The Importance of Branding
By: Lisa Farren, PCM, Director of Marketing and Communications at SoNE HEALTH
As someone who has devoted my career to marketing, I appreciate the importance of branding. It fascinates me! When I see an ad, visit a website, or interact with a product, I tend to be hyperaware of the brand positioning. I dissect it all: packaging, colors, messaging, and what feelings it evokes. I love when it all comes together, which is not always the case. Sometimes things don’t mesh and feel wrong, like an afterthought, or worse – off brand. I realize the average person does not give branding this level conscious thought, however we are all constantly forming brand perceptions. It’s all around us and we can’t escape it. Branding is not reserved for certain industries; it plays a role in all industries. Even in healthcare.
So, what is a brand? Think of a brand as the identity of a product and/or service, it is how consumers interact with said product or service. It includes a logo, tagline, design, image mark, symbol, and more. But a brand extends beyond its visual elements to include its values, what it stands for and its priorities. Combined these create the overall brand which evokes an emotional response in those who encounter and interact with it. These responses can be positive – or negative – toward the brand and are often subconscious.
Think about a brand toward which you feel a strong affinity. It’s likely certain emotions come to mind based on your experience with that brand. Interestingly even if you’ve never experienced the product or service of a particular brand first-hand, you likely will still develop an unconscious perception of it. It may be based on what you’ve heard from others, seen in advertising, or even a visceral reaction to the colors in the logo.
Brands seep into our brains and can prove to be an asset or a liability – healthcare is no exception. It’s important to realize your practice has a brand. When its nurtured brand affinity is created, and your brand becomes an asset. On the flip side, if ignored, brand affinity declines and your brand may become a liability.
It’s important to keep a close eye on your brand and how it’s perceived. Patients are healthcare consumers. They have a choice where and with whom to seek care. Like it or not, brand perception is likely to play a role in their decision making.
Your brand offers patients, vendors (and anyone who interacts with your practice) a benchmark of what they can expect from you, what you stand for, where your values lie and how you approach your business. Have you given any thought to your brand? Have you reviewed your brand assets? Are things like your logo, colors, mission and vision statements, website, and office signage cohesive, and consistent? Do they convey the message you wish to deliver?
To get started consider conducting an informal brand perception study with the help of your staff, vendors, and patients. Ask them to describe your brand in three words and see if the results are on- or off-target. Keep in mind building a brand does not happen overnight so be patient. Tweak, reevaluate often and make it a priority to regularly monitor and cultivate your practice’s brand. It’s good business practice.