Why Brand Alignment Matters in Healthcare
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Although theories are abundant and opinions vary, what is not disputed is they are related and interdependent. Creating a recognizable and powerful brand identity for healthcare entities is not only valuable but crucial. Think to yourself, does the look and feel of our brand match the quality of care we provide?
A strong brand is built from the ground up, even if it can not be established first. The strategic thinking and foundational building blocks establish internal buy-in, create external awareness, and foster community support. People are willing to support initiatives with staying power and want to support efforts that bring value to themselves or those they care about.
Healthcare doesn’t follow the exact marketing model other businesses do, although we all realize the need to generate funding to continuously offer life-extending care. In healthcare marketing, people are sensitive—some are even protective of how things used to be. They don’t want to be sold products or services, even though they may very well need them. They certainly don’t want to see their doctor’s office or hospital as a business.
“You have to start somewhere. Consistent branding creates trust, trust creates engagement, and engagement builds healthy communities."
The rising costs of everything, including healthcare, perpetuates the challenge of justifying marketing efforts. However, it’s important to remember it is not a matter of if, but when someone needs or refers someone to you. Therefore, being visible and top of mind is a priority. All of our healthcare partners tell us the true reason for what they do is to help others. The key is choosing how to differentiate your organization from others and learning the most authentic ways to communicate who you are to the public.
“You have to start somewhere. Consistent branding creates trust, trust creates engagement, and engagement builds healthy communities," says Trent Wilcox, President of UNANIMOUS.
The first step in creating a representative verbal and visual presence is establishing a foundational identity. Some organizations develop this internally, while others outsource the tedious and arduous process, mainly because they have other pressing priorities and value an outside perspective. Your organization’s mission, vision, and values matter, and your internal team should operate by them, and external supporters should witness them. This is where your brand originates—this is the what and why you do what you do. A solid foundation allows your team to "live" the brand. Are you able to hire and evaluate team members based on your values?
From there, developing insightful messaging and creating appealing visuals begin to fall into place, creating a brand identity. Your brand identity is simply the collection of outward elements representing your organization. These may consist of an organization’s name, key messages, tagline, color, design, logo, typography, etc.
Does your verbal and visual presence really matter? Do they have to align? After all, patients will choose you if you provide excellent service, and your employees will stay, right? Theoretically, yes. In reality, no. People tend to choose a provider they have heard of before, either from another person or elsewhere. Employees typically stay when they feel valued and part of a team.
- Does the look and feel of our brand match the quality of care we provide?
- Are our messages consistent internally to employees and externally to the public?
- Does our organization look outdated or forward-thinking?
In healthcare, a progressive visual presence is crucial in building confidence with the community, especially patients and foundation supporters. Does an outdated brand create a perception of outdated technology and medical practices? Although assurance is often felt subconsciously, prospective patients find comfort in familiarity and develop trust in things that are recognizable. The internal dialog is usually "Oh, I've heard of them, so I will go there."
In truth, your organization still has to deliver—in service and quality care. True brand alignment means you and your entire team live your brand. Your mission is known, recited, and drives decisions. Your messaging has a consistent tone on every website page, testimonial video, print ad, and service brochure. Your visual mark is proudly worn by employees, conveys the quality of care you provide and is easily recognizable. True brand alignment is an accurate, appealing, and consistent outward expression of your organization to all key stakeholders.
Sometimes you are afforded the opportunity to engineer your brand alignment strategy from the ground up, beginning at the foundational concepts. Other times, immediate needs and services have to be met first, or you join an already established organization. Regardless of what comes first, establishing a brand identity that aligns with your mission, vision, and values is the heartbeat of healthcare marketing.
UNANIMOUS is a Lincoln, Nebraska-based agency that assists clients with branding, marketing, web, and video. With over 350 active clients across 15 states, the agency is known for its collaborative style and prides itself on rhyme, reason, and results.