By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
The healthcare delivery industry changes daily. Given the many moving parts, creating and maintaining a brand connection today—for solutions the public may need someday—is a serious challenge.
Consider how these variables are at work: On one hand, the quiet-and-compliant patients of the past have morphed into empowered consumers. They are better informed bring expectations of high value, quality experience and near-immediate solutions.
And, on the other hand, nearly every hospital, health system and medical practice in the US has experienced some transformation in the marketplace.
Community hospitals roll up into regional systems, practitioners form medical groups and practices become institutional service lines. Still other providers—individuals and organizations—drop away entirely.
At best, it’s a highly competitive landscape. Creating and maintaining a serious brand connection and top-of-mind awareness, is elusive. Does a merger promise stronger customer benefits and value? And how and where does the brand connect with the audience?
Emotions are the brand connection secret sauce…
There’s no single or simple solution to maintaining loyalty during change. Every (sometimes chaotic) situation is different. But hospitals and providers have a point of differentiation that most retail and consumer brands don’t have. Unlike a famous name soup, toothpaste or automobile nameplate, healthcare providers are rich in potential emotional experiences. And emotions are the secret sauce.
The Harvard Business Review says emotional connectivity may be the strongest fuel in branding. HBR research reveals the importance of “connecting with customers at an emotional level–tapping into their fundamental motivations and fulfilling their deep, often unspoken emotional needs.”
“The customer experience is a critically important driver of emotional connection,” and The New Science of Customer Emotions, is critical to brand success. What’s more, “emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more–everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do.”
Mergers, acquisitions, rollups and the general uncertainty of change in healthcare delivery can easily undermine brand loyalty. Consequently, it’s vital to:
- Create and maintain listening channels to actively monitor brand connections
- Have a clear brand assessment prior to and during significant changes
- Identify and assure audiences about respect for relationship
- Keep target audiences informed and aware
- Communicate personally and frequently
Through a period of change, consistently maintain the emotional element(s) of the audience/brand connection. Loyalty expects to find a level branding message presented honestly and accurately over time, via all online and traditional channels.