Healthcare Branding: Leave Good (Marketing) Alone or Change?

The strongest brands are the ones that hold a consistent marketing message year after year after year.

In marketing we like to tinker.  Tinker with ideas, messages and positioning. Update the logo,  change the commercial, freshen the copy, etc. And sometimes we make wholesale changes.  Tinkering is necessary from time to time but unless our brand position is entirely flawed it rarely needs major changes. It’s not uncommon for brands to make radical changes year after year.  We somehow think changes are necessary.  But are they really?

Take Fed Ex as an example.  They positioned themselves as the overnight carrier.  Remember, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”?  They branded that message in our brains.  There was no doubt who they were and what they stood for.  As a result they became very successful.  Can you tell me what their brand position is today?  What do they stand for?  Why did they think they had to change from that brand position?  They were highly successful, why did they need to change?  If you’re like me, you remember their initial brand position and the funny television spots that supported it.  I can’t tell you any of the various other brand statements they’ve had since.  In my mind they are still the overnight carrier.  That is still their market advantage regardless of all the other positions they’ve tried to take over the past decade.

Remember “Pizza. Pizza.”  I bet you can tell me what brand is associated with that positioning statement.  Little Caesars.  They had a simple brand position: two pizzas for the price of one.   With it they rose out of obscurity and became the number two pizza chain in America.   What is their brand statement today?  And what is their market position today?  As Al Ries outlines in an article in Ad Age, Little Caesars evolved from that one simple concept to trying to be other things with multiple brand messages.  They emphasized delivery and then “Big” pizza and abandoned the “Pizza. Pizza.” message.  Now, Little Caesars’ sales have declined 42% and they’re a distant fourth in market share.   They had a simple, solid concept and a strong brand message.  But they felt the need to change it.  Can you tell me what their positioning is today?

There are many other brand examples that could be cited but the point is clear I think.  Those brands that have a strong and effective brand position and stick to it usually become stronger. But brands get tired of their position.  The market says they need to change and evolve.  Marketers feel like they need to change to justify their jobs.  And so we change for all the wrong reasons.  And more often than not, we end up with multiple and diluted messages and no strong brand position.

Sure, sometimes market situations require a change.  But not nearly as often as we think.  Can you say Fed Ex could have a more powerful message today that “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”?  Or that Little Caesars could have a more relevant message in the marketplace than “Pizza. Pizza.” – two pizzas for the price of one?

For brands, change for change sake is not a good thing.  For healthcare marketers, we need a strong message, a story that resonates with the consumer, a brand with a promise.  And we need to stick to it.  Continuity ad consistency with one simple, and powerful message will make our brand grow stronger and stronger over time. We must resist the change for change sake.


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