Branding – in the last few years I have seen this go from a second thought for most health and human service executive teams—if they thought about it at all—to a primary concern. (If the “branding concept” is new to you, think of it as the act of controlling how your customers perceive you in your market.)
Why all the new interest in branding? Because consumers (and payers and referral sources) are paying more out of pocket, are more concerned with convenience, are focused more and more on “value”. This is a result of five years of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), with more transparency, and a new health care financing roadmap.
With Google’s recent data showing that a healthcare organization’s brand is the biggest factor in a consumer decision-making, the race is on for executive teams to achieve the holy grail of marketing… building a golden brand.
It’s not your logo, it’s not your look. It’s not what you say you are, it’s what your consumers think you are. And a “Golden Brand” is one for which target market customers believe in and trust to such a high degree – they feel there is no substitute (think Apple, Southwest, Amazon, etc.).
How to become a “golden brand” in your market space was the focus of my recent presentation, Changing Best Practices In Positioning & Branding: Keys To Competing For Consumers & Referrals, at The 2015 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute. There is a very specific process to develop a golden brand. But first, managers need to understand that the underpinnings of branding is to view everything from the perspective of the customer. The most difficult basic truth in branding is to accept that, from a basic consumer perspective, professionals and service provider organizations are all the same – “same benefits, same feel, same look, same options.” So how do they choose? They choose based on two features – they choose either the organization they trust, or the organizations that the market “perceives” as the best. I like to call this the brand trust equation.
With the consumer perspective and that equation in mind, the process for building your brand as a golden brand has five key steps: Assess, Develop, Differentiate, Innovate, and Validate.
Assess Your Brand – This sounds overly basic, but you can’t possibly improve on anything without a baseline assessment of where your organization stands now. Step one is a “brand focus test.” If you don’t have simple, compelling answers to three questions (Who are you? What do you do? What are your greatest assets?), you don’t have a focused brand. And don’t ask your team or your board – you need to ask your current and potential customers.
Develop Your Brand Identity – Developing an identity means defining the brand that would give you those simple, compelling answers above, as well as defining what your brand stands for: its goals, its personality, its voice, the emotions you want people to experience when they come into contact with your brand, and a clear conveyance of that identity through a positioning statement.
Differentiate Yourself – At this point in the process you should have a pretty good idea of how consumers see you. Add to this an analysis of the marketplace, and you can now make an extremely important comparison between yourself, and your competition. If you are exactly like your competition (you truly do offer the “same benefits, same feel, same look, same options, same price”), you need to make a change to stand-out from the crowd with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): those unique features (cost, quality, performance, availability, technology, leadership, timely delivery, superior service, customer support, etc.) that make you the better choice.
Become An Innovative Brand Through Creativity – Now that you have put in the work to develop a brand, how are you going to “put your best face forward” with the right name, logo, website, and marketing communication materials? Showcase your expertise and your USP to the world , and don’t be a afraid to think outside the box. The most successful marketing awareness strategies go beyond traditional media (publishing free quality content, hosting wellness classes, partnering with local businesses, hosting community events, etc).
Validate Your Brand Strategy – Not all branding efforts are a success, and you must do this to limit costly branding disasters. Basically, test your message with your audience. If they can’t verbalize your brand back to you, it’s not market ready.
For more on branding, check out these resources in our Industry Library:
- Positioning > Branding > Marketing > Revenue
- New Thinking On Non-Profit Branding
- Better Branding & Successful Marketing Requires Service ‘Usability’
- Can Your Management Team Answer These Three Questions About Your Brand Name?
- Assessing Your Organization’s Brand Identity: Is Your Market Positioning a “Winning” Position?
And, for even more on differentiating your organization through better branding, join me in San Diego on August 26 for my session, Running A Successful Marketing Program Online: How To Use Your Website & Social Media To Your Advantage, at The 2015 OPEN MINDS California Management Best Practices Institute.