Branding is essential in every industry, but when it comes to healthcare, branding is like a trauma center in the wake of a 12-car interstate pileup. In a word: indispensable.
Today’s healthcare is driven by patient choice like never before. Every day, more and more direct-to-consumer healthcare brands come online, offering patients a growing array of solutions to their healthcare needs.
In an increasingly saturated market, healthcare branding is essential to any healthcare company looking to increase patient acquisition and grow their business.
With this in mind, we take a look at some of the central questions surrounding healthcare branding:
- What is Healthcare Branding?
- Why is Healthcare Branding So Essential?
- What are the Benefits of Healthcare Branding?
- How Can You Make Your Healthcare Brand Stand Out?
- The Takeaway
The answers to these questions will help any healthcare company wondering whether branding is worth the investment. (Spoiler alert: it is.)
What is Healthcare Branding?
Healthcare branding is the process of shaping how a healthcare organization is perceived.
Brands, after all, are perceptions. Your brand is the way your organization is perceived by those who experience it. That includes your doctors, your nurses, your board members, but most of all, your patients.
Healthcare branding helps organizations ensure they are perceived the way they want to be. As trusted, caring, knowledgeable, experienced, etc.
More than simply a name, tagline, logo, or messaging, your healthcare company’s brand is the recognizable feeling that these elements evoke.
Healthcare branding ensures that these elements come together in a cohesive system informed by positioning and personality that is consistently executed across your brand’s many touchpoints.
Why is Healthcare Branding So Essential?
There was a time when healthcare branding didn’t matter so much.
Patients had little choice as to which healthcare provider they used. Their provider was determined by insurance, which was in turn determined by their workplace.
And those without insurance, if they were lucky to get care at all, sought treatment at emergency rooms and community clinics.
As every healthcare professional knows, however, times have changed—in a big way.
The Affordable Care Act fundamentally altered the healthcare landscape, putting patients in the driver’s seat like never before.
Millions of previously uninsured patients now have access to the health insurance marketplace and are playing an ever-increasing role in managing their own health. Even those without insurance can access a growing array of out-of-pocket online providers and pharmacies.
Performance metrics have shifted to value-based assessments like patient satisfaction; emphases are now on prevention over treatment; and a growing crop of digital healthcare brands is redefining the direct-to-consumer healthcare market.
As a result, the balance of influence in the healthcare brand-consumer relationship has swung dramatically to the consumer.
As patients have become empowered consumers, the benefits of healthcare branding have grown to the point that healthcare companies simply can’t afford to ignore them.
What are the Benefits of Healthcare Branding?
Effective healthcare branding, informed by research and driven by strategy, has a range of valuable benefits for any healthcare organization. Let’s take a look at just a few.
Healthcare branding can help your organization:
Identify Changing Patient Needs
The needs of patients today look nothing like the needs of patients pre-COVID-19. But even in times when a global pandemic hasn’t fundamentally changed the healthcare landscape, patients’ needs are constantly changing.
Branding gives you the tools to better understand changing patient needs and rebrand your company to meet them.
Brand research includes both qualitative research (including things like one-on-one patient interviews), and quantitative research (including initiatives like patient-wide online surveys to confirm or deny hypotheses developed in the qualitative research phase).
Insights gleaned from brand research is critical in optimally positioning a healthcare brand, especially during dynamic and unpredictable markets like that which resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond brand research, effective brand management ensures your healthcare brand is continually aligned with shifting market trends and their impact on patient needs.
It’s difficult to think of a quality more essential to the success of a healthcare organization than trust. A healthcare brand is made or broken by the degree to which it is trusted by those it serves.
When it comes to branding, trust is conveyed through everything from visual identity to messaging. Colors, photography, and typography all contribute profoundly to whether a brand is perceived as trustworthy or not.
Beyond a healthcare brand’s visual brand identity, its verbal identity can go a long way toward establishing it as a trusted, expert leader in the healthcare space.
Everything from a confident, reassuring voice in its website copy, to the regular publication of articles and guides designed to inform patients on important healthcare topics are proven ways for a healthcare brand to establish trust.
Set Your Brand Apart from the Competition
Trust, however, isn’t enough for healthcare brands in the modern age. Gone are the days when a healthcare organization can be content to be judged on reputation of its medical practice alone.
As patients have become ever more empowered consumers, the competition to treat them has become increasingly fierce.
The reality is your healthcare brand is just one of many from which informed, digitally savvy patients can choose. And their decisions, like the decisions of every consumer, are based first and foremost on emotion.
Below, we cover in detail the many ways you can help your healthcare brand stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, but sufficed it say, competitive differentiation is more important than ever.
Branding gives you the power to identify unique opportunities for differentiation in the competitive landscape—and capitalize on those opportunities with unique positioning and powerful storytelling.
Improve the Patient Journey
As mentioned earlier, patient experience is the name of the game in today’s healthcare. And branding gives healthcare organizations a range of ways to powerfully shape patient experience.
These days, a large percentage of patient experience takes place outside the healthcare facility, after all. The patient journey begins with awareness and consideration, where branding tools like content marketing play a huge role in influencing customer behavior.
The selection phase of the patient journey is where a healthcare brand’s website can make or break the pre-treatment patient experience. A well-designed, premium website optimized for conversion translates into a seamless online experience for patients looking to answer a question or book an appointment.
Healthcare branding helps to define the patient treatment experience as well, through everything from signage and uniforms to appointment reminders and patient portals.
When properly leveraged, branding enables premium healthcare companies to improve the patient journey from the moment the patient hears about the brand to the moment they leave their appointment—and beyond.
Healthcare branding fosters patient trust, reinforces patient-provider relationships, and builds patient loyalty at every stage of the patient journey.
How Can You Make Your Healthcare Brand Stand Out?
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. Brand Positioning
Positioning your healthcare brand is the most fundamental strategic effort you can make in healthcare branding.
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 consistent and reliable amidst the chaos is an important opportunity to ingratiate your organization with its patient base.
At the end of the day, the goal of positioning is to differentiate your brand in the mind of your patients. To accomplish this, you first have to define what makes your brand unique.
This requires consensus among key stakeholders on things like your target audience, competitive advantage, and brand promise. Purposeful answers to each of these questions lead to genuine differentiation.
2. Brand Identity
One of the most obvious ways to make your healthcare brand stand out is by refreshing your brand’s visual 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.
When it comes to healthcare branding, content is king. Not just any content, though. Compelling, engaging, and, most of all, useful content. In a word, storytelling.
Luckily for healthcare brands, there will never be a dearth of inspiring and educational stories to tell. 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 everchanging 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, effective brand messaging enables you to position your company as an industry leader.
Storytelling 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 storytelling when it comes to healthcare branding.
4. Patient Experience
Patient satisfaction and value-based metrics mean that the ultimate judges of your brand’s success are those you serve.
With this in mind, it’s important to ensure your brand is aligned with your patients’ 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. A purposeful and inspiring company 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 patient experience, though, is with brand research.
Conducting regular in-depth interviews and online surveys enables you to understand exactly how your patients 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.
Today’s healthcare companies operate in a competitive landscape where branding is more important than ever. Patients have become empowered, informed consumers and digital healthcare brands are redefining the marketplace.
Healthcare branding is essential if healthcare companies hope to stand out from the crowd and develop meaningful, lasting relationships with their patients.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to meaningfully differentiate your healthcare brand.
Positioning, identity, storytelling, and patient experience each represent a powerful area where healthcare brands can better align themselves with the needs of their patients and stand out from the competition.