This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
The Healthcare industry is undergoing rapid change. Thirty years ago, patients made healthcare decisions based on physician referrals, recommendations, and prior experiences; hospitals and physician practices did not need to market aggressively.
Fast forward to today, where the average patient is now a proactive healthcare ‘consumer’ who researches health information and relies on physician reviews.
Positioning of Healthcare Brands is Critical
From a strategic marketing standpoint, one of the hardest things for a healthcare company to do is position and differentiate itself from competitors. Increased regulatory constraints, large mergers and acquisitions, and tougher demands for ROI are just a few reasons healthcare brands are under more pressure than ever.
Today, the way you position your healthcare brand likely defines whether or not your organization is successful.
The Power of Proper Brand Positioning
Proper positioning is vital to a brand’s success for many reasons. It serves to:
- Institute an internal, unified understanding of your brand
- Provide direction for product and service development
- Establish direction for brand identity and marketing communications
- Distinguish your business from competitors
Positioning is essentially the summation of everything your brand is about. A positioning strategy is dependent on competitors’ actions as well as customers’ motivational variables. Thorough market research is, therefore, needed to analyze the market’s intricacies and potential. This is also an excellent way to assess competitors that pose the greatest threat to survival, and to understand what they do and why they do it. Research helps marketing executives create and develop impactful brand strategies that drive meaningful results.
A brand strategy that differentiates the organization, motivates target audiences, grows the business, and builds engaged, loyal supporters is vital. Mergers and acquisitions have created a healthcare environment that is confusing, crowded, and inconsistent. Patients are looking for standout partners that are trustworthy and genuine about wanting to help. That’s why a compelling brand positioning is foundational to building a relevant and powerful brand in healthcare.
A New Era in Healthcare
Due to pressures to reduce healthcare costs, focus on healthcare has shifted to consumers. Patients now play a large role in managing their health—both inside and outside of the healthcare setting. Targeting patients and effectively engaging them requires a smart, revitalized positioning strategy and proper, consistent execution.
Proper positioning is an art, as well as a science.
- How is your healthcare brand positioned?
- Is it clear to your audiences?
- Is your level of care and service genuine, relatable, or outstanding?
Here are five factors to consider to better structure your organization’s brand positioning:
1) Conduct a Current Brand Audit
Effective positioning is based on research that analyzes buyers’ attitudes, as well as their reaction to actual brand experiences within the marketplace. Study how different stakeholders currently react to interactions with your brand. Discover what is imperative to your target customers regarding healthcare service delivery and what drives their purchasing decisions today.
2) Define and Characterize the Market
Identify the relevant market segments. Develop a differentiated, defensible market position and provide a translation of product and service benefits that are meaningful to different audiences. Suppliers, patients, and doctors will all perceive value differently so make sure your positioning encompasses the needs of all audiences.
3) Focus Brand-Building on Opportunities That Drive Growth and Improve Performance
Discover what is most important to your target customers and what drives their actions. Determine key stakeholders’ unmet needs, wants, and desires. Compare your positioning to your competitors to distinguish your uniqueness. Find holes in the market that match your organization's purpose and align the two to drive meaningful growth.
4) Create Brand Architecture and Formalize Naming Conventions
Brand architecture is the strategic and relational structure for brands. Naming conventions can support clarity and understanding of the divisions within a brand’s architecture. Mergers and acquisitions have made the healthcare industry confusing and undefined. In a sea of sameness, creating a consistent, descriptive naming convention is one way a brand can drive consistency. Brand architecture also sets the stage for enabling efficient communications and assures easier extensions of your brand.
5) Define and Create Unique Brand Experiences for Patients, Physicians, and Employees
Establish strategic initiatives that create a patient experience aligned with the brand promise. Communicate the new position and strategy to internal audiences and develop the messaging and communications strategy to build brand awareness. Consistency and disciplined execution raises awareness and makes the messaging behind your brand positioning stronger and more impactful in the long run.
Dayton’s Children’s Hospital
Following a 2015 brand study, Dayton Children’s Hospital began working to strengthen their brand around access, specialization, and technology without losing the differentiating attributes that make them truly special. They wanted to take a position of being a community brand—the community’s children’s hospital.
The hospital uniquely positioned itself to serve the children and families of their community by strengthening their core attributes of compassionate, friendly, personalized care with the specialization and ease of access required to meet the health needs of the children in the region.
“It’s not sufficient for us to be the compassionate, caring brand. We must also be highly specialized in the care of children. Relative to patient experience, it means we have to be the best in all aspects and at all times and in all ways.” —Kelly Kavanaugh, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Planning, Dayton Children’s Hospital.
The hospital has uniquely positioned itself as Dayton’s children’s hospital.
Positioning your healthcare brand is complicated. It is, however, critical to your organization’s long-term success. Our FullSurge brand consultants have expertise across the full range of branding services, including strategic positioning, brand architecture, and brand extension. Contact us to learn more about our brand strategy consulting services.