Healthcare Branding

How Hospitals Can Build Brand Loyalty

Earning the trust of your patients will help your hospital build brand loyalty.

After more than two years of focusing on COVID-19, health remains top of mind with consumers. Numerous surveys find that US adults are more concerned about health and hygiene than prior to 2020. Of the top five consumer brands they trust most, according to Morning Consult, four are healthcare related—BAND-AID, Lysol, Clorox and CVS Pharmacy.

64% of U.S Adults trust healthcare companies.

Likewise, similar polls show that 64 percent of all adults in this country trust healthcare companies, second only to the trust they place in food and beverage companies. At the bottom of that same poll sit CEOs, with social media and media companies hovering just slightly above them.

This backs findings from the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, which reveals that globally, consumers basically trust no one—particularly government leaders, journalists and CEOs.  The same report, however, shows scientists to be the most trusted societal leaders and healthcare to be among the most trusted industry sectors.

Consumer health concerns present a platform for hospitals and healthcare systems to amplify information that lets audiences know “this is what we’re doing” to prioritize their health and care for them. That starts with strengthening bonds between providers and patients, where trust matters most.

Having Coffee With A Friend

How many times have healthcare marketers been told that, despite best efforts, patients go where doctors lead them? With consumers in the driver’s seat that belief is now less prevalent, particularly with Gen Z and Millennial audiences who harbor a high distrust of traditional methods and approaches.

The traditional model of ambulatory care has gone the way of the horse and buggy doctor making house calls. Or has it?

The digital healthcare transformation offers healthcare brands more ways to gain the trust of their patients and build brand loyalty.

Digital healthcare transformation—telemedicine, wearable diagnostic devices, texting, emailing, or messaging through EHR portals—now makes patient care more direct and personal. Remote doctor visits are becoming more like having coffee with a friend, as opposed to in-person interactions with a doctor.

Patients who trust your healthcare brand are more likely to have brand loyalty. 39% of survey respondents will go out of their way to do business with a brand they trust.

Providers can maintain trust with their patients by acknowledging and marketing themselves as unique, individual brands. In the Morning Consult study, 39 percent of respondents indicate when they trust a brand, they will go out of the way to do business with it. Few things cause a woman more angst than having to change hairdressers or gynecologists. Once they establish a bond, it’s hard to break.

Choosing one doctor over another often depends on four key factors:

  1. Patient experience
  2. Convenience
  3. Reviews
  4. Competitive pricing

Trust between doctors and their patients empowers providers to get back to what most want to do in the first place—keep patients healthy.

Humanizing the Brand

One of the most valuable lessons learned from the pandemic is the need to humanize brands to demonstrate knowledge and solidify consumer trust.

Patients trust providers with their health, time, and money. Credibility and trustworthiness solidify their decisions more than over-the-top promises and exaggerated claims.

Start by getting rid of pre-2020 platitudes. Instead:

  • Share authentic patient stories to inform and educate;
  • Feature doctors, nurses, and other staff to share brand stories;
  • Inform with science and research without hesitation or sugar coating;
  • Listen; ask patients about their visits with quick and easy post surveys; monitor reviews and social media comments.

Carefully Consider What You Say, Do and Share

Consumers tend to lose trust in a brand due to negative experiences and sub-par quality. Picking sides on a social issue that contrasts with the consumer’s views is also a trust breaker.

Even though a doctor’s or nurse’s personal social media pages should be safe forums for sharing personal beliefs, it is a public forum. The public doesn’t distinguish between what Joe says, does or shares while on vacation from what Dr. Joe says, does or shares on the practice platforms during office hours.

For example, providers are now caught in a legal and political quagmire following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. With emotions running high on both sides of the issue, not only can providers lose patients with public or private statements, but their brand can negatively be affected.

Currently, earnestly addressing, prioritizing, and managing a patient’s health builds trust.  And that’s important.

How to Improve Brand Reputation

Recognizing When Your Brand Is Losing Its Luster

Illustration of people working together on building a brand reputation. Illustration includes a laptop, graphs, and social media icons.

If your marketing seems less effective or success benchmarks aren’t being met, it may be time to evaluate your brand reputation. Though some shifts in performance can be attributed to the ever-fickle consumer and rapidly changing marketing trends, sometimes the problem can lie deeper beneath the surface and may require long-term solutions. So how do you tell if your healthcare brand is losing its luster? And how do you stay nimble enough to avoid a sliding brand reputation?

Start by examining the relationship between brand and reputation. Your brand is the promise you make to audiences. You earn a reputation by how you fulfill that promise. When the gap between those begins to widen is when the brand begins to slide. You can be a bright, shining star one day with the brand reputation of a dull pariah the next.

Learn from Retail Brands

Paying close attention to the state of your healthcare brand’s reputation could save you from being faced with a timely and expensive rebranding effort on top of falling revenues. One retail brand that failed to keep up with its changing reputation is early 2000s fashion icon, Abercrombie and Fitch. The fashion brand hinged its success on a marketing strategy of elitism, positioning itself as the way teenagers can look cool.  Abercrombie & Fitch quickly fell from grace as changing social attitudes about racial diversity and size inclusivity stood in opposition to the brand’s messaging.

When a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit against the company came to light, it was clear Abercrombie & Fitch needed serious changes in its culture and messaging. In 2017, the brand underwent a full transformation to improve its brand reputation resulting in a resurgence of success with Gen Z consumers. Carey Collins Krug, Abercrombie Brands’ senior vice president and head of marketing told TeenVogue, “Abercrombie today isn’t about ‘fitting in,’ but instead is focused on creating [a] space where everyone genuinely belongs.”

Toxic company culture—mistreatment of employees, discrimination of any kind, misinformation, and inauthenticity—can also quickly tarnish a brand. Healthcare marketers can learn lessons from retail brands like Abercrombie & Fitch. Test your brand regularly to make sure you’re still relevant and well received by your target audience.

Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.

There are two rules to maintaining a good brand reputation. First, never get comfortable. Second, constantly polish the brand.

Rule #1—never get comfortable or take your eyes off the ball.

Rule #2—constantly polish the brand and monitor your reputation.

How do stakeholders view your brand? Ask them. Perception research is critical to evaluating marketing programs and determining if messages resonate with audiences as authentic, truthful, and what they want.

Whether in-depth consumer and brand studies or short post-visit patient surveys, digital platforms place invaluable data at your fingertips. Questions or comments posted on websites or social channels can also warn of shifting consumer behaviors.

In monitoring your brand, monitor the competition as well. Look for areas where they may be outshining you or losing some of their lusters.

Step outside the marketing bubble to test the brand promise.

Being too close to creating and marketing a brand can skew the perceptions of even the most experienced marketing professional. If you haven’t tested your brand promise since pre-2020, quickly do so.

Does the promise resonate with patients, employees, doctors, and community stakeholders? Does it resonate with your barber, barista, or mother? If the reaction is “what does that mean?” you know it’s time to refresh the brand.

Brand reputation can be viewed as a Venn Diagram. One part is your brand promise. The other part is brand fulfillment. In the center you can build brand trust.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 special report, “Brands Amid Crisis,” chronicled consumer values that quickly shifted from aligning with brands reflecting social status, success and lifestyle to those that put consumer safety first, showed value and cared more about people than profit. Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer declared a complete information bankruptcy, with consumers mostly distrusting everyone.

For your brand to stay relevant and resonate with audiences, remember they are watching how you treat employees, what you’re doing for the community’s health, how you’re taking care of them and how you react in times of crisis.

To retain brand trust with audiences, stay ahead of them. Implement such tactics as:

  • Provide the best digital experiences possible from website to mobile apps.
  • Curate content that’s authentic and relevant, not platitudes about the brand.
  • Invest and engage with community needs.
  • Position leadership as leaders in the community, particularly in times of crisis.
  • Identify local micro-influencers whose brand values align with yours; leverage their influence.
  • Listen to them.

In this time of rapidly shifting consumer perceptions and social attitudes, move swiftly and strategically if you recognize that your brand is beginning to lose its luster. 

If you feel your brand may be losing its luster, we can help with strategic planning, rebranding, and more. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363.

How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Agency

even points to consider when selecting a healthcare marketing agency

Seven Points to Consider When Selecting a Healthcare Marketing Agency

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to escape downsizing, healthcare marketing departments often need to contract with outside agencies for tasks that your team cannot handle on its own. Consider these seven points before starting the search for .

1. Healthcare Marketing Experience.

An outside agency can add creativity and expertise to the in-house team. It also lends a third-party perspective that sometimes leverages more weight with the C-suite. However, ensure that the agency has healthcare marketing experience and proven results to back up dazzling visuals and lofty recommendations.

Healthcare industry experience is necessary due to standards and regulations that physicians and hospitals are required to follow.  The account team must be familiar with HIPAA compliance, CMS, and FDA regulations to craft marketing messages.

2. Creative Capabilities.

Creative talent should be evident from the onset, starting with the marketing agency’s website and digital presence. It can also reveal their intangible personality.  The best way to discover what they can do is by getting to know them. Conduct initial research and select two or three agencies that interest you. Talk with them; invite them to visit; figure out if there’s chemistry.

Instead of the requisite “request for proposal,” issue a “request for partnership.” While many agencies won’t do spec creative, assign a project, even at a nominal fee, to a couple at the top of your list. This can provide a preview of their creativity. You want to see innovation and vision. Look for “wow” moments.

3. Mutually Beneficial Partnership.

A successful relationship between client and agency is a 50-50 partnership. Producing the desired marketing results requires collaboration, transparency, mutual respect and realistic expectations on each side’s part.

One healthcare marketing director recently shared his thoughts about forging a client-agency partnership, explaining that the client needs to have a level of trust and confidence in the agency. For their part, the agency must have the skills and expertise to prove their worth to the client.

4. Financial Discussion.

The quickest way for relationships to break down is over money. During the review process, ask about billing, fees, retainers, up charges and rate sheets. Open and transparent discussions at the beginning can prevent misunderstandings later.

Before work starts on your account, define the process for authorizations, approvals and change orders so both sides share the same expectations. Failure to have these discussions can lead to loss of trust later.

5. Measurable Goals.

When reviewing a healthcare marketing agency’s portfolio, ask about results and case studies that include quantified measures of success. Just as with talks about money, work openly with the agency to establish performance criteria at the onset.

Beware of results that seem too good to be true—those probably can’t be proven. In the age of digital marketing, analytics are readily accessible to both client and agency to help direct the marketing spend and move the needle.

6. Relationships and Responsiveness.

Like all interpersonal relationships, people usually work best with people they like. We measure our own client relationships not just by the longevity of the account but those that produced lasting friendships.  Chemistry is the number factor in a successful agency-client relatioinship.

Ask about the team, along with bios, likely to be assigned to your account. You want experienced marketing professionals with proven credentials and core values that align with your own.

Talk to some of their current clients to discover how they interact with the agency and their responsiveness.

Establishing a successful relationship with your account services team depends, in part, on flexibility, responsiveness and willingness to listen. With the right chemistry, they can become an extension of your marketing team.

Evaluation of healthcare marketing agencies includes their research capabilities, knowledge of trends in the healthcare industry and familiarity of the local market.

Research and data should drive the development of any campaign. Review qualitative and quantitative research processes. With the myriad changes in the marketplace knowledge of trends within the marketing industry and familiarity with current media options and effectiveness is essential.

Even if an agency hasn’t worked with other local clients, their ability to learn the market and assimilate into the community can help increase your brand awareness.

Checking off these points makes the process of selecting a healthcare marketing agency easier.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us to explore if we might be a good fit for your organization.

Managing Your Hospital’s Reputation

Why Reputation Management Is Key for Hospital Marketing

At the doctor's office, a female doctor is performing a checkup on a young girl.

Reputation is everything in business. It’s even more important for hospital marketing because a hospital’s reputation is its most important asset.

Without a strong reputation, your hospital’s patient intake will suffer. After all, people don’t want to entrust their health to a hospital that has a poor reputation. (more…)

Make Your Community Hospital Standout with Hospital Marketing

How to Make Your Community Hospital Stand Out with Hospital Marketing

Medical staff and patients with hands togetherRunning a community hospital in an area dominated by larger hospitals with more brand recognition and bigger budgets can be very difficult. It’s hard to stand out unless you have a convincing brand value proposition, a competitive advantage to exploit, and a smart hospital marketing strategy to gain market awareness. (more…)

Healthcare Marketing: Your Hospital’s Mission or Brand?

Great mission statements define the brand.  Mission and brand should be the same.

153499892Examine your hospital’s mission statement.  How long is it?  How many words does it have?  Do you fully comprehend it?  Unfortunately too many hospital mission statements (like other organizations) are paragraphs that try to encompass everything the organization thinks has importance.  But is it something that truly defines your brand?  Is mission and brand the same?

Scott Regan, CEO of Achieveit in an article appearing in Becker’s Hospital Review  articulated this issue very well.   He is correct in stating that great mission statements are the brand.  Great mission statements are the basis for every decision, strategy and policy of the hospital.  They are embedded in the hospital’s vision, values, strategy and operations.  Great mission statements precisely define the brand.  Mission and brand…are both the same.

When the mission and brand are tightly woven together it creates a powerful organizational dynamic.  “Creating the kind of mission-brand integration that elevates organizations to market dominance requires short, succinct mission statements – eight words or less – that resonate with both internal and external stakeholders,” stated Regan.

And he provides two great examples.  One is Memorial Health in Savannah Georgia.  That hospital adopted a five-word mission statement: “We help people feel better.”  And the two word branding statement was simply, “feel better.”  Regan cites that twelve years later, Memorial Health has market dominance which includes four consecutive years on Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For.”

The other example is Liberty Health in Jersey City, N.J.  That organization adopted a three-word mission statement: “We enhance life”.  And a two word branding statement: “Enhancing life.”

In both of these cases, the mission statement is succinct and clear.  It goes to the essence of who the organization is and the statement easily defines the purpose of the organization.  The mission and the brand are exactly the same.  It leaves very little room for ambiguity about who the organization is and what it does.  It defines what you do every day.

It’s not easy to define your organization in eight words or less.  To do so, requires you to strip away all the stuff you think is organizationally important to concentrate on the core essence of the organization.  To do so means every employee can know and understand the mission and how their job contributes to that mission. It clearly defines, to those inside and out, who you are.  It allows employees to live the mission and live the brand.  And when that happens it translates to your external audiences knowing and experiencing your brand.

Is it brand or mission?  It’s the same!!!

 

Healthcare Marketing: Take Your TV to the Movies

Improve your hospitals brand and message recall. Run your television commercials on the big screen.

Television advertising continues to prove to be very effective.  And research indicates that running those same spots simultaneously as cinema ads significantly improves that effectiveness.  Research commissioned by NCM Media Networks concluded that TV commercials played in movie theatres substantially boost both recall and likability. Movie Marquee

A multi-media approach always has strong advantages over a single media campaign.   And this research indicates that combining two sight, sound and motion mediums is particularly effective.  Television provides broad reach and the cinema experience boosts engagement levels.

The research, reported by Joe Mandese in Media Daily News  is based on an eight-year study of more than 22,000 consumer responses across 29 product categories.  The results show the combination of TV and cinema, on average, generated a 65% lift in brand recall and a 94% boost in message recall.  Essentially, television provides the reach and cinema strongly reinforces the message seen on television.

So as healthcare marketers, if we are using television advertising as part of our media mix it might be helpful to consider running the same ads at the movies.  According to this research, it could significantly improve your television advertising effectiveness.

Healthcare Marketing: PR No Longer the Ugly Stepsister

PR and publicity are important tactics in creating positive “buzz” for a hospital’s brand.  

154218007PR has always been an important tool of every healthcare marketing department.  But there has been a major shift in the healthcare industry that includes the resurrection of public relations.  Many ad budgets have been cut.  Less is being spent on traditional media.  But in many cases more is being spent in PR and publicity.

Generally, PR has been the poor, ugly stepsister to the advertising function.  PR was just a way to keep the hospital’s name in the newspaper and for hospitals to pat themselves on the back for their community involvement.  PR was considered free and regularly not much more than an afterthought in the marketing plan.  It was an add-on to an advertising campaign or something done to keep the management team and board happy.

But today, many hospitals are placing much more emphasis on PR.  In addition to moving some of the budget from traditional media to new media, event marketing, social media and mobile marketing PR and publicity is playing an increasing important role in the marketing department’s strategy and efforts.   With a shift toward customer-generated media, PR becomes more critical to the hospital’s marketing efforts.

“PR plays into the whole ‘buzz Marketing’ trend”, stated Tony Mikes of Second Wind.  “PR is very much about brand awareness, so we can certainly accord some of the credit for PR’s emergence from the shadows to the rise of branding as a critical marketing tactic.”   Creating “buzz” and keeping the hospital’s name in the news and on the lips of influencers and consumers are extremely important.  As marketing becomes more consumer-driven and consumer- controlled, PR and publicity can play an even bigger role and sometimes more effective role than advertising in enhancing the brand in the minds of the consumers.

PR and publicity are also important for place-based media efforts.  Pre-promotion of staged events creates attendance and media coverage while post-promotion extends the chatter.

PR should no longer be an afterthought, but an “automatic.”   PR and publicity can boost the hospital’s brand organically and authentically.  Complimenting and enhancing all the other marketing activities.

Healthcare Marketing: Let’s HEAR it for the Brand!

rbsb2_07Just like brand visuals, audio can help recognize, identify, position and enhance a brand.

Imagine a swoosh.  What do you think of?  Nike, of course.  When you see the NBC peacock, does a sound come to mind?  It’s the three distinctive chimes that have been associated with NBC since the 1920s.   It’s almost impossible for anyone who has a television to hear those three notes without conjuring up the brand.  Which proves audio branding can be just as strong as a great visual.

Just like a strong established visual, sounds can also reach beyond the rational mind and tap into memories and emotions.  Audio branding uses sounds to create memories or positive memory triggers that help recall a specific brand in the mind of consumers.  As LeeBeth Cranmer, writing for SecondWind states,  “It’s not merely background music but a sound that represent the identity and values of a brand in a distinctive manner.

 McDonalds is another brand that effectively uses audio branding.  As soon as you hear that “I’m l Lovin It” audio you probably think about the golden arches.  United Airlines has used an adaptation of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for generations.  And who can hear the four Intel tones and not think of “Intel Inside?

The power of audio branding has been evident since the early days of radio when jingles were so prevalent.  As Cranmer continues,  “ in our modern age of advertising and marketing, audio branding is more important than ever due to the increased number of touch points available to promote your brand through sound.”

Because we live in an age of sound, there is a great opportunity to tap into a medium that can create strong memories and emotional connections with your brand.  Healthcare marketers should consider audio branding as a component of their marketing strategy.

And audio branding is not limited to music or musical tones.  It could be a distinctive voice, a sound effect or a particular way of saying a tagline.  We spend great amount of effort and money working on the visual identity of our healthcare brand.  Strong consideration should be given to creating that audio identity as well.  To make sure your brand is not just seen but also heard.

 

 

Healthcare Marketing: What Marketers Can Learn from the Presidential Election

What a brand promises and how a brand acts must be consistent.  Otherwise the brand suffers….. and presidential candidates lose elections.

99925228This blog is a little longer than most but I think it’s worth the read.  Jim Signorelli, CEO of ESW Partners, wrote an article for Adrants that addresses why he thinks Romney lost the presidential election.  His premise is that voters perceived too much of a gap between what Romney said and how he acted.  While Obama’s words and actions were very consistent.  The “story logic”, as Signorelli termed it, was not consistent for Romney.

The reason the article is compelling for healthcare marketers is because it makes the case that perceptions and reality must be consistent with each other.  In marketing terms, a brand promise and brand image (inner layer) must be consistent with what’s actually delivered (outer layer).  If the gap is too wide, the brand loses favor in the minds of the consumer.  It’s a lesson we all know as healthcare marketers and the truth of it can even be confirmed in the world of politics.

How ‘Story Logic’ Influenced Obama, Romney Campaign

From the early beginnings of the race for the White House, the news media seemed deeply concerned about who would have the biggest war chest. Certainly, dollars have historically contributed a great deal to winning Presidential campaigns. But given that Obama scored a 62% Electoral College advantage with only 4% more spending than Romney, the power of money has been seriously called into question.

Money buys audience reach, message frequency and media placement. Money also pays for the creation and production of messages as well as the necessary wherewithal to administer those messages. We cannot discount the importance of these financial realities.

But there is one variable that has recently gained enormous power. Unlike the other variables, it doesn’t depend on spending. It costs nothing more than respect for its existence and adherence to its demands. In part, it is driven by the new order of social media and its ability to make brands more transparent. It’s called story logic.

Story logic runs deep in every brand, including those of Presidential candidates. As consumers, we don’t see it, but we do sense how strong story logic is or isn’t. To apply story logic to any brand, one must first see the brand as lead character in the story that it sets out to tell its audience. Specifically, a brand is very much like a story’s protagonist confronting certain obstacles to achieve certain goals.

Both story protagonists and brands are multi layered. Their surface, or outer layers, contains visible behaviors. In the example of brand Romney vs. brand Obama, each candidate’s outer layer consisted of things said, done, and promised prior to and during their campaigns.

Going deeper, the brand’s inner layer is like the engine under its hood. It consists of beliefs and values that fuel the brand’s outer layer and helps audiences discern what the real beliefs are behind the brand’s behavior. As marketers, we can voice what a brand’s outer layer consists of. But the truth of their inner layers is completely dependent upon the voices inside the heads of their audience.

Story logic is simply the linkage between a brand’s inner and outer layer. When what we see or what we are told about a brand’s promise runs contrary to the value or belief we ascribe to that brand, the logic chain is broken and the story becomes something that doesn’t make sense.

In the contest between Romney and Obama, it was relatively easy to infer that each brand had polar opposite inner layers. One was driven by the belief in strong government; the other put greater stock in the private sector. From a social perspective, one candidate held more liberal beliefs and values and his opponent’s were more conservative. We were able to infer the difference in values and beliefs from each candidate’s outer layer promises and plans to support specific policies.

However, when one looks at the many surveys taken prior to Election Day, a few stand out. They are those that reflect the relative consistency between each candidate’s outer and inner layer.

In a poll taken by Time Magazine, one month prior to the election, readers were asked, “Which candidate is more truthful, Obama or Romney?” Obama outpaced Romney 72% vs. 28%. In a similar poll conducted by Newhouse in October, Obama’s ads were seen as more truthful than Romney’s, 42% vs. 30%. Whether you give credence to these polls or others that asked similar questions, we all know that Romney was often described by pundits as a “flip-flopper.” “Flip-flopping” occurs when a brand’s outer layer is perceived as a moving target. The biggest blow to Romney’s story logic came from his secretly filmed 47% comment that was picked up and repeatedly viewed on YouTube and other media outlets. Despite Romney’s admission that this statement didn’t reflect his true feelings, it created a great deal of dissonance. Dissonance is the enemy of story logic.

Some have argued that Romney’s ever-changing outer layer resulted from efforts to be all things to his highly fractionalized party. But in Presidential elections as with brands, the perceived consistency between beliefs, values, and actions has a great deal to do with winning votes or customers. Lack of layer consistency, perceived or real, can only result in confusion, dislike, and distrust — or all of the above. It is hard to know if Romney would have won had there been a stronger link between what he stood for and what he was promising to deliver. Arguably, stronger story logic would have turned off certain factions at the expense of others.

On the other hand, Obama had the story logic advantage. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his actions and promises, his consistency was rarely called into question. Clearly, he had obstacles to overcome given the worse economy since the Great Depression and social policies that were labeled by many as socialistic. But unlike Romney, the link between his outer and inner layer was unwavering.

I’m often asked what is more important, a brand’s inner layer or its outer layer. Rather than address that question head on, I often defer to brand success stories like Apple, The Ritz Hotel, North Face, Nike, and others that show how important it is to make certain that both layers are well defined and appeal to audiences large enough to foster growth. But what I believe is more important than either layer itself is the logical integrity between the values and beliefs a brand stands for and it’s actual or implied behavior. As with stories, brands depend on audiences concluding for themselves that what is portrayed is believable and authentic

Jim Signorelli is CEO of ESW Partners, a marketing communications agency based in Chicago specializing in branding. He recently published a book, StoryBranding Creating Standout Brands through the Power of Story.