Any business needs to consider what type of branding it wants to impress upon its customers. Healthcare is no exception.
There are many excellent books available on the subject of branding. I find that many of them approach the subject in different ways, and it’s been quite helpful to understand a few different angles on the concept. One book that stands out for me is Grow by Jim Stengel, the former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble.
By studying several brands from around the world, Stengel’s book is very helpful in explaining what branding actually is and the power it has. Rather than define branding strictly through marketing terms, Stengel treats a brand as an ideal: “The brand ideals of the highest growth businesses center in one of five areas or fields, of fundamental human values.”
Those human values that he noticed fall into the following five categories:
- Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility
- Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways.
- Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences
- Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality
- Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including challenging the status quo and redefining categories
Those five human values, Stengel argues, are traits that we would like to see in the people we know and the companies with which we cooperate.
Very quickly, let’s consider examples of each of these values.
Zappos creates a joy factor through its exceptional customer service, and Starbucks offers the opportunity for connection with others and with yourself (just getting away from the world for a while). Google lets you explore, and Mercedes Benz gives a successful business person a sense of pride and accomplishment. Dove’s desire to “celebrate every woman’s unique beauty” is a concept of societal change rather than just a marketing gimmick.
How Do The Ideals Relate to Your Work?
Healthcare is far more than just a visit to the doctor or having to go to the hospital. Healthcare includes all of the services that make a doctor’s office or a hospital even possible. This includes everything from medical device manufacturers and medtech to administrative services to marketing and to a ton more.
But let’s take it a step further. If we include the concept of trying to prevent sickness from happening in the first place, then we must cast our net much wider than just the services a person needs after he gets sick.
All of these services need to consider their brand and how they will reach their relevant audience, whether that audience is targeted toward healthcare professionals or the general public.
In all of these cases, we have to consider which ideal we are trying to convey. Do we want to impact society, inspire exploration, or evoke pride? Are we trying to combine all five of the human values?
While I believe that no particular one of these five values is more important than the others, I do think it’s essential to narrow our scope to pick one ideal. The others may relate to your efforts anyway, but the process of picking one gets you closer to delivering that ideal. It’s very easy to miss out on all of them by trying to appeal to as many people as possible. By picking only one, you have a framework with which to evaluate your efforts. You have an opportunity to appeal to a core value within other people.
Applying the Ideals
Some of the ideals seem like they would fit very naturally with healthcare or health-related services. Evoking pride would work well with fitness products or services, including physical therapy, but I could easily see physical therapy being linked to enabling connection.
Think about it, depending on your audience, the idea of regaining mobility after surgery could be linked to strength (obviously a good fit for sports medicine) or to creating opportunities for parents or grandparents to get out with their kids, their friends, or their pets.
The ideal of impacting society should have a very natural connection to healthcare services, so I won’t dig in on that one.
What about eliciting joy? There are some easy, obvious connections there when it comes to a successful delivery of a newborn, but hospitals that are leading the way in things like enabling vision or hearing in a patient for the first time could certainly lean in to this messaging. In the same respect, the medical technology involved in these procedures could do the same.
Inspiring exploration could relate to pediatric care (enable the little explorer in your family), but it could also relate to services like mental health. If a patient is moving from a life of anxiety to one of breaking beyond those barriers, that’s an exciting victory. The message doesn’t have to be positioned in a negative way to invoke an emotional response (you know, like a commercial for anti-depressants that makes you feel more depressed than you did before viewing the ad).
Obviously, not all of these ideals will be even possible for your brand, and that’s okay. They’re not supposed to be!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least briefly mention the need to test this ideal with your intended audience before a complete rebranding effort. Please test, and then lean into a clear identity.
We’re all flooded with messaging everyday. If your service or company isn’t remarkable, it will get overlooked.
This post was originally published in 2013. It’s been updated to focus on branding for healthcare.