Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Healthcare Branding: 5 Steps to Allocate Your Budget to Support Your Brand Launch

You have a new name, an exciting new brand platform, and a breakthrough idea for an ad campaign.  You're ready for launch!  Then budgeting reality hits and now you feel like a NASA astronaut stuck on the launch pad, grounded by a weather delay or mechanical issue.  Dollars spent on the up-front planning phase have greatly reduced what's available on the back-end.  Or, senior leadership has determined that operational issues need to be in place prior to launch and these costs are coming out of your budget.

With countless branding initiatives taking place among hospitals throughout the U.S., balancing budget issues with effective brand launch plans might have you seeing stars, and not from light years away.

A new brand strategy is more than just the promotional component.  It's actually a 5-step process that includes developmental, operational, inspirational, promotional, and cultural elements - all competing for marketing launch dollars.  So, given limited resources, how do you best determine where to put your dollars and how much to allocate for each stage?  Sticking with the space analogy, there are different boosters that require fuel budgeting based on their role in the flight mission.  Just imagine what percentage of the total budget is required just to leave earth's atmosphere!

For all of us who aren't rocket scientists, here's a breakdown of each "booster" stage in the brand strategy process and how the budgeting process can be allocated based on a budget of $1 Million (not including departmental costs such as overhead, etc.).
  • Developmental - 15% Dollars invested in the development of your brand strategy are essential.  It's the starting point of your story and brand journey and should include stakeholder interviews, quantitative market research, focus groups, and internal workshops.  If a new name and identity are born from this step, this will require monies to create/test different approaches, tag lines, and naming strategies.  That's the operative word, "strategy," and knowing where you want to go will save you considerable time, money, and resources in the long run.    
  • Operational - 20% Several organizations we have recently worked with have had to taper their launch plans because of the unexpected costs of signage and other operational investments.  Name badges, exterior signs, interior way-finding, business cards, window stickers, to name just a few! With multiple entities and physician practices comprising new health systems, the operational costs can be staggering.  So, while it's important to be consistent out of the gate of a brand launch, there are opportunities to phase-in operational items based on priorities and budget planning.
  • Inspirational - 10% This phase of the branding process is mission critical - gaining engagement among internal stakeholders who will ultimately be responsible for delivering on the brand promise.  It's not just coffee cups anymore, especially among enterprises with multiple entities and thousands of associates.  This phase should include integrated presentations, intranet applications, brand ambassador programs, videos, brand books, etc.  And the ROI from this stage can be astronomical based on reduced leakage and keeping patients in your system by educating and engaging internal stakeholders.  
  • Promotional - 50% Suddenly, your million dollar budget has been cut in half!  So much for that extensive television campaign.  But the point is, you've done what had to be done to make it a real brand strategy, and not just an advertising campaign.  And with 50% of your total budget, there is still a wealth of places to make an impact using offline, online, and social media channels.  
  • Cultural - 5% During year one of your brand launch, you should allocate dollars for cultural strategies that keep new and existing employees engaged in the brand.  Whether it's special round-tables (or rounding), HR marketing materials, or branding breakfasts for champions, this is an important element of the strategy that keeps the brand position front and center in the minds (and more importantly, the hearts) of your associates.
Recognizing that a brand launch is more than promotional is key to allocating budget dollars.  This will save you from being blindsided or short-sighted when it comes to funding all the elements of your strategy.  Keep in mind, you are investing in the long-term, as the brand should stay consistent for at least two to three years.

I'm sure those same astronauts awaiting the green light for launch are glad there are dollars in our space program allocated to operational issues.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hospital Branding: 10 Takeaways from National Healthcare Marketing Conference

While there were some great takeaways from the crowded exhibit hall, including Chicago’s hometown popcorn and popular business books, the SHSMD Connections conference also provided tasty takeaways to apply to the hospital branding field.  Here’s ten that made our list:
  • Accelerate and the need for speed– Hospital branding has traditionally been pegged as a six to nine month planning process, resulting in a two to three year strategy.  Several of the education sessions and case studies discussed the need to be more nimble, aggressive and faster to the marketplace.  Competitive activity and changing political landscapes were cited as key drivers of the need for speed, but most agreed it is important to remain strategic and have a well thought out plan.  Just do it faster and get there quicker.
  • Create more energy – Maybe a direct result of the need for speed was the reference that today’s hospital marketers need to create more energy in their brand strategy and creative executions.  There were many good creative examples and engaging ideas,  but overall, campaigns still lacked edgy thinking and edgier creative.  
  •  Master brands still dominate – While mergers and acquisitions are the rage, hospital brands need to determine where the equity lies within the systems and lean in that direction before developing a naming/architecture system.   It seems that "master" brands are becoming the most widely used model (aka "unified model") for cost efficiency purposes versus the "endorsed" model which relies on strong entity brands and greater resources.
  • Computer generated names are out -  Remember the days of putting key words into a computer naming database and the results were names that came from, well, computer naming databases.  The talk this year was that newly formed enterprises were taking the equity of existing brands and making those a major component of the naming strategy.   Even in the case of merged enterprises, the names reflected pieces of both rather than something out of the blue.
  • Internal branding has risen to a higher level of importance - As more new enterprises emerge, the importance of internal branding intensifies.  Stakeholders need to understand the value and composition of the new brand for both emotional and practical purposes.  Emotionally, they need to become engaged and feel the "heartbeat" of the organization, and practically, they need to know how, where, and to whom referrals should be made in order to reduce "leakage."
  • Digital media is here to stay- While offline media is not going away either, every presentation included reference to a digital strategy.  My observation is that hospital branding professionals have learned to balance the two channels and recognize the role digital plays in their strategy.  Google has officially replaced the yellow pages and hospitals are investing in rising to the top of searches and leading consumers back to websites and landing pages.
  • Social media is breaking down walls - Similar to digital, hospital marketers are highly engaged in social media channels.  In several sessions, almost all hands shot up when asked who is using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and other networks.  The change this year is that more organizations are breaking down the walls (firewalls) in order to allow employees to access these networks from the workplace.  Why?  Because it promotes engagement and, between their pads and phones, they are able to access social networks anyway. 
  • Budgets are rising – You would think with all the reimbursement issues and onset of healthcare reform policies, hospital branding budgets would be on the decline.  Based on the sessions I attended and conversations around the convention hall, the opposite is occurring.  Hospital marketers and administrators are recognizing that now is not the time to be "silent" in the marketplace and that they should be growing key services and clinical areas.  The good news is that they are also recognizing the role marketing plays in the equation.
  • Margins and Metrics – A very well attended session showed how service line margins can be quantified based on population variables and caseloads.  Hospital marketers are becoming more savvy with numbers and are working more closely with the business development/strategy department to determine where to best invest resources.  
  • Population health is populating marketing plans -  While at the conference, I learned that the key to living a long, healthy life is to eat lots of beans, get plenty of sleep, belong to faith based community, have good friends, and exercise.  Employers and health plans, too, are looking for ways to keep their populations healthy and predict healthcare costs.  Using analytics and other tools, many health systems are becoming immersed in the space of population health and making it part of their service offerings.  
If this year’s conference is a bellwether for the near future of hospital branding and marketing, we’re in for a good stretch. Attendance was outstanding,  topics were lively,  and the overall mood was excellent. Interestingly, several CFO’s stopped by our booth to “round out” their understanding of healthcare marketing and how it can contribute to the bottom-line of their organizations.

It certainly did not hurt that the weather in Chicago was beautiful during the show and made for great walks along the lakefront or strolls to dinner.  Personally, it was great to see so many friends and colleagues. After 25 years of being in this business and seeing so much change, I am always glad to see familiar faces...here's to 25 more years!  I guess that means I better start eating beans. 

 I look forward to seeing you in San Diego, October 18-21, 2014.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hospital Branding: The difference between customer service and human service

For years, marketers involved in the branding of healthcare organizations have been frustrated about their role in delivering on customer service.  In essence, delivering on the brand promise.  Unlike traditional consumer goods and services, where the customer transaction can be standardized - think hot burgers and personal shoppers - healthcare organizations have multiple layers of customer interactions which fall on the ability of individuals, not processes, to deliver.  Additionally, healthcare consumers are not necessarily customers by choice.  There are some exceptions to this, but for the most part it's not where and how people want to spend their time.

As a result of this inability to control the delivery of customer service across the total enterprise, hospitals have looked for other brand platforms that can be more consistent.  Technology, clinical breakthroughs, quality rankings, and national accreditations are examples of common hospital branding strategies that don't necessarily demand the consistent delivery of exemplary customer service. However, as these platforms become less differentiating, there are some leading healthcare organizations that are making a go of service delivery as a powerful brand message or complement to an existing strategy.

Laura Harner, Director of Guest Services for Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania, describes it this way.  "Instead of the term customer service, we refer to it as 'compassionate' service. This is most successful when it is 'hard-wired' into the operations of a healthcare organization.  For example, valet parking is no longer about the safe and efficient retrieval of cars; it's about decreasing patient and visitor anxiety."

Harner adds, "If a patient has made the choice to come to you, they assume clinical quality.  And while they are likely to forgive you for long lines or waits, they are less likely to forgive you for lack of courtesy and compassion."

The Difference Between Customer Service and "Human Service"

Jodi Levine, currently Vice President, Corporate Business Development for Stericycle, has been on all sides of the hospital-based customer service equation as an administrator, patient, and brand-builder. According to her experiences, "healthcare organizations must rise to a higher standard of customer service, they must deliver 'human service'.  Unlike the vast majority of other businesses, healthcare customers are most likely to be obtaining services they do not want and/or fear receiving.  Healthcare brands, or more specifically, the people of healthcare organizations, must focus on recognizing and responding to how patients feel in order to even attempt to create a positive experience. The patient experience begins and ends with human contact – sometimes physical, always emotional."

Levine recognizes that a platform of "human service" depends on an organization's ability to recruit, train, and retain individuals who live the brand.  She adds, "Without first investing in initiating and nurturing the internal actualization of the brand values, external branding is a mere facade."

According to Harner, "compassionate care is a feeling that people remember long after they've left the hospital. We have so many opportunities in the course of a day to make the emotional connection that the best brands are made of. They are right in front of us, every day, and when every interaction is viewed through the lens of compassionate service your patients, and your brand, will benefit."

Unlike heat lamps that keep food "hot and fresh," sandwich shops that deliver "super fast," or coffee stores that are built to be a "home away from home," hospitals and healthcare organizations can't really standardize the brand promise of customer service.  But they can, as Lehigh Valley Health Network is doing, create a greater standard of compassionate care.  Or, as Levine suggests, they can raise the stakes even higher toward the notion of "human service."  The problem with "human service," however is it's delivered by humans and somewhere along the chain, it's going to breakdown.  

Cleveland Clinic Gives "Human Service" a Shot

Cleveland Clinic, long known for medical excellence but less than compassionate care, is striving toward "human service."  The video, "Empathy.  The Human Connection to Patient Care" is amazing but, can it be standardized across every location, department, and person that is associated with the brand?  Probably not...but, that doesn't mean that as an internal branding message it won't resonate and create some new patient interactions.  

Brand strategy must be delivered upon day in and day out within any organization.  For hospitals brands, the more tried and true approaches will live on for a while.  The idea of branding "customer service" is too difficult to achieve, but the standardization of customer service protocols is within reach. The idea of "human service"...what a great idea!  But until it's, as Harner states, "hard-wired" into each and every hire, it's probably not a big branding idea, because it depends on humans, not robots, to deliver on the promise.  And the former just can't be hard-wired.  All it takes is one bad day.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hospital Branding: It's time for senior marketers to cure their Digitalitis

You know the symptoms:  your ears hurt when your hospital's branding team talks about digital marketing, your throat is sore when speaking to your media planner about re-marketing, your body aches when you click on your web page and see little continuity between it and your off-line communications.  All classic signs of Digitalitis - that nagging, uncomfortable, and sickly feeling that you're not fully embracing the role of digital marketing and it's causing bloating to your marketing budget and efforts.

After recently attending a couple national hospital marketing conferences, I have learned that Digitalitis is more prevalent than expected.  Roundtable meetings and several discussions with leading brand thinkers in the hospital space reinforced that this condition is occurring even in the most sophisticated of healthcare organizations.

Why the outbreak?

Senior marketing professionals have grown up in an era of traditional, off-line media.  Where brand-building still means creating an emotional bond and a memorable experience with consumers.  Where "vanity" advertising and storytelling are front and center.  The quality and purity of messaging is a primary goal.

This tends to be a far cry from digital marketing, where the quantity of the message, analytics, clicks, and optimization are the primary goals.  Where warm images have been replaced by key words.

Another cause of the Digitalitis outbreak is an unwillingness to keep up with the daily changes in the digital world.  From new social sites to behavioral marketing, the digital world is changing quickly and quite frankly, it's scary and easy to ignore.

Cost is another contributor to Digitalitis.  Most traditional off-line marketers understand the costs associated with media and production.  In the digital world, "how much does it cost" has been replaced with "what's it worth," and that's a tough concept to get your head around.  As one senior marketing person told me, "I get the concept of pay-per-click, but have no idea what I'm paying for."  Or another conversation brought this question; "So I don't actually buy banner ads, they just appear on the user's web browsing after they've visited my site?"  The short answer is "yes," and this hot trend (as of the time of this writing) is referred to as re-marketing or behavioral marketing.

Digitalitis is more common than you think and remains a mystery to many healthcare organizations.  Even those that think they are ahead of the curve admit that they are still trying to figure out how to balance all the different disciplines and channels.

Some suggestions to get you off the couch and back into full swing:

  • Recognize that it's not an "either or."  Brand-building using traditional models and methods still has a place in today's business economy.  Approximately $150 Billion is still spent in off-line media today, projected to grow to nearly $200 Billion in the next four years.  
  • Consumers still have to have knowledge, preference, and an emotional connection to your brand before they buy it, on-line or otherwise.  
  • Recognize that digital marketing is all about transactions.  Once consumers are knowledgeable and feel connected to your brand, digital drives it home.  
  • Explore!  The world of digital offers so many opportunities to try different methodologies and channels in a relatively cost-efficient manner.  
  • Create a digital strategy.  Traditional marketers tend to be more disciplined and founded in strategy than today's digital movers and shakers.  That being the case, create a strategy for your digital efforts.  Go ahead; make that grid that outlines when certain products will be featured in TV, print, and outdoor, supplemented by PPC text ads and banners, and complemented by social media posts.  It won't only make you feel better, it makes great, integrated sense!
Digitalitis is a common ailment among traditional brand marketers.  But the cure is not to avoid it - it's not going away.  If anything, it's spreading like a social media virus or YouTube phenomenon.  The cure is to embrace it, explore, and recognize that it is a complement to the more traditional marketing and media disciplines.  Realize that it's actually a good thing because it drives transactions to your brand, not distractions.  And of course, if you're still feeling blue about it, take two branded aspirin and call me in the morning.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hospital Branding: 7 Deadly Words of Healthcare Marketing

From Paul Szablowski and Rob Rosenberg's recent presentation at Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

Hospital Branding:  7 Deadly Words of Healthcare Marketing

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media , May 29, 2013

Being descriptive in healthcare marketing can be a challenge when you stop using these seven words that no longer have the power to distinguish your organization or its services from those of your competitors.
In the early 1970s, stand-up comedian George Carlin delivered what would become the bit he was best known for, "The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television." Google it and you'll be treated to a filthy and hilarious not-safe-for-work rant.
Hoping that a portion of that phrase stands the test of time, Paul Szablowski, vice president of public relations, marketing, and communications for Dignity Health, and Rob Rosenberg, president and brand strategy director for Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, have developed their own list of words to avoid in healthcare marketing.
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This "seven deadlies" list was part of their presentation on brand building with internal communications at the 18th National Healthcare Marketing Strategies Summit in Arizona held in early May by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.
According Szablowski and Rosenberg, healthcare marketers should avoid using the following words in marketing messages, both internally and externally:
1. Comprehensive
2. Integrated
3. Continuum
4. Advanced
5. Care
6. Close
7. Multi-disciplinary
"These [words] are not distinguishing characteristics," says Szablowski. "This is what people expect you to be. We need to find words and use words in ways that families understand what we're doing. Put an experience around each of these words."
Being more descriptive in healthcare marketing can be a challenge because, as Szablowski rightly notes, hospitals want patients to know that the care they are receiving iscomprehensive. So, how do you communicate that? At Dignity Health, one of the country's largest healthcare systems, Szablowski started by making sure that employees were engaged and that internal stakeholders were included in meetings to determine strategic marketing platforms.
"For example, physicians didn't know the other specialties we offered," he says. Employees, too, were unaware of all the services available and couldn't refer friends and family, or take part in themselves, thereby causing leakage, which according to Szablowski and Rosenberg, ranges from 30%–40% at some organizations.
Rosenberg, who works with clients in Chicago, where mergers and acquisitions are high, says he always does internal stakeholder interviews and is astonished by what they don't know.
"Hospitals need to talk to employees about their services," he says.
Having engaged employees will not only lead to less leakage, they argue, but it also builds on the foundation of delivering a positive patient experience, which we know from theHealthLeaders Media 2013 Industry Survey, is a top priority at healthcare organizations across the country.
Getting every employee to "live the mission" or "live the brand" is a frequent theme in patient experience strategies. Szablowski believes what is working at Dignity is something they started at least four years ago.
"We'd get letters from patients, and we'd take one of those letters once a month, invite that patient and their family, the caregivers, and the leadership from the hospital and have that person read the letter in from of everyone," he says.
The emotional connection was so powerful that Szablowski says Dignity is now working on videotaping the patients reading the letters and storing them in a video library to use for motivational purposes before leadership meetings.      
"Each story is really different. Some are about little things, big things. There is an unbelievable range," he says. "The value of it is people come in and talk about what led up to the [hospital visit], the care, and afterwards. You recognize that it's the totality of the experience. All those little things matter." At the end of the letter reading, everyone who was involved in the patient's care gets a certificate of appreciation from the CEO.
"It's the fundamental articulation of the brand, and the brand isn't the logo or the architecture. It's a living thing and everyone plays a role in it," he says.       
So far, Szablowski says he feels like Dignity has done a good job focusing its internal communication to raise employee engagement. It's measured by the participation rate of Dignity's annual employee survey, which Szablowski says has been between 80%–90% for the last five years.             
"It's gone from a survey to an engagement strategy," he says.
Before each employee survey, posters are put up around Dignity's hospitals pointing out results from last year's survey and how the hospital responded. There are also multiple ways employees can return the survey to increase participation.
"We set laptops all over [the hospitals] in kiosks," says Szablowski. "We also [provide it] on paper, in Spanish—whatever we have to do."
Dignity's focus on communicating effectively and precisely to its employees reflects its commitment to talk the same way to its patients.
Szablowski says he tries to avoid using the seven deadly words at all cost because while "comprehensive," as an example, means something to healthcare marketing professionals, it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to patients, or consumers. A better description of "comprehensive," according to Szablowski is, "[having] the ability to successfully track all the points of care so we can make sure you're getting the right care, at the right time, and at the right place."
"The real key is that they're our words," he says of the list.
Now it's up to other healthcare marketing professionals to stop using them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hospital Branding: Brand Champions Drive Success

Organizations in every industry are recognizing that the "silo mentality" or vertical strategy is  an ineffective and disruptive way of doing business. The horizontal strategy has emerged as a best practice and enables cross-thinking among employee departments and populations.  Automobile and technology leaders were among the first to recognize that bringing engineering, design, marketing, and financial teams together provides far better returns than those passing strategic plans from one department to another.

The same strategy holds true for hospitals seeking to brand their organizations in their respective markets.  The days of developing a brand platform in the marketing department and then informing the rest of the enterprise about what it is and how employees should act are quickly disappearing.  Those organizations that include teams and staff in the development and cultural integration of the brand will create brand champions who contribute to the long-term success of the strategy and help to create an environment that delivers on the brand promise.  

Involving cross-sections of teams and employee populations in two critical stages of brand implementation is essential;  brand strategy development and cultural integration. The following examples are from Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy clients that have recently launched new brands.

Brand Champions in the Development Phase

During the development phase of the brand strategy, it has proven vital to have a broad representation of internal stakeholders participate in the process.  Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, Delaware, recently underwent a brand development process and formed a Branding Task Force to test messages, share their thoughts on the brand promise and brainstorm regarding the new brand rollout.  According to Kelly Griffin, Director - Marketing and Communications, "the brainstorming session was a huge success and resulted in two great lists of messaging concepts for both internal and external audiences.  Beebe achieved a wealth of knowledge regarding its present image and brand as well as thoughts about where the organization should be headed."

If brand authenticity is to be attained, it must be meaningful, believable, and deliverable throughout the organization.  And what better way to determine this than gaining input and feedback from a diverse mix of employees representing different ages, duties, departments, and customers.

Brand Champions in the Cultural Phase

Once the brand strategy has been determined, brand champions become imperative to delivering on the promise and making it part of the organization's culture.  Theresa Komitas, Director of Marketing for KishHealth System, in DeKalb, Illinois, recently helped lead her organization through a re-branding process.  A key goal of the initiative is to create engagement from employees, many of whom are located in different entities and towns.  "When selecting brand ambassadors for our organization, we recognized the need to represent all levels, from our front-line nursing staff to senior leaders.  In order to succeed in employee engagement and ultimately change, it's necessary to have peers lead the drive and not have our brand messages coming down only from Administration."  

The opportunity also exists to link cultural statements such as mission and values to the brand strategy to gain a more effective and aligned organization.

In addition to the Branding Task Force, Beebe Healthcare also implemented a Values Task Force to revamp the values statements for the organization to fit with the new brand message.  "A direct result of all of the knowledge sharing and enthusiasm of the participants is that the team members comprising these task forces have functioned as a viral marketing/communication resource throughout the organization, sharing their ideas, enthusiasm, and support of our branding efforts with other team members."  This, according to Kelly Griffin, "is serendipity."

Today's brand-building strategies are more than a written statement.  They make a statement about the organization, its uniqueness, and the type of experience a customer will have when interacting with it - at every portal and every level.  Brand champions are not found entirely in the marketing department;   they are found throughout the organization and have had input on direction, messaging, and fulfillment.  And when done properly, it is not just their voices that are represented, it's also their behaviors and influence with others in the organization.  Here's to you, Brand Champions!

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hospital Branding: The Brand Promise - A Term of Endearment That's About Them, Not You.

As hospital marketers, there are several terms that come into play each day in writing and conversation.  From an organizational perspective you have words such as mission, vision, values, culture, and pillars.  From a marketing standpoint, there are words like goals, objectives, tactics, positioning, brand, strategy, promise statement, essence, and character.   Each is very different but oftentimes, and mistakenly, is used interchangeably.

Since this blog is about hospital branding, let's keep the focus there.  Of all the terms referenced above, only one speaks to your customer - the brand promise.  The others are internally-focused and help structure your organizational and marketing thinking.  

Jack Trout and Al Ries in their classic book, "Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind," define the concept of positioning as a goal.  The space you want to occupy in the minds of your key customer groups.   And, regardless of audience, your position (or goal) does not change, although the messaging strategy to achieve that goal, does.  So, since positioning is a marketing goal, it isn't meaningful to the consumer.  Until you make it that way - and that's where the brand promise comes into play.

The process of branding is a strategy to achieve your desired marketing objectives.  How you define your brand is one of the strategic decisions you must come to terms with in order to reach your goal of positioning. For example, if your desired position for cardiac services is "your partner in the prevention and treatment of heart disease," then the brand strategy will consist of key decisions around "story" (the point-of-difference and reasons-to-believe), the name, identity, the service offering, the desired customer experience, and the messaging.  And again, that's where the brand promise comes into play. 

There is zero stopping power in an ad that features the headline:  "Your Partner in the Prevention and Treatment of Heart Disease." 

If that's where you want to end up in the customers minds (your desired position), then how will you convince them of this idea?  You have to make it relevant and meaningful to them in order to capture their attention and engage their emotions.  Staying with the example, therefore, your headline might read: "Remember to take your daily aspirin - now there's an app for that."  The headline provides a "reason to care," the service is new and innovative, the brand experience will be delivered each day - all in support of the desired position. 

The brand promise creates an emotion and, as said, engages your audiences with relevant messages about them, not a statement about you.   

Here are some simple definitions of the terms referenced above and why they are not consumer-minded concepts:
  • Mission - why your organization does what it does, sometimes known as an "elevator" pitch and should include some 'what's in it for me," for the consumer.
  • Definition - This is what you are and not terribly interesting to the consumer.  Snickers is a candy bar, but its brand position is a meal substitute made relevant by a brand promise of "satisfying."  
  • Essence - the key operational drivers about your brand.  For example, Volvo's essence is safety, so, operationally it pioneered side air bags.
There are countless other examples and, as you can tell, most are focused internally. The brand promise speaks to your customers in terms that are meaningful and relevant, that inspire and create hope.  Simply put, terms of endearment that are about them, not you.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hospital Branding: At the Intersection of Healthy and Happy

Each year, J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) releases a major study on the key upcoming trends impacting the business of marketing and advertising. This year's list is comprised of some you'd expect, but others that are new and very relevant to today's lifestyles - for example, "intelligent objects," "predictive personalization," the "sensory explosion," and "the mobile fingerprint."

Also on this year's list is a trend which has great implications for the healthcare industry: the correlation between health and happiness and the scientific findings which support this relationship.  Among them:
  • Researchers at University College London have found that happiness improves the functioning of key biological processes.
  • Research has shown that more optimistic people are up to 50% less likely to suffer a heart attack or a stroke.
  • A study on "flourishing" published in the American Journal of Public Health links positive mental health with longevity.
  • Wayne State University (2010) researchers published a study showing a correlation between longevity and propensity toward a so-called Duchenne smile (an expression of genuinely positive emotion).
  • Happiness and mental health improve in direct correlation with consumption of healthy foods - specifically, fruits and vegetables according to a recent study from National Bureau of Economic Research.
These findings are also validated by consumer studies among American and British adults who cite the following:
  • 62% say "feeling healthy" is an important part of being a happy person
  • 90% agree that happiness can have a positive impact on your health
  • 84% say being happy is an important part of being healthy
(Source:  JWT)

Brands Jumping on the Health-Happiness Bandwagon

The connection between health and happiness has not gone unnoticed by several global brands in the wellness, nutrition, and healthcare space. Building off its tagline, "It's amazing what soup can do," Campbell's Soup launched a campaign in 2011 that showcases consumers on the "road to happiness" due to the nutrition, ingredients, energy, and dietary benefits their products can provide. 

Special K, long positioned as a health and diet cereal, moved away from the aspirational goal of reaching an ideal weight and instead focused on the positive emotions that weight loss can bring, using words like "confidence, "moxie," "sass," and "joy" in its communications strategy.

And my personal favorite, Walgreen's, is putting itself right on the "corner of Happy & Healthy" in a campaign launched last fall.  With the music of CCR's "Down on the Corner" playing in the background, the TV commercials inform us that the founder Charles Walgreen "had a mission to help people be happy and healthy."  The drugstore chain is aiming to expand from a drugstore to a lifestyle store.

How can Hospital Brands Elevate the Connection Between Health and Happiness?

The connection between health and happiness is a natural one for hospital brands and their strategic messaging.  After all, isn't the end-benefit of the services they provide the opportunity to return to an active, healthy, and happier life?  Too many hospital brands still stir consumer anxiety and focus on negatives (what consumers should avoid or fear); versus focusing on positive solutions with messaging that advances health and/or happiness.  This is what we call "chest beat" versus "heartbeat" - see blog post here:  http://www.hospitalbranding.blogspot.com/2012/06/difference-between-branding-and-selling.html

West Georgia Health in LaGrange, Georgia, working with Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, recently launched a new branding campaign that perfectly captures the correlation between happy and healthy.  Jan Nichols, West Georgia Health Marketing Director says, "Long before the Affordable Care Act emphasized preventive care, our mission at West Georgia Health reflected a partnership with patients with an advocacy for wellness.  Our new branding campaign, "So Healthy Together," connects health and happiness through the musical bed (an adaptation of "So Happy Together" by the Turtles) incorporated into our broadcast messaging and the "sunshine" graphics of our identity featured in print and digital media.  We have had numerous members of our community tell us that our campaign makes them smile, hum the tune, and inspires them to take a walk, ride a bike, or play with their dog - all things that support their quest for a healthier and happier life."

As you evaluate your brand strategy, consider ways you can motivate consumers to accomplish their health and happiness goals.  Look for new products and services that help facilitate a healthier and happier lifestyle rather than just providing a "solution" to their medical problems. This upcoming trend is a great one for hospital brands to get behind.  The more consumers see your hospital brand at the "corner of healthy and happy," the more loyalty to it they'll have and the more they'll sing your tune (or hum your jingle).

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com