Sunday, February 7, 2016

And what is the hospital brand?

Over the last couple of weeks, we looked at the three buckets of healthcare consumer/patient engagement and the responding to health care consumerism. And as promised a couple of weeks ago, we now are going to take a look at the hospital brand. As a memory refresh, this was a topic in a recent hospital CEO survey of the top five concerns for 2016.

But before we go any further, engagement of the healthcare consumer and patient, consumerism and brand are all linked.

While these three concerns were separate topics, in reality, are not unrelated to the strategic discussion.  Engagement, consumerism and brand are three sides of the same triangle integrated to the point that action in one changes the other two.

What is in your brand?

Now one can say that it’s a relatively easy question to answer. In some providers, it may very well be while in others not so much.  That is not a shot at anyone, just a reality of the marketplace. Hospitals are highly undifferentiated and bordering on commodity status. And when an industry becomes a commodity in the minds of consumers it is not about what you do or provide any longer, it’s all about the price you charge.

And that my friends are why the hospital brand is so critical now in health care.

Living in a large metropolitan market with nearly 100 hospitals, I have the opportunity to see a lot of hospital advertising. And frankly, I have no idea what any of the brands promises are. I don’t know what their brand position is. I can’t tell what their brand pillars are.  And to top it off, I don’t even know what they do well.

What I do know is that they all care deeply about me.  They all have everything I would ever need. The area providers’ rank somewhere in a third party quality award and some are in multiple awards. The hospitals all have great looking buildings, wireless internet, private rooms and big HDTVs and technology and 100s of physicians’ with the best quality available.

Phrasing it differently, what is your brand? How is your brand different from all the other hospitals? And what is your brand promise to me, the healthcare consumer & patient? Is it that you care, and it’s just like a hotel? Meaningless!

Doesn’t one think that a better brand promise for a provider would be “the trusted hospital to meet your healthcare needs?”  This type of brand promise requires a dramatic cultural and organizational change in the hospital.

What is needed today is for the hospital first to clarify its brand internally, and then in the market.

Take a step back and examine with outside help these three things.

      1. What is the hospital brand promise?
a.       What is the unwavering commitment to the healthcare consumer or patient?
      2, What are the brand pillars?
a.       How does the hospital deliver on the brand promise?
      3, What is the brand hospital personality?
a.       What is the way the hospital acts to deliver on its brand pillars?

Three questions for a market that is undifferentiated which are not at all easy to answer. But in answering these three inquiries, one will be able to execute tactically relevant marketing strategies and messages that have meaning, impact and drive growth.  Development of a meaningful and lasting brand is much more complicated than the above.  But it’s the most logical place to start.

After all, if the hospital doesn’t know what the brand is how can one expect the market to know? And judging from the lack of brand differentiation among hospitals, nobody knows.

On a professional note, I have recently completed the HubSpot Academy Inbound Marketing courses and certification exam. I would highly recommend that healthcare marketers do the same.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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