5 Must-Haves for a Winning Healthcare Branding Strategy
When a lot of people think about “branding,” they think of a company’s logo and slogan. But a brand has come to mean so much more than that. For medical practitioners, hospitals, and health-oriented startups, branding is an especially important step in establishing trust and fostering a sense of goodwill among patients and consumers. Healthcare branding accomplishes all the following:
- Bolsters your credibility
- Delivers a clear message about your value
- Generates customer loyalty
- Showcases the company’s human element
- Tells your story
If you don’t tell your own story and create your own brand, someone else will create it for you–and it may not be an accurate representation of who you really are. Whether an organization has been around for a century or only a few months, everyone’s branding strategy could use an audit. Here are a few steps that healthcare marketers should take to ensure a winning branding strategy.
1) Conduct Market Research
The first step in differentiating your healthcare brand is knowing what the rest of the healthcare market looks like. Conducting a SWOT analysis or similar exercise to get better acquainted with competitors,is a great way to understand the industry landscape.
For example, if you are developing an app for tracking wellness and exercise, how many similar apps are already out there? If you are a healthcare facility in a major urban area, how do your services, amenities, or quality compare to similar organizations? How will rapid changes in technology, policies, and demographics affect your organization in 1 year, 5 years, or 20 years?
In conducting your research, you might choose to use any combination of online research, patient/customer surveys, focus groups, and more.
2) Craft a Positioning Statement
Healthcare is a mission-driven field. The overall goal is to make people feel better. But it’s how you try to fulfill that basic mission that sets you apart. This is where your positioning statement comes in.
A positioning statement identifies how your brand fills a particular need in a way that your competitors don’t. In branding for the healthcare industry, this often means a focus on the audience you serve (children, women, geriatrics, low-income, certain geographic area, etc.) and how you serve them. What products or services do you offer that are unique?
Although similar to a mission statement, a positioning statement is more about audience perception of your healthcare brand rather than a core definition of what your organization is. What do you want your target audience and the general public to think about when they hear your brand name?
A great example of a brand’s positioning is St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Ask someone what they think about when they hear “St. Jude’s,” and you’ll likely hear one of the following: cancer research, children’s healthcare, and affordability.
Unlike many other hospitals, St. Jude will treat any medically eligible child without cost if treatment is not covered by insurance, while also assisting families with transportation, lodging, and meals. St. Jude has positioned itself as a high-quality healthcare provider that has made strides in pediatric cancer research and helped thousands of children receive treatment, who otherwise would not have due to high costs.
To craft your own brand positioning statement, find out what makes you different. Then write it down. Keep iterating until you’ve reached the core of what your organization offers and how it makes you unique in the marketplace. And then move on to Step 3.
3) Tell Your Story
With all the talk about treatments, machines, and medical diagnosis, it’s easy to forget this simple truth: healthcare is about human beings. Across industries, the human element is what makes a brand so compelling, and this is especially the case in healthcare. The best way to share this human element is through your brand story.
Why was your organization founded and by whom? What problem do you solve, and whom do you serve?
Your brand story provides additional context for your positioning statement. It’s also more memorable because it tells you about the people behind the brand name and the logo.
An example of a brand story is a newcomer to the healthcare space -- the Pill Club. The founder of The Pill Club previously worked at a family planning startup, where she recognized the challenges that women faced trying to obtain birth control, from scheduling or paying for a doctor’s appointment to finding time to go to the pharmacy in order to pick up a prescription.
The Pill Club removes the user friction from basic access to contraception by offering online consultations and birth control delivery, without the need for a doctor’s appointment. By telling the story of how The Pill Club was founded and the problem it purports to solve, this healthcare brand establishes its clear need and shows how its services directly affect others.
4) Ensure Consistent Messaging
Consistency is key across all healthcare branding materials, from logos to social media posts to press releases.
To help with consistent messaging, many companies will offer brand guidelines for internal company members and external reviewers to use.
For example, the healthcare firm BMJ has a dedicated online portal for healthcare brand guidelines, including a brand positioning statement, logos, color palettes, and style guide. Having a dedicated online resource that outlines branding requirements can reduce confusion while also ensuring that the brand is not devalued.
5) Develop Brand Activations
So you’ve created or refined your brand. Now you want to share it with other people. Brand activations are ways that your organization increases awareness of the brand. While marketing can be a component of brand activations, it’s just as much about how your individuals associated with your company “live” the brand.
Do you have an ambassador program?
Do the receptionists and healthcare providers intrinsically understand the mission?
All customer/patient touch points should underscore your healthcare branding.
When doing external brand activations, like experiential marketing or live events, choose partners that are aligned with your positioning statement.
For example, the annual SXSW festival has a health and medtech track where your healthcare organization can share thought leadership. You might choose to run a fundraiser for the research your organization does, set up a pop-up with free samples if your company offers healthcare products, or host an open house.
Branding is one of the foundational components of a strong marketing strategy. If you are looking to refresh your medical marketing plan or want to learn more about branding in the healthcare industry, contact Pacific54 today.