When creating a brand position or a message, name, logo, platform or campaign, whether for branding an overall company, an organization, or a product or service, a strong level of internal stakeholder consensus should always be incorporated well upstream of the launch so that the brand can truly be successful.
At Maricich Health, we’ve worked with hospitals, health systems, health plans, medical groups, medical device manufacturers, pharma and other companies within the integrated healthcare ecosystem — and we’ve created a great range of brands and brand positions over the years. Ultimately, we’ve seen that internal brand consensus is one of the most common denominators for success but can be underestimated by many organizations. If you have brand consensus and excitement about the brand, then it’s able to come to life. People believe in it, people sell it and people support it. A brand that’s differentiated, forward-looking, built on business objectives and well supported by internal stakeholders will be best positioned for the long haul. Strong internal stakeholder buy-in can also bring the brand purpose to life.
Building Brand Consensus for Success
How do we achieve success in building that consensus? What it really boils down to is rich participation, input and insights, and the ability to justify the brand rationale and the reasons why. With any branding process, we start our clients with an in-depth discovery process that includes interviews with key stakeholders who are leading the internal voice of the brand. These are influential stakeholders who are able to share their opinions about the internal organization and ultimately influence key decision-makers and other people. These brand influencers eventually become our brand ambassadors, and these are the people who we really want to be part of the branding process. Understanding the customer experience around the brand and connecting with internal stakeholders also provides an understanding of the organizational requirements to deliver on the brand experience.
The main points to be uncovered during brand discovery with internal influencers are centered on brand differentiators. If a healthcare organization, how does it differ from competitors? What’s the organization doing or providing that’s significantly different and “ownable” in the market? Can the care teams be empowered to deliver a unique, differentiated experience? It may not necessarily be a deliverable, such as a new service or a key accolade, but something cultural or mission oriented that really differentiates the organization. As part of the discovery process with internal stakeholders, we want to hear how these differentiators are being described in their own words since the internal vernacular may become creative fuel for breakthrough brand messaging. This process may also uncover hidden assets or new types of service offerings that could be highly valued by consumers.
Not only provider or payer organizations can benefit from internal stakeholder input during the branding process: Companies that produce health and medical products also benefit from this approach. When developing the branding around a new product, such as a medical device, we ask questions about the key attributes and differentiators of the product. What’s truly unique about the product compared with competitive offerings? Is there a new type of material composition that we should be talking about? Or is it a breakthrough new method of manufacturing that truly differentiates and equates to a “secret sauce” that gives the product an advantage? How will customers use it? How does the new product brand best fit within the other established product brands of the company so that we don’t diminish the value of any other existing products/services or messaging? In the case of gaining insights from key internal stakeholders for new product brand launches, we tend to get great input from product managers, R&D, sales and also key opinion leaders (KOLs) connected with the company or product.
Establishing Key Insights
Ultimately, as a result of discovery, the interactions we have with core stakeholders and competitive research, we establish key insights that’ll drive directional strategies. Another important piece of the framework, which also helps steer brand strategy and key stakeholder consensus beyond internal interviews, is additional primary and secondary research. For example, once we develop directional strategies as a result of internal stakeholder communication, we can validate those strategies through market research, such as online surveys with target audiences. One-on-one external interviews with target audiences or via focus groups is another way to gain valuable input and buy-in. A number of industrywide studies could also support the direction of the brand. As a result of all these insights, we then assemble and refine the overall brand strategy and messaging to show how these recommendations are validated by research. This is an important step toward building internal brand consensus and confidence in the brand message.
Consensus building based on research isn’t necessarily limited to brand messaging but may also include the visualization and articulation of the brand in the form of a new identity, logo, creative platform and campaign assets that can be objectively tested through market research with consumers or B2B audiences. The input and insight we gain by testing these brand assets become the foundation for rationale referenced when presenting the overall branding recommendations to all internal stakeholders. We may also use the collection of these insights to refine the brand elements, including the visual elements.
Socializing the Brand Platform
Once the brand platform is established, whether it involves brand messaging, positioning, naming, a tagline, creative campaigns or other items, our key stakeholders become involved as part of the introduction process as a sneak peek to gain their input and approval. This could involve taking the proposed brand platform on a key stakeholder road show to gain responses from organizational executives, board members, business development teams, doctors and KOLs.
After receiving preliminary approval from key internal stakeholders, we share the final branding and creative recommendations with the broader organization. At this final stage, the purpose here isn’t to gain further input but to communicate the approach we’re taking for the brand and the reasons why. We also validate by sharing external research and approval from key internal influencers within the organization. At this stage, there’s an opportunity to position the work not just as a campaign but as a “new movement” within the organization that’ll act as a paradigm shift to play a key role in the success of the brand. Some form of an internal launch to educate and excite internal audiences about the elements, messaging points and goals for the brand rollout is crucial for internal and external alignment. This step prior to brand launch plays an important role in bringing meaning to employees’ own daily interactions with the brand and provides more meaning behind interactions with end users, patients, members, caregivers, physicians, or customers of a given product or service. During a companywide brand launch, internal stakeholders become the best ambassadors for the new platform on multiple levels.
Achieving Eloquent Simplicity
At Maricich Health, we’ve led healthcare-focused branding initiatives for over 20 years, and we’ve never seen a branding initiative that’s exactly the same as another’s. Through our interactions with a variety of healthcare clients seeking branding services, we often help these companies and organizations see the value of defining a successful strategy and creating a breakthrough campaign. When clients see examples of successful branding, it may look like it was easy to create, since the core messages seem so succinct, memorable and simple. However, the reality is that this eloquent simplicity was derived from a comprehensive, integrated process. In our experience, effective branding is much more than just creating a name or coming up with a logo. It’s really about insight to drive differentiation, vision to further the brand purpose, connection to engage with internal stakeholders, and spark to drive creative that’s not only strategically sound but also inspirational. These are the pillars of true brand success.
By Mark Maricich, CEO of Maricich Health
The seasoned team at Maricich Health partners with clients in the integrated healthcare ecosystem, including hospitals, health systems, payers, retail-focused providers, device/life science innovators and emerging healthcare companies. Learn more about how we can help you plan for your important upcoming branding and marketing initiatives.