Healthcare Branding

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.

Healthcare Marketing: Should “We Try Harder”, Keep Tagline Longer?

Another tagline bites the dust!

Avis drops it’s branding line “We Try Harder” …after 50 years.

Avis Car Rental has recently announced they are dropping their iconic brand positioning line, “We Try Harder,” and replacing it with “It’s Your Space.”  Whether that’s a smart move will be determined but from an outsider looking in, I might have to question the move.

“We Try Harder” was introduced in 1962 by Avis with the help of DDB and became the brand’s promise about the quality of its service and as a way to position itself against the category leader Hertz. It was a huge success for Avis. In a matter of a single year, that campaign reversed the company’s fortunes, helping it to go from losing $3.2 million to turning a profit of $1.2 million for the first time in 13 years. It worked!  And it identified a brand.

Now it is being replaced with “It’s Your Space.”  One has to ask, what promise does that line really deliver?  The firm is repositioning itself to appeal to business travelers who spend a lot time in rental cars and trying to communicate that time inside a rental car is where business travelers can recharge or be the most productive time while traveling.  Maybe it will work but it seems a stretch to me.

Maybe it was time to abandon the old line since Avis had fallen from the number two car rental company to number three behind Enterprise Holdings (Alamo, Enterprise, National) and Hertz.  Maybe the company had stopped trying harder.  Or maybe they indeed do need to reposition itself for business rather than leisure travelers and this was to way to do it.  But you sure hate to see a classic, effective and company-defining line disappear.

For hospital marketers, branding lines come and go.  And I would be one of the first to say they need to be periodically updated and changed as the brand and the market landscape changes.  But it should be a strategic move based on sound research and not just on a whim.  Internally we may get tired of a branding line but it is often long before it becomes ineffective with the consumer.  And with a line like the one used by Avis to brand, position and define the company and which is firmly implanted in consumers’ minds, marketers need to be very cautious before making a change.

There are some very solid reasons a branding line should be changed from time to time but we must be sure it’s a strategic reason and not just because we are tired of the old one.  If the one we are currently using was strategically developed and implemented and it was effective, about the only reason to change is because the brand, the market or the competitive landscape has changed.  We must be very sure there are strong reasons to give up the brand equity that has been developed with the current line to start over with a new one.

Again, I’m not against changing lines but only after research and deliberate consideration.  And as hospital marketers, we must be sure the new brand positioning line is better and stronger and connects better with our audiences.  For Avis, I’m not sure “It’s Your Space” does that.  I just wished they had tried harder.

 

Healthcare Marketing: Humanize Your Hospital’s Brand

Humanizing your brand by giving it a personality, making it personable and telling a narrative connects with consumers.

Every healthcare marketer tries to connect their brand with consumers.  It is an ongoing, endless task.  Of course we know that humanizing a brand improves connectivity.  And research supports it.

Emily Eldridge, writing for MarketingProfs cites research that demonstrates how human interaction affects attitudes and transactions.

Iris Bohnet and Bruno Frey conducted an economic research study in 1999 called “Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games.” Two groups of students were recruited to participate in a series of social interactions in which members of the first group had to decide whether to share any portion of a sum of money—approximately $10—with a person in the second group.

When the first group knew nothing at all about those in the second group, participants offered, on average, only 26% of the money. When the moderators asked the second group to stand up—making them less anonymous to the first group—the offer increased to 39%. When the moderators shared personal information about those in the second group with those in the first, the average offer increased to 52%. And when members of the groups were introduced to one another, the average offer was 50%.

In other words, the greater the social distance, the less willing people were to hand over money.

This can teach a valuable lesson to hospital marketers.  If our brand is humanized, it connects better with consumers.  It’s important that our brand not be cold, inanimate, and without important human traits and characteristics.  Our brand should have a personality. It must be personable. It must make a human connection.

Eldridge refers to two examples of retailers who have a strong personal connection with consumers and how it positively impacts their brand reputation and gives it increased brand equity.  The first example is Apple.  Their retail stores are not a row of cashiers. Rather when you enter their stores, in addition to a strong visual connection to the brand, they have easily identifiable employees with mobile cashier platforms ready to interact and help customers.   They are knowledgeable and will explain the benefits of each product, help with your issues and even tell you personal stores about the products.

Apple is known for its sleek innovative products.  But they also carry a premium price.  But despite a higher price, they continue to increase market share.  One reason is because they have humanized the Apple brand.  They connect with the consumer.

Another example is an online brand.  How can you humanize an online brand?  Zappos.com places on its product pages videos of employees talking about why he or she likes the product.  The videos are not about product specs but people telling their stories about the product.  When Zappos launched the videos in 2009, their conversion rate increased from 6% to 30%.  They humanized the brand with narratives.

The lesson for healthcare marketers is that we must humanize our brand.  Make them personable.  It doesn’t matter how nice our hospital is or what kind of technology we have, we must connect on a personal level.  Maybe that comes by using patients, physicians, and staff members to tell their stories about the brand.  Making it real, and genuine and personable.  It provides an important and engaging brand narrative.

There are other ways to make that human connection.  We should always strive to find them and use them.  Our brand will become stronger as we close the gap of social distance.  As we humanize our brand.