8 Brand Platforms for Hospitals

The following is reprinted with permission from strategicplanningMD.

When was the last time you gave any thought to the platform your hospital's brand was anchored to? Was the brand platform a deliberate choice, or did it "just happen"? Even more important, do you know what your brand platform is and whether that platform is effective?

After conducting extensive research over the past 10 years, I have found that 95 percent of all hospitals anchor themselves to one or more of the following eight brand platforms.

1.    Customer service
2.    Clinical outcomes
3.    Teaching and research
4.    Technology
5.    Medical staff reputation
6.    Physician relationships
7.    Financial stewardship
8.    Facilities

The two that dominate hospital marketing strategy is customer service and clinical outcomes. Hospitals usually make up their minds to win the war for patients either by providing excellent personalized attention and creature comforts or by leading the marketplace in clinical indicators. It's a fight between "we'll love you" and "we'll save you."

The second tier of brand platforms includes teaching and research, technology and medical staff reputation. Often, two of these are naturally coupled together. Teaching and research hospitals tend to migrate toward their strength, laying claim to the belief that because of their status, they are simply better and more sophisticated. But it's not uncommon in markets where there is a major teaching institution to see a community hospital build a brand around technology and medical staff reputation. Consistent messaging is the key.

Finally, the third tier consists of physician relationships, financial stewardship and facilities. While not as likely brand platforms as the first five on the list, they are still common, and are often a secondary brand platform for hospitals. The difference between medical staff reputation and physician relationships is that the former is grounded in the collective pedigree of the medical staff (board certifications, fellowships, specialized training, awards and recognition, etc.) while the latter uses the medical staff to provide professional references for the hospital (physician testimonials, physician practice patterns, where physicians receive their own care, etc.).

Financial stewardship is — and will probably always be — a stronghold of sorts for safety net hospitals, which must maintain a public dialogue about the need for public funding. Integrated delivery systems, on the other hand, have given rise to the facilities brand platform, as they try to win market share by having a hospital, physician's office, urgent care center, and/or imaging facility on every corner in town.

Any one of these brand platforms can be successful, if executed correctly. Where hospitals get into trouble is moving from platform to platform, creating diffusion as well as confusion, not only externally, but also internally through its strategic planning process. To create a strong, sustainable brand, define your platform — whether it's on the above list or not — and use it to create a strong foundation for everything that you do, from operations to communications.

More Articles on strategicplanningMD:

The Need to Manage Your Brand
How to Measure Your Brand

6 Brand Strategy Rules of Great Hospitals

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