Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Brands sell. People close.

What many marketers still have not fully realized is how powerful a brand can be with regard to selling. Some experts have gone as far as saying that the brand, if properly developed and promoted, can do “half the job” of making the consumer decide to buy a given product or service. Once the brand has made the emotional connection with the consumer, the job of closing the sale is made that much easier for the sales people.

With regard to hospitals and healthcare brands, the realization of the role a brand can play is even lower than one might expect. When there is a weak economy, the brand connection becomes even more important. In a recent study conducted in 2009, Deloitte concluded that “consumerism is a formidable force in health care, a defining characteristic between its past and future that will impact every stakeholder’s value proposition and business model.”

The study went on to say that while the status quo for many has changed recently, the “trend toward consumerism also presents great opportunity for those stakeholders that recognize the value of connecting with end users who ultimately drive demand for the goods and services sold in the U.S. health care system.”

More than ever, there is increasing evidence that growing numbers of consumers/patients want to be actively engaged. They are quite able to see variance in service, quality and costs. They are comparing doctors, hospitals, medications, devices, health plans and self remedies. In addition, they are exploring alternatives to conventional approaches and spending money to achieve their health goals. The tie-breaker when it comes to making these kinds of decisions is usually the brand. A strong brand will win out every time.

With regard specifically to selecting a hospital, marketers might want to take a hint from the Disney organization, wild as that may sound! What people want from Disney is a successful and valuable experience. When choosing a hospital, people have to be treated as consumers in much the same way. It is up to the hospital to provide the best experience a patient can possibly have. If that is the essence behind the brand, that hospital will have a definite edge, most likely a decisive one.

To make the point in a simple way, consider the following chart:

Disney Approach/ Hospital Brand Approach

Experience (Fun)/ Experience (Healing)
Cleanliness/ Cleanliness
Courteous Staff/ Courteous Staff
Expertise (Entertainment)/ Expertise (Medical)
New Rides/ New Technologies
Courteous Staff/ Courteous Staff
Good Accommodations/ Good Accommodations

Of course, the comparisons could go on at length, but the concept of how a consumer thinks about brands in these times also has to be considered. As in the case of consumer package goods, hospitals have to think of themselves as a “value purchase.” People are more careful when it comes to spending today than ever before. When consumers “shop” hospitals, the key criterion will be “value.” If they feel they will be getting their money’s worth from the total experience, they will choose accordingly.

Value is perceived at various levels by consumers. The following chart provides an example using water to illustrate.

Four Levels of Economic Offers
Commodity Water from sink FREE
Goods/packaging Bottle in supermarket $.12
Bottle Vending machine 1.00
Experience Bottle at a ball game $5.00

Obviously, in these cases, our execution of a marketing plan would consider every possible message and thoughts needed to convey an “experience-centric” brand positioning strategy.

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