There’s never been a better time for healthcare companies to invest in branding.

The industry is in the midst of a sea change brought about by sweeping legislation and wholesale industry trends. The focus is now on consumer experience, as patients play an ever-increasing role in managing their own health. Performance metrics have shifted to value-based assessments like patient satisfaction; emphases are now on prevention over treatment.

As a result, the balance of influence in the brand-consumer relationship has swung dramatically to the consumer, opening up unique healthcare branding opportunities that companies in the industry simply cannot afford to ignore.

As in most industries, there’s little actual difference between the services offered by similar healthcare brands. And there are only so many ways to say that your outcomes are better than your competitors’.

How, then, can your brand stand out amongst the competition?

The following are 5 important opportunities to do just that.

1. Positioning

healthcare branding positioning

Positioning your healthcare brand is the most fundamental strategic effort you can make in healthcare branding. It isn’t easy, though. Strict regulations, mega-mergers, and tightening of budgets mean there’s little leeway for most healthcare companies to rebrand themselves. That said, it’s an undertaking that every healthcare brand should explore. The way in which your healthcare brand is positioned will determine its fate in the new industry landscape.

Central to positioning is competitive brand research. It’s only by studying the competitive landscape in which your brand operates that you can hope to identify opportunities for differentiation. The ongoing wave of mergers and acquisitions has created an industry landscape that is confusing and constantly shifting. Establishing a brand that is authentic and reliable amidst the chaos will go a long way toward ingratiating your company with its consumer base.

At the end of the day, the goal of positioning is to create a unique impression in your customer’s mind that sets your brand apart. Of course, to accomplish this, first you have to define what makes your brand unique. This requires consensus among key stakeholders on things like your brand category, target customer, competitive advantage, and brand promise. Authentic answers to each of these questions lead to genuine differentiation.

2. Identity

healthcare-branding-2

One of the most obvious ways to make your healthcare brand stand out is by refreshing your corporate identity.

A visual audit of the healthcare industry reveals that most brands have seriously lackluster identities. Some are holdovers of previous eras; others were designed with little inspiration. Color palettes are very similar and font choices are humdrum at best.

When refreshing your visual identity, it’s important to remember the power that a good identity can wield. The best identities stand for something. Nike’s “swoosh,” for example, is emblematic of the winged goddess of victory and all the swift and triumphant values she represents. By utilizing symbols to convey positioning, your identity is the most immediate way you have of expressing your brand’s distinctiveness.

Your visual identity tells your customers why you are different from your competition. To ensure this message is compelling and effective, your identity should be built to stand the test of time. An enduring logo represents an enduring brand. Finally, your identity should be deployed with the utmost consistency so as to instill trust in the minds of your customers.

3. Content

healthcare branding content

When it comes to healthcare branding, content is king. Not just any content, though. Compelling, engaging, and, most of all, useful content.

Luckily for healthcare brands, there will never be a dearth of inspiring and educational content. Heartrending stories of patients whose lives have been changed by your brand are a powerful way to connect with customers on a deeply human level. And while it’s wise to be aware of the ever-changing legal and ethical regulations surrounding healthcare branding, there are many acceptable ways to inform consumers on vital health topics, as well. This type of educational content is both relevant and useful to a broad spectrum of audiences.

The volume and complexity of healthcare topics means that no brand within the industry should have a lack of effective content to populate their channels. B2C brands can offer healthcare tips via blog posts, videos, patient stories, and infographics. B2B brands can present unique insights in the form of white papers, case studies, webinars, and e-books.

Regardless of which side of the B2C/B2B divide your healthcare brand falls, quality content enables you to position your company as an industry leader. It reassures consumers that your brand has the right solution for their needs. It even boosts your search engine rankings, establishing your website as a credible source of information.

It’s hard to overstate the importance and power of content when it comes to healthcare branding.

4. Digital Marketing

healthcare digital marketing

New legislation, HIPAA laws, and increased government regulation mean that healthcare branding isn’t easy. Play by the rules, however, and you’ll find that there’s never been a better time to do it. According to Pew Research, 72 percent of internet users searched for health information in the past year. Healthcare, in fact, is the second most-searched-for service online.

Digital marketing, then, is one of the most valuable ways a healthcare brand can engage with its audience and improve patient engagement. It starts with a clean, modern website that’s a dynamic embodiment of your brand. You’d be surprised how many major healthcare brands are trudging along with outdated and overly complex websites that pay no mind to user experience.

Not only should your website be user-friendly, it should offer an engaging experience regardless of which type of device your customers are using. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic, so it’s safe to assume that the majority of your customers are accessing your site on the go. Mobile-first design is the mark of a competent brand that has its customers front of mind.

The simple truth is that if you want to reach your customers where they are these days, you have to invest in social media. Advertising platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to reach highly targeted audiences with relevant information. By leveraging the uniquely powerful content available to healthcare brands, you can make social media work for you in ways that companies in other industries cannot.

Beyond social media, paid search advertising platforms like Google AdWords and Bing Ads are essentially the new yellow pages, enabling you to put your brand directly in front of consumers that are actively looking for your services. Digital marketing is arguably the most powerful way to increase brand awareness and foster brand loyalty amongst your customer base.

5. Customer Experience

healthcare branding customer experience

The emerging healthcare industry centers on customer experience. Patient satisfaction and value-based metrics mean that the ultimate judges of your brand’s success will be those you serve. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure your brand is aligned with your customers’ needs and expectations. This starts with making certain your brand experience is consistent and cohesive across every touchpoint.

Consistency translates into reliability in the mind of your customer. Your brand personality should extend from the smiles on your employees’ faces to the user-friendliness of your website’s interface. Your brand’s positioning should be intimately familiar to every stakeholder within your organization. An authentic and inspiring culture drives employees to serve as brand ambassadors, and better equips them to handle customer concerns and complaints.

The best way to gauge your brand’s performance vis-à-vis customer experience, though, is with customer research. Conducting regular in-depth interviews and online surveys enables you to understand exactly how your customers are experiencing your brand. The actionable insights that emerge from such research offer valuable opportunities to ensure your brand is standing out—and doing so in the right way.

The Takeaway

Healthcare brands are faced with a unique opportunity to redefine themselves in order to address fundamental industry changes brought about by legislation, technology, and consumer demand. Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to meaningfully differentiate your brand.

Positioning, identity, content, digital marketing, and customer experience each represent a powerful area where healthcare brands can better align themselves with the needs of their customers and stand out from the competition.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has more than a decade of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.