First things first...
… knowing there is a difference between - branding and marketing messages.Often we use the two terms interchangeably, but the truth is they are not the same. Yes, they may fall into the same job description or department for most business, but that doesn’t make them the same. Branding and Marketing have two different ways to achieve audience attention.
James Heaton, from Tronvig Group, describes marketing as an activity that promotes a product or service. He calls it a “push tactic” that pushes a message out to get customer acquisition - “You want this device because it is …the newest technology”. Simply put the marketing message is the introduction to the audience of what you do.
Where branding is the “pull tactic” because it has attributes that define why the organization, product or service can be trusted (the truth) - “Mom's say they have used this for generations … so you will buy me because … I am trusted.” The brand is the connection to the audience of who you are.
Your brand's uniqueness
In this article, you will learn a few ways to help with brand audience messaging. Do you know what your brand has done, that your competitor hasn’t? If you don’t, you are not alone. Many companies today are only using "features and benefits" as a way to show competitor differences and thus are really only messaging one part of their potential market share.
To grasp the actual brand essence you first need to look at the company mission and all the accomplishments towards delivering on that mission. Then you need to do the same exercise for your top competitors. Compare them side by side and you will start to view the brand difference (not the marketing difference). I know it may seem like a timely effort, it is, but it will be well worth it to learn and understand the brand differentiator(s) between you and your competitors. It will open the door of opportunity to engage the audience by using pull messaging, where your competitors might only be pushing.
There is nothing wrong with push messaging, except that is what your competition is doing. Also, it is not unusual for more push then pull tactics in the healthcare industry, mostly because they haven’t thought they needed branding since the industry primarily functions under pre-arranged payer contracts and referrals, however with healthcare reform and CMS governances, this is changing. Healthcare organizations need to prove that they are a trusted source, as their patients (consumer) now have a voice and a choice for their care. Brand credibility (truth) is what will give you the edge over your competitors.
How do you create a credible healthcare brand?
First, you start with developing a centralized message, for example, it could be your mission statement or a generally outspoken promise that everyone in the organization believes ie: "Smile, it makes me happy". A cohesively aligned brand message is the image that will create consumer adoption.
Next, determine your differentiating brand position that can be performed daily in your organization, that is adopted by all and communicated effectively. A great example - What Kaiser Permanente did with their THRIVE campaign. Kaiser wanted their members, employees, and partners to have healthier lives so they used the word THRIVE as their message. Thrive, allowed them to put the focus on the benefits of living a healthy life, over marketing the features of their care delivery system or health plan. THRIVE was their pull position differentiator from their competitors.
All brand positions have two defining points to stand up too; credibility and value. If you haven’t already done so, you should get a measure of your current company credibility. Two great ways to do this review: your physician, patient, and employee surveys, and focus groups to hear what they are saying. You can garner a lot from the responses to help with understanding your company credibility and its value to the customer.
Reputation management is key for brand positioning. What I mean by this is that the majority of consumers don’t care that you purchased new chairs for the doctors, what they care about is what you are doing that affects them and their families directly (ie: THRIVE). So make sure that the organization can deliver on the wording used for the brand position. Don’t promote you have the best patient outcomes because you have the best doctors, if it is only true for some of the doctors. Especially in today’s world of social media and Internet search, your ratings are now public records and can easily be found and communicated.
Another thing to consider when creating your brand position is your competitor(s). Stay away from following their lead. Just because "Sir Happy" did it and got great results, doesn’t mean you should do it too. Stand out and show that your brand is in sync with the desires of your customers. Give them something remarkable to remember you by. Healthcare, in general, is pretty plain so be the colorful shades of today, not the black and whites of yesteryear. Oh…and let’s not forget the compassion and emotional part of a brand position. Especially since healthcare is all about caring, right? I will write more about that later.
The takeaway –
A truthful healthcare brand position will create the difference between you and the competitor.