Healthcare Brand Naming | What comes first – the position or the name?

Healthcare Brand Naming | What comes first – the position or the name?

Fall is a season of great transformation.  From colorful leaves to kick-offs and playoffs, the season brings change, reflection and hope. In the healthcare industry, fall also unearths many metamorphoses among companies, hospitals, and health systems.   After months of planning, studying, researching, and “cocooning” new ideas, brands emerge and dot the landscapes across U.S. markets.  Many of these names surface from the multitude of mergers and acquisitions that have also been in the planning stages during the summer months. I always enjoy reading about these new brands and learning their story as told by a new name, logo, and tagline.  Some, you can tell, are thoughtful, customer-based, and research-influenced.  Others seem to come out of the blue (healthcare’s favorite color, of course) with little explanation and depth. This always begs the question in brand evolution; what comes first – the name or the position? By “position,” I’m referring to the classic marketing discipline of determining the “why” of your enterprise and “where” it intends to be established in the minds of your key audiences. Without stringing you along, I’ll provide my viewpoint on the discussion of what comes first; I strongly believe every healthcare brand naming opportunity should start with and revolve around an evaluation/evolution of a brand position.  This provides the opportunity to develop a unique marketing strategy and reinforce it with a name, identity, and tagline that communicate your story.  How great is that!  A name and identity which actually makes sense in the context of your brand.  Its equity and relevance, and not just comprised of clever or computer-generated terms that offer little differentiation and no value proposition. Working with clients of all sizes, and in all segments of the healthcare industry, the nature of a request determines their level of sophistication and long-term view of a new brand and name.  If the request is, “we need a new name,” there’s a good chance they’ll want the same exercise again in two years.  If it’s “we need a new brand,” this typically implies the desire for a new market position and corresponding branding elements. So, while the argument around the chicken and the egg continues, I believe there’s less of one with healthcare brand naming and positioning.  It starts with a strong, desired market position and all the branding elements, including the name, work to support it.   Just coming up with names that will “work” and then determining the brand position is an exercise in futility; and success will not be what it’s cracked up to be. Contact Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy for more...
Reviving your Healthcare Brand’s Cultural Relevance with CSR

Reviving your Healthcare Brand’s Cultural Relevance with CSR

Twenty years ago, when some companies were “printing money,” corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies were often developed as a way to deflect consumer attention away from big profits, write-off more expenses, and – in fairness to those who did – do good for the sake of society. Studies prove that CSR has a positive impact on a brand; increasing preference, loyalty, and engagement. The companies benefit, too, with less employee turnover and more revenue. That was then. This is now, and CSR seems to have taken a back seat. Not saying it doesn’t exist, but it appears less visible and instrumental in brand strategies. There are probably good reasons for this; certainly digital media is highly targeted and therefore these types of initiatives are not as mainstream as they once were, markets are much more competitive and some brands can’t afford to spread budgets too thin, and senior marketing people are less willing to take risks and implement programs that don’t generate an immediate ROI. After all, CMO’s are the most volatile in the C-suite with an average tenure under five years and constantly feel the heat in terms of performance – and CSR initiatives can’t always be measured in weeks or months. Beyond the economy and corporate performances, the world needs more CSR and it can do wonders for your brand relevance. We live in a time of social turmoil; whether it’s tragic mass shootings, political divide, acts of hatred and bullying, or just a general sense of uneasiness in our world. This is not a climate for strong brand “selling.” In fact, there are many audiences (i.e. Millennials) who don’t want to “buy.” They want to support, help, and heal. And your brand should focus on these initiatives, too. Brand relevance is created not only on what’s important to your consumers lifestyles, but also what’s meaningful in their lives. Marketers have reacted well to changing lifestyles by recognizing today’s “family” is vastly different from 20 years ago and showcasing these different profiles in their communications strategies. But the opportunity exists to also recognize social trends and create CSR strategies around how your brand is helping the world or community in which it lives. Take a stand. Have a POV. Make a case. Do more than “sell” your brand. Look for non-traditional ways to integrate your brand into the lives of your constituents, both inside and outside your organization. Years ago, a great client – Lehigh Valley Health Network – was willing to put its money where its heart was and developed and launched one of the nation’s first anti-texting/while driving campaigns. Using the theme, “Stop in the name of love,” the initiative underscored the dangers of distracted driving and created a multi-layered strategy including yard signs, community ed events, physician engagement, and traditional media to spread the word. Oh, they also were willing to invest in the Diana Ross’ music to make the effort more visible and memorable. Talk about being culturally relevant – engagement was never higher and the organization benefited from all the metrics; employee satisfaction, revenue, loyalty, you name it! Bottom-line, CSR isn’t about the bottom line. It’s about creating a “heartbeat” for your brand. Using its strength of it to do good and make people feel better. And in today’s world, there’s nothing more culturally relevant than...
What’s your healthcare brand’s Digital EKG?

What’s your healthcare brand’s Digital EKG?

During an annual exam, your physician can get a good sense of your heart health with an EKG.   As healthcare marketers, a Brand EKG can also give you a quick read of your brand’s health.  Several years ago, this model was introduced to help hospitals, namely C-Suite representatives, understand consumer research findings and implications. As indicated above and based on the classic consumer marketing behavior model, a brand has to have established a strong sense of awareness and preference before leading to trial.  This model has been expanded to include brand attributes such as likability, intent to recommend, and other layers of behavior.  Based on an analysis of nearly 100 consumer studies, and validated by leading healthcare researchers, we concluded that a “healthy” brand EKG would have a variance of 12-15 percentage points between key indicators.  A larger number would indicate an “unhealthy” brand that is not converting on the preceding attitude.  For example, a brand with a preference score 20 percentage points higher than usage is not converting market share.  This could be the result of many factors including accessibility, customer service, and operational considerations (schedule, capacity, etc.).  Those brands not converting awareness to preference indicate a lack of differentiation or strong consumer brand relevance. Fast forward to 2019, and the same model can be used to assess the health of your digital marketing efforts. Springboard’s Digital EKG Healthcare marketers can add to their digital dashboards by providing a Digital Brand EKG indicating the level of conversion being established from a preceding behavior. For example, if impressions served (or similar metric) are significantly higher than CTR, you’ve done a good job targeting and delivering your digital message but you have not enticed anyone to take action.  If you’re creating an action and people are clicking through but not engaging, then your landing page, website, or other content “hub” is not compelling enough. Adding an EKG to your current digital dashboard will help you and your team understand the layers of consumer behavior that are taking place with each online activity.  Better yet, you’ll be able to develop content strategies and tactics to improve upon your ability to convert consumers through the behavior model. Better still, you’ll be able to strengthen the other metrics on your dashboard and impress the C-Suite with the health of your brand and EKG in terms (and formats) they’ll understand and appreciate.  You might even be able to include B.D. initials after your name – Brand Doctor. Happy to help you assess your brand and digital health. Contact us...

In Healthcare Marketing, Simpler is Better

  Healthcare is not simple. For consumers, it’s difficult to navigate the waters of patient care, referrals, and insurance costs/reimbursements. For physicians, balancing patient care with enterprise-wide business and growth goals is challenging. And for employees of larger health systems, there is confusion as to other providers in the organization and how/when to make appropriate referrals. These issues, along with many others, make healthcare one complex industry. And healthcare brands have become just as complicated. That’s why healthcare marketing needs to be made simple. After all, the simple definition of marketing is “meeting customer needs”.  Making a complex buying cycle and multi-layered organizational structure easier to understand are right in line with the basic tenants of marketing. Why simpler is better for consumers Healthcare marketers face a ‘double whammy’ when trying to reach and motivate consumers. First, studies show that the average consumer is exposed to 5,000 – 7,500 brand messages and marketing content a day (depending on which study you read). And with more and more channels being developed to reach consumers, that number is growing dramatically on a daily basis. The School of Human Sciences and Technology estimates that consumers switch between screens up to 21 times an hour and the average person’s attention span is now just eight seconds. Eight seconds! Not only do healthcare messages need to gain consumer attention, they also need to communicate a story, capture their interest, and cause an action, all in less time than a ten second commercial. This leads to the second whammy; healthcare marketing and messaging has traditionally not been that simple, or made that interesting. It’s often complicated, duplicative, and undifferentiated. The big, cliché advertising words alone take almost eight seconds to say: multi-disciplinary, continuum of care, state-of-the-art technology, and other mouthfuls. Not easy to communicate, understand, or capture the attention of consumers who only give it a fleeting moment to resonate. As healthcare systems continue to grow, audiences will only be able to handle so much information. That’s why stories need to be short, memorable, provide an overarching single-minded promise, and be relevant to the lives of those they’re seeking to influence. Why simpler is better for employees and referral sources Enterprise success and growth goals depend on strong internal communications. It gives an organization a strategic advantage. When employees know who is part of the system, how to make referrals, where to access information, and why their role is important (as well as the “why” of the organization), patient leakage goes down and their satisfaction goes up. In the many employee focus groups I’ve conducted, internal team members constantly express their concerns that they are not informed enough to make important patient referrals and recommendations. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see patients go “down the street” to other providers for services that are, in fact, part of the system from which they were referred. The tools that can help with these issues should also be made simple. Brand books, videos, even old-school laminated cards are effective methods for communicating messages to employees and referral sources. Remember, your stakeholders are “consumers,” too, and they give the same eight seconds to different messages throughout the day. Simpler is definitely better. Why simple is better for your C-Suite When presenting your annual healthcare marketing plan and budget recommendations to leaders in the C-Suite, it’s important to stay out of the “weeds”.  Meaning, don’t mire them in discussions around length of videos, size of ads, or even dashboards boasting impressions and click through rates. Not only don’t they get it, they really don’t care. Studies strongly encourage marketers to talk in the language that the C-Suite speaks; growth, revenue, and business goals. Marketing is their investment, not your expense or budget. You have to know what the organization’s core goals are and speak (simply) about them in clear, thoughtful ways and how marketing will help achieve growth. Chief Marketing Officers have the shortest tenure among C-Suite members because they often lose, or have little sight of the big picture, and focus too much on the image of healthcare marketing. A SIMPLE brand strategy is the place to start for your healthcare marketing Make it easy on those to whom you are telling your story. Instead of cramming five services into a video message or, worse yet, running five different campaigns with different looks and feels, think SIMPLE: Singular Idea that Motivates People to Listen and Engage. Acronyms make it easy to remember things, so hopefully this one will help you keep things simple. Singular Consumers only have the mental capacity (and time) to remember you by one single name or service, regardless if your brand is a hospital or system, master or endorsed.  Campaigns that throw out multiple entities, or play the name game, are not only hurting but also competing with themselves. This thinking supports the “branded house” strategy …if you have a “house of brands,” allow the same time and spacing to give them their freedom to grow in the future. Idea With social and other digital applications of your brand message, content seems to be all the rage. And that’s fine. As long as it still has an idea guiding it – one that is carefully crafted based on research, brand differentiators, and a unique and captivating story. This is the “why” of your organization; it has to be there for people to want to buy a product or service. It also needs to align with their own philosophy and purpose. In more traditional branding and advertising circles, the “big idea” still reigns; born from creative strategy, a competitive assessment, and customer insights. Motivates With barely any time to register, your message still has to create a response. Whether a click, call, or visit, be engaging, entertaining, and interesting enough to motivate desired behaviors. Of that eight seconds, you probably have a third of that time to hook an audience member with an irresistible email subject line, an eye-catching logo, or a tagline that...
8 Bad Habits to Avoid in Healthcare Marketing

8 Bad Habits to Avoid in Healthcare Marketing

As the new year kicks in, there are all sorts of tips and habits to break in order to help improve your personal and professional success.  For those in healthcare marketing, here are eight bad habits that need to be broken to help fix your strategies and outcomes. Focusing on marketing and not business building Marketing in many healthcare organizations still lands on the promotional side of the equation.  Successful marketers are those who understand the growth goals of their organization and develop strategies, beyond campaigns and clicks, to generate revenue and support new customer acquisition. Developing the wrong dashboards You know you’re too focused on the promotional side of things when your marketing “dashboard” consists of primarily digital terms that leave the C-Suite in the dust.  When you include business metrics, too, your dashboard will truly provide a snapshot of your organization’s marketing success in terms of share-of-wallet, customer acquisition, profit margin, and conversion rates.  These will be sure to get the attention of your CEO and put your department and initiatives in a new light. Using market research to learn all about yourself Most market research studies ask a lot of questions about the brand, not about the customer.  Other than demographics at the end, very few ask consumers, for example, about their interests and passions, what’s important to them, and the issues they’re most interested in.  Look at your customer research from their POV and you’ll gain great insights on how to make your marketing strategies much more relevant and engaging. Not having a clearly defined brand position It’s head scratching and nail biting to develop a brand position that your organization can own, fits like a glove, and is different and relevant to the marketplace.  But, oh is it worthwhile.  Without this, your brand defaults to a “me too” position and means everything to everybody.  Absolutely the opposite of what a brand position should be about. Messaging that is all chest beat, not heartbeat We talk about “Heartbeat Branding”  as the intersection between culture, product benefits, and customer needs.  It takes great insights about your customer and a continuous nature of learning, observation, and discovery about your marketplace to develop a heartbeat for your brand.  The opposite side of this spectrum is a chest beat brand, one that only talks about itself and reels off a list of attributes and features.  I’m sure you can guess the approach that is more interesting and engaging. Copy Overload With over 5,000 messages a day vying for the average person’s attention, studies show an approximate 8-second time span to make your point.  This is why more communications are going visual; to capture attention, gain engagement, motive toward an action. There is always an important place for keywords and copy, but keep them short. Being Too Social Social media is no doubt powerful, but it doesn’t need to be “too” social.  Brand strategies should drive your posts and, as with every other media, shouldn’t be “all things to all people.”  Overly social posts don’t benefit from optimization of keywords and tend not to stay on brand, rather, they take your message in an entirely different direction.  You can drive engagement and interaction without sacrificing the integrity of your posts and brand platform. Not making your internal audience a priority Internal communications has evolved over the years from a preview of an ad campaign to an engagement strategy with real ROI.  Hospitals experiencing “leakage” often find that employees are unaware of the scope of services provided by their health system.  Physician practices find that making in-system referrals can be tedious and time-consuming, therefore defaulting to old habits.  As healthcare companies grow through merger and acquisition, it’s more imperative than ever to not only educate, but facilitate communications from within. We’re only one month in for 2019, and there’s still lots of time and opportunity to strengthen your healthcare branding and marketing strategies.  Time flies, so take a moment to reflect on these suggestions and avoid defaulting to old habits that weaken your position, both personally and...
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