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Getting Organized with Healthcare Brand Architecture

Maintaining a portfolio of brands is one of the toughest things for a marketing group – managing diverse styles, colors that don’t match, and graphics that don’t even make sense internally. If you were a family and drove up to the curb, there’d be a list of names on the mailbox 100 feet high. Yet this is still prevalent in many organizations. Why?

Emotions are often to blame. There are emotions tied to every department, new initiative and new service. Tied to these emotions are long-standing beliefs which stem from consumer products (why can’t we be like X?). But what many fail to realize is that they’re not the customer for the products they make / services they deliver.

Furthermore, those organizations held out as exemplars are successful because they have gone through a strategic process to arrive at the point of developing their brand portfolio. They know the members of their family have unique and special roles. Their decisions are predicated on one simple truth – you brand(s) must create resonance with your target audience; the more brands you create without a self-evident distinction, the harder it is for your customers to understand their relationships between themselves and your various brands.

We’ve all seen the consequences – a host of logos – well-intended teams (usually with little marketing training) come up with clever ways to add more ingredients to an already confusing family tree.

Many organizations avoid this circumstance entirely by embracing a monolithic branding approach. This is often ta good answer, especially in complex organizations where the fundamental brand promise is the same, regardless of the service being provided. Think about your customer first – do they really need to have a new visual cue that they’ve entered into a new department? Engaging in a different type of service?

So it’s important to educate others that the creation and deployment of new brands requires a strategic set of decisions. This is commonly referred to as brand architecture – which sounds complex, but it’s designed to be simple…and rational. In addition, there is more to brand architecture than just a family tree – it should go beyond your logo. These decisions include aligning naming conventions (what we call ourselves), identity (e.g., logo), visuals (e.g., color palette, photos), messaging and service delivery.

That said, here are a few key considerations in creating too many signals to the market:

  1. Cost – there is a cost associated with creating unique identities for every entity. These include the cost of business systems, facility identification, wayfinding, uniforms, etc.
  2. Concentration – market audiences seek simplicity. They want to recognize a single brand and its promise. When creating new brands, it’s important to understand that your share of voice is diminished by the competition and potentially within the family.
  3. Consistency – as brands proliferate, the management of the proper use of those brands become difficult to manage. There are a multitude of touchpoints affected by nuances in logos and visual identity. Beyond cost, this is a reflection of how the market perceives the brand overall. The brand should stand for a core promise, delivered consistently.
  4. Connection – your customers make a connection with a brand. Once that brand is confused with others from the same organization, it becomes harder to associate themselves with a brand. It’s also clear that these audiences actually short hand a brand to share it with others. By making such longer or disassociated with the master brand, that word of mouth is short-circuited.

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Health Brand Management, Healthcare Marketing Strategy

John M. McKeever Executive Vice President

John McKeever works with clients to develop market insight to deliver exceptional customer experiences, revitalize their brands, or enter new markets. He has worked with...

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