Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brand Your Art and Copy, Too

At a recent breakfast branding club, featuring those in the business and not famous cereals and toaster items, the discussion popped up about the strategy of owning key phrases and images. In addition to graphic standards, which organizations develop to illustrate proper spacing and color palettes, the conversation centered on the need for companies to create key words, phrases, and images that support their brand propositions. Having once worked on Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, I recalled the "ownership" (and subsequent trademark) of the phrase, "designed in cooperation with leading orthopedic surgeons." Key words that created a franchise and contributed to a 90% awareness of the Posturepedic brand. In addition to this copy, all sales materials and advertising were required to feature the now famous mattress "cut-away," the scientific illustration that shows various layers of ticking, coils, and foam. This combination of art and copy became a hallmark of Sealy Posturepedic and helped to create an iconic brand. Other examples of brands that "own" certain words, phrases, and images include Lexus, State Farm, and Southwest Airlines. Just the mention of these brands conjure up a unique "look and feel" that are associated with their traditional, social, and digital media communications.

Hospitals are getting better at differentiating their organizations. Strategic ideas are shining through in taglines and unique positioning buckets focused on a single-minded platform. But they are also falling short when it comes to standards reflecting branded words and images. No matter the market position - such as patient-centered care, breakthrough technology, or physician expertise - the executions always seem to fall flat and into the undifferentiated abyss of hospital advertising. The words "excellence," "comprehensive," and "multi-disciplinary" are totally "me too." Forget "advanced," "quality," and "leading." In terms of images, try something other than a surgical scene, patient/physician consultation, or a slow-motion shot of a former patient engaged in their favorite activity, UNLESS they support your brand position.

Here in Chicago, there are some excellent strategies in play. However, when strategies turn to execution, the work often turns to mush. And is virtually impossible to distinguish one hospital or system from another for lack of branded words and images.

Here's what you can do to help translate your strategy into execution:

  • Create a list of "branded" words. Those that support your brand essence and tell your story. Use these copy points in all communications; from advertising to social posts to news releases.
  • Develop a library of "branded" photos and images. Again, those that support your position and visually reinforce your organization's specific personality.
  • Include these copy points and art images in your graphics standards manual, or create a separate "Art & Copy" book.
  • Educate service line marketers, and associated entities within your organization, on the words and images that should be used for their promotions if the marketing function is decentralized.
  • Be consistent in all forms of communications; traditional, social, and digital media.
  • And - a separate note for social channels - develop "post" phrases and key words that should be used as the "voice" of your organization and not that of the poster.
Developing a powerful brand is a tough, but rewarding challenge. Once you're there, don't water it down in the execution. Be as creative, disciplined, and rigid with the art and copy as you are with the overarching strategy. Your brand will be differentiated and the recall of your messages will be greatly enhanced. Word.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com

2 comments:

Karen Corrigan said...

Excellent advice, Rob. Great branding is darn hard work!

Mike Chapman said...

Perhaps hospitals would benefit from including words or phrases that are not to be used in their style guide? Much like they would include logo usages that are “don’ts.” Med-speak specific terms like “continuum of care” and “better outcomes” could be banished – with a big red line through them.

With all of the media tools (social and otherwise) available to engage potential patients, it’s important that the communications be clear and easy to understand. And differentiated!

I hereby pledge to speak with potential patients using the type of common-sense language that will make them clearly understand my client’s brand. Who’s with me?