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