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

2 comments:

Marc Binkley said...

Thanks for sharing your views on branding budget allocation Rob. I think you've hit the nail on the head "a brand launch is more than promotional"

Investing in a brand project without putting money into strategy, culture and training is a bit like investing in a car manufacturing plant that doesn't put engines in their car.

tune pilots said...

Smart budgeting is vital to not end up bankrupt.
-http://www.21stcenturynews.com.au/6-billionaires-bankrupt/