The Importance of a Distinct Brand Story in Healthcare

A brand is made up of the perceptions of its touchpoints. It is an image built of opinions, reputation, and perceived characteristics. Therefore every organization has a brand whether it is intentionally created or not. Experiences and interactions with an organization’s facility, service, website, or employees shape its brand image each day. Although this shaping will occur naturally, branding techniques can help guide it in a favourable direction.

While branding is traditionally associated with companies selling products, such as Nike or Apple, it is also a key tool that can have a strong impact within service-oriented industries. In healthcare, an organization’s image can be very influential. It has the potential to attract more patients and funding, which in turn could be the difference between layoffs and cutbacks or a thriving institution that helps improve a community’s health and offer good jobs. Its identity can also direct the behavior of employees and help attract top talent which is vital to the institution’s success. These opportunities will be discussed in further detail below.

Branding Opportunity #1: Attract funding and employee talent

Both financial and human capital are needed to maintain and grow healthcare services, and branding can play a large role in attracting these assets. For example, developing a strong mission statement and value proposition can help convince stakeholders (i.e. Government or donors) to invest in the future of the organization. Similarly, highly skilled prospective employees may be drawn to the organizational qualities and goals that are communicated.

Case Study: SickKids “Join the Fight” call to action

SickKids (The Hospital for Sick Children), for example, recently unveiled their new branding initiative that they are calling the “biggest and boldest brand platform in [the] hospital’s history”. The campaign is titled “Sick Kids VS the greatest challenges in child health” and repositions SickKids as a category leader fiercely fighting and winning the battle against complex and rare illnesses in children and infants. The emotionally charged call to action for fundraising is messaged as “Join the Fight”. This initiative brings awareness to the excellent work that SickKids is performing in order to attract funding as well as top medical talent.

Branding Opportunity #2: Gain employee alignment and engagement

A strong brand can also serve to bring employees together to improve efficiencies and work towards a common goal. And once staff are on board with the organizational direction, it has the potential to give them a greater sense of purpose and increase engagement with their role – which also discourages them from leaving. However, when it comes to engagement there is room for improvement in today’s workplaces. In a 2015 Gallup Survey of American employees, only 32 per cent of employees were rated as engaged in their work, a number which has remained relatively flat since the year 2000. Therefore, the task of alignment and engagement is important, but also difficult.

Case Study: Aligning organizational direction in the Seniors Care Network

Clarifying the organizational purpose and identity to gain alignment was the main challenge in Shikatani Lacroix’s branding work with the Seniors Care Network (formerly Regional Specialized Geriatric Services). Working with key stakeholders, a new mission, vision, brand pillars, and value proposition were strategically developed. The new brand strategy was then communicated visually through the creation of a new logo, and employee on-boarding tools were provided to ensure alignment.

Branding Opportunity #3: Attract and retain patients

The presence of enough patients to treat is also important, since a healthcare service becomes unnecessary without them. Focusing on developing perceptions of a quality, trusted service provider that understands patient needs can attract new patients and keep existing ones. Patient experience is also key to improving satisfaction and increasing positive word-of-mouth referrals. Steps to build a more patient-centric experience are discussed in the article ThinkBlink: Instant Connections throughout the Patient Journey.

Case Study: Creating a positive brand experience at Calgary’s South Health Campus

This opportunity to attract and retain patients through brand strategy was recognized when Shikatani Lacroix helped develop the design of Calgary’s South Health Campus (Alberta Health Services). Wayfinding tools (visuals to facilitate navigation within the space) were strategically implemented based on the patient journey. A compelling brand story and visual personality were also crafted to ensure a distinct and positive patient experience.

Therefore branding can help healthcare organizations attract funding and employee talent, gain employee alignment and engagement, and attract and retain patients. These tasks are important to the success of an organization as the industry becomes more competitive and patients look for the best options. Branding can also benefit an organization in shifting landscape of mergers or acquisitions by either demonstrating its unique value or combining two identities to form a new one. It is a valuable tool that will clearly communicate who you are as an organization and where you are headed in the future.

What story is your healthcare organization telling? How is that story impacting your consumers? Let us know in the comments below and subscribe to receive the latest Shikatani Lacroix insights in your inbox.