Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brand Managers, Seamstresses, Security Guards

Quite a diverse group of individuals.  Yet, as we heard during Springboard's first Brand 2.0 Webinar, that's precisely who needs to work together in order for a brand launch to be successful. And it's the hospital's brand manager who needs to sew it together.

Brand management, the concept which will celebrate its' 78th birthday this May - after born in the hallways of P&G - is moving forward in healthcare organizations.  Hospitals in particular are looking for ways to bring together all aspects of strategic planning, marketing, communications, and patient experience together under the leadership of a brand manager.   That's quite an evolution from the mid-80's, when hospital PR departments simply hung out a sign that read "Marketing Department" while changing little else.

Brand managers fall within two categories;  organizational and departmental.  The organizational brand manager is responsible for how the brand strategy is implemented across all departments, from forms and uniforms to taglines and name tags.  This "horizontal" approach is most popular in healthcare organizations.  During the Brand 2.0 Webinar, Laura Harner, Marketing Manager at Lehigh Valley Health Network, shared with participants how she sat with uniform companies and the organization's security department to discuss the most practical ways to operationalize the brand identity on shirts and name badges!  Attention to detail is what brings the brand to life and impacts the many touch points that patients and visitors have with your organization.  Ms. Harner also shared how important it is for hospital brand managers to think through these applications and develop both a promotional and operational budget for your brand launch.

The departmental brand manager is responsible for a more "vertical" approach within a specific service area or facility.  Not only are touch points and other operational aspects involved, but also clinical ones.  These brand managers tend to work closely with physicians and administration to plot out pricing strategies, promotional mix, distribution channels, and even supply/demand analyses for a particular procedure.  These departmental brand managers are closer to their cousins in the packaged goods industry and typically come up through the administrative ranks than the marketing ladder.  

Regardless of how your hospital's brand management function is structured, or being structured, the lessons are many.  
  • Inspire employees, don't just educate them.  They are the ones who represent the brand every day, every interaction.  All it takes is "one bad hair day" to sabotage the promise your brand is working so hard to fulfill.
  • Budget for both operations and promotions - a brand works just as hard - or even harder - once the customer walks through the door.  That's where the experience comes into play to complement the expectations your promotional strategy has created.
  • If it falls through the cracks, the brand manager better be there to catch it. Nobody else will care as much or care as much for the brand.
  • Once the brand strategy is determined, use it as a guiding light for all decisions ranging from taglines, graphic standards, and entity marketing.  
  • Brand management is as much about flexibility as it is about standards.  A brand is a promise and performance you give to all your customers and oftentimes it requires flexibility and fluid decision making.  
Thanks to the panel and participants who made Springboard's first Brand 2.0 Webinar a success.  Look for future postings about upcoming webinars this spring and summer.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What's Your Brand Personality?

When my sons were just 5 and 3, we visited a restaurant with real tablecloths. No vinyl, no plastic – just bright white fabric! To top it off, the host gave the boys paper placemats and crayons. I immediately cautioned them not to make any marks on the cloth. My oldest – a rule follower then and now – proceeded to draw carefully in the center of the placemat. My youngest – not a rule follower then or now – started outlining the placemat with his crayon, getting as close as he could to the edge without going off the paper. And he grinned up at me as he did it!

Their unique personalities were shining through. And if my sons were organizations, we would call their personalities their brands.

The Link Between Brand Personality and Employee Engagement
I could no sooner force them into a different personality mold than I could force a hospital or system to adopt a brand that is created “for” them. Brands are. Brands live within your organization.

At the Forum for Healthcare Strategists conference in Las Vegas last month, a number of marketing executives asked about getting employee “buy in” for their brand. In reality, it’s not about forcing them to “buy into” a brand. It’s about providing them the opportunity to want to support it.

If your brand has been uncoverered rather than created, your employees will feel as if they are looking in the mirror when the brand is revealed. The brand will reflect them and their understanding of the place they work.

Brand personality, then, is the key to employee engagement – striving toward a consistent brand experience, adherence to graphic standards and successful brand management. It all starts by recognizing that each organization’s brand, like every child’s personality, is special and resides within.