Five Ways to Build Brand Positioning Better in Healthcare

Posted by Mitch Duckler
Building Better Healthcare Brand Positioning: 5 Ways

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Adapting to Change: Evolving Patient Roles in Healthcare Decision-Making

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, when the average patient is 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 ROI demands 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 depends on competitors’ actions and customers’ motivational variables. Therefore, thorough market research is 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 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 confusing, crowded, and inconsistent healthcare environment. Patients are looking for standout partners who 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, the 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. 

Brand Positioning Considerations
  • How is your healthcare brand positioned?
  • Is it clear to your audiences?
  • Is your level of care and service genuine, relatable, or outstanding?

In the eyes of consumers, brands that genuinely make them feel special and taken care of are worthwhile investments. It’s more important than ever to position healthcare brands in a way that highlights the unique, superior service delivery the brand provides. 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 reactions 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 translate product and service benefits into meaningful messages for 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 raise awareness and make 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 its brand around access, specialization, and technology without losing the differentiating attributes that make it truly special. It wanted to become a community brand—the community’s children’s hospital.

The hospital uniquely positioned itself to serve the children and families of its community by strengthening its core attributes of compassionate, friendly, personalized care with the specialization and ease of access required to meet the health needs of the region's children.

“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, but it is critical to your organization’s long-term success. Our FullSurge brand consultants have expertise in a full range of branding services, including strategic positioning, brand architecture, and brand extension. Contact us to learn more about our brand strategy consulting services.

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