What is healthcare branding?
Branding in healthcare is, to a degree, a relatively new concept. In the past, the healthcare industry hasn’t really needed to brand itself because it hasn’t faced the level of competition it faces now.
There have been major increases in the amount of consumer choice available on the market, and suddenly brands are having to appeal to customers in ways which they haven’t had to before. This means healthcare businesses are facing new challenges, and new opportunities are opening up for them to brand themselves effectively.
For evidence of how healthcare has changed, think about whether your local hospital or doctor has a Facebook page – possibly even other social media accounts. Like other businesses, medical companies are catering to customers – their patients. With that in mind, it’s evident why these businesses need to brand themselves effectively and engagingly.
It can be difficult for some healthcare companies to take this on board, especially if they have been in the business for a long time, and have never needed to brand themselves before. Understanding what has changed and why is complicated, but the bottom line is that healthcare companies cannot afford to remain anonymous behind the drug name, and need to start cultivating relationships with their customers.
Of course, branding isn’t everything when it comes to healthcare. Many people will choose based on convenience and what their insurance will cover – you cannot win every fight. However, in today’s world, with new technology allowing users access to reviews and ratings online, most companies cannot afford to ignore their brand image for long. Here are some of the reasons that good branding is essential to healthcare companies, and how companies can create strong brands.
1) Seek To Establish Trust
Trust is important in any relationship, particularly a customer-retailer relationship. Customers need to know that what they are giving money for is going to satisfy their requirements and fulfill their expectations. They need to know it’s safe, and it works. Companies have to reassure and convince customers of this if they want to sell their products because customers won’t buy from companies they don’t trust
This is even truer in the healthcare industry. Many of the products being retailed are intended to be ingested, and often people are administering them to their children, so it’s absolutely crucial that they feel they can trust the brand they are buying from. They need to know that the ingredients list is accurate, that the drugs used have been tested in relevant trials, and that no contamination can have occurred. Even for external medication such as bandages, customers want to know that they can rely on the product. Healthcare steps in when consumers are at their most vulnerable, so establishing trust and reliability is essential.
Good branding can create trust by demonstrating to customers that the branded company does fulfill their promises. Companies can reassure their customers about their products with statistics from independently-run trials, and they can offer detailed information about their processes. Giving customers a better understanding of what they are buying and how it will work helps to maximize their trust.
2) Utilize Logos
A great logo isn’t everything when it comes to healthcare, but it can go a long way in building a relationship with customers – especially if you have a broad product line spanning many different areas of the health market. You need to put in the work to ensure your brand is recognized in a positive way, but once you have done that, it’s crucial that you maximize the recognition. Having a logo or a slogan which people can identify with is one of the best ways to do this.
Imagine that you always buy one particular brand of painkiller. One day, you need to purchase some eye drops, but the shelf is full of brands, and you have never purchased any before. If your eye alights on a familiar logo, you will usually find yourself drawn to that brand, even if you didn’t know they made eye drops prior to that moment. The response to a “known” brand, rather than the “unknown” hundreds of others available is often subconscious, but can be powerful in influencing consumer decisions – and of course, is self-perpetuating. The more a customer purchases from your brand’s range, the more likely they are to deliberately seek out your brand in the future.
“A logo is instantly recognizable, which is why it is such a powerful tool when it comes to brand recognition. It can be easily located on a shelf, and customers don’t need to spend time searching for it, so they are less likely to get distracted by other brands or cheaper/better offers. Ensure your logo is eye-catching and very identifiable for maximum effect” says Kristen Cude, a Health writer at Brit Student and Writemyx.
3) Enhance Internal Consistency
Branding also helps to ensure that everyone in a company is on the same page, so it works to streamline some of the internal processes. Your brand should identify a clear mission for your company, something which you wish to offer to your customers, and if everybody in the company – from the cleaners to the management – is aware of that, you are more likely to get a coherent, functioning structure. Upper level management should meet and discuss this purpose regularly, making sure everyone is bearing it in mind, and checking that the company is still on track.
This will increase efficiency within your organization and increase revenue. You will also be able to present a more organized front to your customers and demonstrate the sincerity of your promises because they are reinforced by the structure of your company. Everything will function as a cohesive whole if your mission statement is made clear to everybody both inside and outside of your business.
4) Work On Understanding The Customer
As with any business, a healthcare company must know its potential customer as intimately as possible. It should have a good understanding of the gender, the age, the geographic location, the mindset, beliefs, morals, etc., of its customers in order to establish itself with them. You should be collecting market data to identify your main customer base, and then finding out as much as you can about them and considering how they will respond to your products and your marketing. These days it is all about the patient experience.
For example, if you know your product is suited predominantly for young mothers, you need to design your entire branding strategy with this in mind. The images and language you use, the fonts you select, the positioning in your retail outlets – everything about your brand must be formulated to suit this audience.
Knowing your customer allows you to cater to their specific needs at all times, and to detect small shifts in the market. This will let you respond quickly to changes and will ensure your product continues to meet your customers’ needs. For example, if you cater to a particularly health-conscious sports market and some negative studies come out about an ingredient you use, you will know instantly that you need to change this ingredient because you will know your customers won’t like it. Instead of responding to a drop in sales and wondering what’s going on, you will be able to preempt the problem and resolve it swiftly, which will help you avoid alienating your market.
Understanding the customer also helps you realize if there are potential untapped markets you could pursue, even if they will remain small parts of your business. You may realize that you can solve two problems in one. For example, if you sell support bandages for muscle injuries, having a good understanding of your target market will help you to realize that you could also be retailing painkillers or heat-based gels to help with muscle pain relief. You will be able to think about problems more widely if you focus on your customers’ needs, rather than solely on your product.
5) Identify Specific Needs
This links in with the strategy above, but involves taking the knowledge you have about your customer and honing in on their specific requirements so you can use language which directly addresses them. For example, if you know your customer is a busy working professional, you might advertise a painkiller with something along the lines of: “Can’t afford to lose hours to headaches? Try our new formula.” This targets a fear which many of your customers may suffer from – not having time to be unwell – and presents them with a quick, easy solution.
The same strategy applies if you are targeting a business rather than individuals. If you sell your services to a clinic, highlight how it can save them the hassle and streamline their working environment, allowing them to see more patients or increase their satisfaction. Identify where your customers have problems, and then adapt your product to solve these problems and draw your customer in.
6) Differentiate Yourself
If you have a factor which sets you apart from other healthcare providers, flaunt it. Make the most of your uniqueness, entice customers with the awareness that you offer something nobody else can, and highlight this in your branding. If you offer care homes with particularly luxurious accommodation, make this synonymous with your brand, so people associate your company with quality, and set you aside from others. Being distinctive and memorable can be challenging in today’s world, so if you have something special, don’t keep quiet about it, but make sure everybody knows.
“However, if you do not differentiate for anything in particular, you may need to focus instead on simply being distinctive. This isn’t easy, as every brand is seeking to do it, but you will have more success if you know your customer and your brand’s purpose well. Make yourself memorable to your specific customer by using emotive language, well-designed logos, highly positive experiences, and excellent customer service. If you stand out through practice rather than individual ideas, customers will still remember you and return to you, so make yourself brilliant where others are only “alright,” and you will have constructed a strong brand” explains Robert Hogue, a Brand manager at Australia2write and Next Coursework.
7) Value Simplicity
Nobody likes complexity, and even less so if they are stressed, tired, unwell, or in pain. People want quick, easy solutions that don’t leave them scratching their heads and puzzling over information – especially if those heads are already aching, or they keep sneezing.
If you offer services with various different prices depending on customer needs, try to make these very clear and simple, so your customer can easily identify what they want and what it will cost them – with little more than a glance. If you don’t do this, your customer is likely to despair of ever selecting the right option, and move on to a competitor with clearer pricing.
You need to prioritize clarity when it comes to products too. Simplify your branding, and avoid offering unnecessary information, either on products or on your website’s homepage. You want people to be able to find the relevant information quickly and easily, minimizing the trouble they need to go to in order to do business with your company and start feeling better.
Although it can be a clever strategy to have lots of different products available to increase the number your customers will buy, make sure you clearly and concisely differentiate between them. If you sell a painkiller for back pain and a different painkiller for headaches, ensure the packaging distinguishes between the two at a glance. Customers should be able to pick up what they need without reading extensive text and explanations, and they will expect you to make things as easy as possible for them. Customers who find they are unable to determine the difference between one bottle and the next will simply move onto a brand which is more clearly labeled.
Healthcare companies need to consider their businesses from the consumer perspective and to optimize the experience for customers whenever they can. This might mean looking at reducing waiting times in hospitals, offering more flexible and customizable care plans, increasing staff professionalism, or improving the clarity on the packaging.
Branding has become essential in today’s competitive market. Customers expect excellent experiences, and if they are dissatisfied, they are very likely to leave negative reviews slating products or services which aren’t up to scratch. Other potential customers will be dissuaded from purchasing the product or using the service and – just as with any other business – the healthcare provider will struggle to survive.
This is true regardless of whether the company is a for-profit or non-profit; both must make enough money to continue to survive and serve their customers. Cultivating a good, trustworthy, distinctive, and reliable brand is absolutely essential for healthcare providers trying to survive in today’s world.