Because Brand Recognition - And Your Health - Counts

Posted on Dec 22, 2011 in CHI Insight
Tags: public relations, marketing communications, b2b, integrated marketing communications, pr, health care, healthcare industry, branding, brand recognition, brand loyalty

In the fascinating world of health care brand marketing, hospitals and health systems everywhere are in deep competition for patients, leveraging every conceivable advantage to position themselves as the best place for quality medical care. So what are their strategies, and what can every marketer or company learn from their investment in brand image?

Brand recognition counts for everything in health care marketing because patients are making very personal choices about the value (and values) represented in a health care provider’s brand. These must come through loud and clear because there are typically many hospitals competing for patients in a geographical area.


Branding Taglines for Your Target Audience

That is why we often find health care organizations staking out fairly visible territories using billboards, bus signage and other real time advertising to protect or expand their markets. These branding efforts get the brand name out there, usually with a compelling tagline and image or copy that symbolizes the services or philosophy of the health care system. Interestingly, many of these branding efforts are quite abstract, more evocative than direct sell. This approach may or may not work in your industry. But the lesson still holds. Know your audience. But sometimes the straightest way to a client’s mind is through the heart. 

That said, those branding taglines still need to say something about why a particular hospital is the better choice.

A few examples of brand statements from hospitals and health care systems in the suburban Chicago market include:

• Elmhurst: Intelligent medicine by design.
• Central DuPage: Always thinking. Always caring.
• Advocate: Inspiring medicine. Changing lives.
• Edward: Your life. Your health. Your move.
• Sherman: Every life, every moment, every day.
• Provena : Something special inside.

Granted, a tagline does not a medical system make. Nor will it convince people in need of health care to necessarily choose one hospital over another. 

But in most cases, brand statements do more than hold space below the logo. In many cases, you will find these taglines propagating the interior signage at hospitals once you get in the door. Some even use their taglines as values statements to motivate employees to excellence. And that’s where brand recognition really comes to life.



The Path to Productive Brand Recognition

When your target markets (and stakeholders) engage in your brand and learn what you’re about, you’re on the path to productive brand recognition. Surveying the brand taglines we’ve chosen from six different health care organizations (which we mildly objectify by using only their first names), we find words designed to stimulate both intellectual and emotional response in consumers.

Consider: The health care systems at Elmhurst and Advocate place the word “medicine” right in the tagline. Others such as Central DuPage communicate a balance between expertise and compassion. Edward goes for a rolling call to action while Sherman and Provena make a pitch from opposite ends of the feel good spectrum; Sherman takes a broader approach, while Provena uses the term “inside” to convey double meaning relative to the hospital or patient.

What these taglines and their usage tell us about brand marketing is that it matters what you choose to say about yourself. Each hospital branding statement is designed to appeal to as broad a segment of potential patients as possible, yet offer some sort of portal; emotional, practical or logical to make a good first impression and move people to the next logical step. Even if a potential customer does not hear the hospital name but grows familiar with its tagline in some way, an affinity invitation is being made between patient and health care system.


Branding in the Digital Space

As customers migrate to the web for research on health care, branding issues become more practical. And this “About Us” description on one hospital’s website captures the challenges of health care company brand recognition in a nutshell. Really this could be a boilerplate for healthcare industry in general. But on such basic language are affinities and brand comfort built:

"When it comes to medical care, you have a lot of options. We know that. And we want you to know that we at (health care system) would appreciate the opportunity to provide that care for you and be your advocate. You’re more than a patient to us. You’re an individual. We promise you to not only provide state-of-the art medical care but also down-to-earth, personalized attention."

You could almost transplant that invitational statement with some “industry tweaks” to just about any business in the world, B2B or B2C, to engage your customers. Health care is a great parable for the challenge of brand marketing because the industry, being so familiar to all of us, provides cogent examples of brand communication.


Translate Your Brand Into Action

It is establishing that positioning for your business that is so crucial to success. Because if you don’t have it, it will not happen on its own. So whether you represent an existing brand or are starting from scratch, are developing or translating that brand into action, that effort requires investment, sometimes in a few carefully chosen words.

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