Assume your position, operationalize your brand

July 30, 2015
Stephanie Burton Director, Healthcare Marketing

This is the third and final installment in a series about creating a health system’s brand compass. The first installment can be found here. 

In case you missed it, we’ve spent time learning why your health system needs brand definition now and how to redefine your health system’s mission, vision and values. Now, we’ll move onto steps two and three: assessing the competitive landscape and operationalizing your brand.

Assess the competitive landscape, assume your position.

Chances are, your health system has already claimed, or allowed, your patients to position you in one of these categories:

  • Patient intimacy (high touch)
  • Operational excellence (third-party awards and accolades)
  • Innovation (high tech – usually, academic medicine centers naturally fall into this category)


Pick one of these positions, ask whether it is believable and relevant to your target audience and stick with it. Much easier said than done? Absolutely. But, there are some natural cues to help you determine where you “live.”

First, take a look at what your competitors are claiming about themselves. Are they the high-tech leader? The “gentle, caring” health system? The “all things to all people”? Now, take a look at where you fit. Can you claim something your competition hasn’t already gone to market with? Is it believable, true and relevant? Excellent. This is the start of a viable brand position.

I know what you’re thinking (or, what your CEO is thinking): Yeah, but we’re all of those things. I couldn’t agree more. But a brand position isn’t about standing for everything. It’s about standing for one thing and then saying that one thing repeatedly. Think of your brand position as a headline. All the other attributes are the body copy in your brand’s story.

Operationalize your brand

I’m sure your sarcastic mind is thinking: “Yeah, I’ll get to that this afternoon.”

Of course, operationalizing a brand is no small feat and often requires years of cross-departmental work. In fact, some studies estimate it may take upwards of seven years to change a culture (that’s a lot of drum beating!). But, only when you have a staff that lives the vision, mission and values you’ve identified, will you truly have an aligned brand.

One final note

As well-intentioned as a marketer or human resources professional may be, working to redefine your brand simply won’t work unless you have the support of the guy or gal at the top of your organization. It’s worth initiating these conversations (I’ll go as far as to say it’s your duty), but if the support isn’t there, it’s time to cut bait and focus on other organizational initiatives. If there is interest, but skepticism, bring in a third party to help you have the conversation. Many agencies (mine included) will have initial conversations free of charge. No matter how good you are in your role (I know! I’ve been you!), outside consultants have the “prophet-from-another-land” appeal that health system execs often respect.



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