A brand cohesion study was conducted in the spring of 2013 with over 120 companies participating across the globe. Representing twenty business sectors including healthcare, respondents clearly identified a significant lack of strong brand cohesion, with only 38% of companies having a high level of brand integration within their organization. Adding to the lack of a coherent brand strategy, 45% of respondents had different brand positions for their corporation for either their division or product.
A coherent and clear brand identity is important, as noted in a study conducted by Strategy& which identified companies that had a clear identity that stood the test of time had superior three-year TSR growth versus companies with a lack of clear identity . The Strategy& study identified that having a coherent value proposition is one of the key drivers of success for companies and well ahead of being agile, having a distinctive way of providing value and being diversified. For the 200 or more healthcare providers in the industry dominated based on a Fortune report by companies such as CVS, McKesson, Unitedhealth Group, AmerisourceBergen and Express Scripts, it’s critical to create a strong and focused brand position to be differentiated in the industry.
Our 2013 study identified a significant a gap within the brand positioning structure, with only half of respondents clearly articulating their company’s brand essence. This supports our premise regarding effective translation of the complexity of a brand position: few organizations are able to distill their brand’s unique value into easy to remember, simple, focused messaging. There also exists a second, probably more critical gap: since brand positioning is predominantly external, there exists little to no internal focus as part of employee engagement and onboarding programs.
For the healthcare industry, this becomes critical in attracting the right employee to drive research, best patient practices and brand loyalty. Healthcare providers such as Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest managed care organizations, which ranks the highest by JD Powers on customer service in the markets it serves, has invested significantly in employee engagement across its eight regions. The engagement program includes specific phrasing the leadership use in their communication with staff, in addition to an online tool where employees can learn about the vision and mission of the organization.
Our study also highlighted how the process of creating or refining brand positions is mainly part of a business review process or established planning cycle driven by the CEO, who leads both the development and integration within the organization. The perceived impact of an organization’s branding initiative are brand loyalty, execution excellence and lower staff turnover, while the biggest challenge to launching an effective brand coherence strategy is the lack of understanding and commitment levels from the leadership team. For the healthcare industry who rely on exceptional expertise and talent while facing a shortage of staff, the issue of clarity and consistency of position becomes more critical.
Based on this study and our own experience managing brand coherence, we have identified the following steps for the healthcare industry:
Step #1: Establish Consistent Industry Metrics to Evaluate the Contribution of Your Brand
Step #2: Ensure Master Brand Linkage
Step #3: Fill the Brand Essence Gap
Step #4: Align All Activities Around the Brand Coherence Loop
Step #5: Brand From the Inside Out Versus the Outside In
Step #6: Clearly Align your Brand Pillars to Key Strategic Imperatives