Stephanie Burton

Why Your Health System Needs Brand Definition Now

By Stephanie Burton on January 26, 2016

Learn three primary reasons why healthcare systems need to build strong brands to compete in today’s marketplace

There’s no doubt that the word, “branding,” evokes confusion and sometimes fear for marketers. This is truer for healthcare marketers who, while being pulled in many different directions, are now challenged to “reinvent,” “manage” and, well, “brand” their health systems in new and innovative ways.

No wonder we’re confused.
In fact, our collective confusion about what “branding” is and is supposed to do is the reason some companies have used “reputation” as a synonym for brand. But, there’s a simple definition I follow that helps bring clarity to an otherwise largely misunderstood concept.

“A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.” – Michael Eisner, former CEO, Disney

I know what you’re thinking.
“Great, now I’m supposed to sell something people can’t even see.”

Yes. Yes, you are.

But, you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, your efforts to “brand” your health system will fail if branding is only a marketing initiative. In order for branding efforts to succeed, it must be an operational initiative, not just a marketing initiative.

So, why branding now?
Since the 1980s when managed care surfaced in the U.S., marketing has become a priority for hospitals and health systems. Today, it is an even hotter priority for three primary reasons:

  • Mergers and acquisitions. When two organizations become one, brands need to be redefined. According to a report developed by Bass, Berry and Sims, “86% of healthcare and life services professionals expect mergers and acquisitions to increase in the industry.”
  • Healthcare reform. No longer are health systems thinking in terms of illness; we’re now thinking in terms of wellness. Remember those first aid kits you used to distribute? They’re now being replaced with wellness kits. As healthcare strategists, our responsibility is to lead conversations about how our brand can complement the changing landscape of healthcare.
  • Consumer preference. Reputation is important. If it wasn’t, you probably wouldn’t have a job. A survey conducted by ThinkWithGoogle found that “94% of prospective patients said the reputation of a facility is important in hospital selection.”

So, now that you understand the reason behind the importance defining your health system’s brand, I’ll show you how to get started. That will be the next topic in this series.