Stephanie Burton

Need a new visual identity for your health system? Here’s how to make your case.

By Stephanie Burton on January 24, 2017

“Raise your hand if you’re still wearing the same clothes you wore in high school.”

I have had to sell the concept of refreshing a brand’s identity to a skeptical health system C-suite a few times in my career. The answers to this question are often laughter, deep sighs and rolling of the eyes (as if to ask, “Is this woman crazy?”), but never have I had anyone raise his or her hand.

Why? The answers are pretty obvious. Clothing styles change. We want to project a different image as an adult than we did as a teenager. Our bodies grow and shrink and evolve. Ultimately, we are playing a role and, whatever the role, we need our clothing to help communicate a sense of credibility.

Guess what? All of these things happen to health systems, too. We introduce new capabilities. We expand and mature. We adopt to an ever-changing legal landscape.

This is something Mayo Clinic understands and likely the reason its visual identity has evolved since its founding in 1914.

Is your visual identity following suit? There are a few tests you can run to determine if it’s time for a visual refresh or complete overhaul.

 

Brand Perception

What does consumer market research reveal about your brand’s perception? Ultimately, a brand is independent of a logo, but a logo can influence an emotional reaction to a brand. Based on how your logo looks today, consumers may see your health system as innovative, compassionate or even old fashioned. If your organization has encountered a positive transformation in the past several years, it’s important that your visual identity reflects the “new” you.

 

Brand Relevancy

Just as we update equipment and facilities, we must also update our visual identity to remain consistent with our evolving brand. According to Harvard Business Review’s “The Brand Report Card,”[1] “The Brand stays relevant” is one of the top ten traits of a successful brand.”

Is your health system’s visual identity still wearing bellbottoms? Sometimes, our clients don’t know. “Looks good to me,” we hear. “We haven’t heard any complaints,” some may say. All of that may be true, but age can uncover a few wrinkles in the form of antiquated fonts and colors. If your visual identity is dated, it is probable your consumers will view your health system as dated, too. A skilled art director is tasked with staying in tune with trends that can help your health system better represent its brand essence through its visual identity.

 

Brand Differentiation

Does your visual identity resemble a competitor? While this may not be worth the investment in new visual identity alone, it could help strengthen your argument. Healthcare organizations have a particular knack for choosing the ubiquitous “blue” as a dominant corporate color, sometimes forgetting that other colors can help differentiate them from competitors.

 

Brand Architecture

If you are making significant changes to your health system’s brand architecture and your visual identity hasn’t been touched for more than a decade, now may be the time to start making your argument. The reason? Changing a brand architecture often means you’ll incur many of the same expenses you would for a visual identity refresh or change (e.g. signage, printed materials, etc.). By taking it one step further, you can help develop an identity that better works for your health system and those you serve.

But how much is this all going to cost me? That will be the topic of the next blog.

 

Stephanie (Hungerford) Burton, APR, is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Creative. Follow her on Twitter @shungerford.

[1] Harvard Business Review. “The Brand Report Card.” January/February 2000.