or tagline. After studying and creating various identities over the years, here’s a quick list of some reasons brand identities might make you cringe: What is that? – These are the brand identities that you can’t even identify. They contain strange symbols, layers of “brand” elements, and iconic images that only a client would love. Typically, these are client-led ideas that nobody had the guts to say, “this looks like guts.” The remedy – listen to what the client meant, not what they said. And translate into an identity accordingly. Size matters – Agency folks, especially art directors, for years have told tales about the client “wanting to make the logo bigger.” I’ve secretly sided with clients on this request because, after all, it’s important to know the brand anchor behind the ad, brochure, or other piece of communications you’re reading. Interesting that today, where digital media receives the majority of brand spend, identities are getting smaller and more difficult to read on social media posts, banners, and other applications. The remedy – brand identities need to be responsive (like websites) to adapt to the space that’s allotted. This means there needs to be flexibility built into graphic standards so...
Creating a Heartbeat Brand Requires Knowing Your Audience in New, Relevant Ways

Creating a Heartbeat Brand Requires Knowing Your Audience in New, Relevant Ways

Most research studies provide excellent insights into your brand.  For example, knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions people have of your brand, their intent to use, and likelihood to recommend.  In addition, there’s data collected on who replied to the survey; gender, age, income, etc.  Yes, this tells you about what people think of your brand, but it doesn’t tell you anything about the people who use it, or want to use it.  Creating the highest level of relevance with your brand requires knowing more about the people you’re targeting than has been customary.  Just like in good advertising practices, it’s about them – not you.  A heartbeat brand is one that appeals to the interests, lifestyle, visions and dreams of your audience.  Use your market research to help you understand these traits so your brand can be more effectively positioned and modified to meet their needs. There should be a section within your questionnaire that asks people about what matters most in their lives.  How they spend their time, activities they enjoy, hobbies they pursue, etc. Armed with this information, you can begin to reflect these passions and interests in your brand communications.  Images become more than design background, they become eye-catching relevant scenarios in which your audience sees themselves and how their life intersects with your brand, not the other way around. Knowing your audience in new, relevant ways will help you create positioning and messaging platforms that break through and become noticed.  Why?  Because you’ve captured the essence of what’s most important to people you’re trying to influence, not trying to influence them with your brand...
The Transition of the Chief Marketing Officer to the Chief Growth Officer-It’s the Real Thing

The Transition of the Chief Marketing Officer to the Chief Growth Officer-It’s the Real Thing

Last year brought about many major shifts and conversations in the healthcare industry; from new national health plans to ongoing debates of repeal or reform of the Affordable Care Act. All of these have had an impact on healthcare marketing and most organizations are holding tight on any specific directions until policies are determined. Another trend that healthcare marketers have to watch, based on what has occurred in the land of big brands, is the shift from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to Chief Growth Officer (CGO). Leave it to Coca-Cola, one of the best known and most valuable brands on the globe to lead the way. When its CMO resigned in 2017, Coca-Cola didn’t replace his position, the first time it was without a CMO in a couple of decades. Rather, it hired a CGO and now other big brands have followed suit. This trend will certainly lead to some alterations in hospital marketing departments, too. The rationale for this change at Coke was that it was part of a restructuring to turn the company into a “growth oriented, and consumer-centered   organization.” Wait, what? Coca-Cola replaced its top­ ranked marketing executive with another position that will generate growth and provide a consumer focus. Isn’t that marketing’s job? Shouldn’t a top marketer be doing that? Bottom-line, marketing at Coke and at many global brands, is not seen as a “growth” department; one that adds revenue, new operations, and new customers to the organization. Startling, yes-and here are some supportive statistics: Nearly one-third of CEO’s considered firing their CMO in 2017 according to Forrester Research The average tenure of...
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