I’ve attended a few digital health and connected health conferences over the past six months. As one would expect, some companies and products demonstrate more excitement and innovation than others. There is one thing that continues to baffle me though: why are so many groundbreaking companies taking such an outdated, plain, and downright boring path with their branding and marketing?
C’mon. If you keep telling all your prospects that your products or services are different and unique, why doesn’t your branding and marketing illustrate that promise? As we say goodbye to the old systems and processes of healthcare, can we also say good riddance to the blue and gray logos? Please. Au revoir to those smiling nurse images, especially to those token diversity pictures where everyone chooses the same picture because the selection is often so limited. Do you realize that you are all pulling from the same stock image bucket, thus you are branding your neighbor’s product – and quite often even your competitor’s?
Cancel That Stock Image Subscription
Not too long ago I was driving around town and noticed that a local hospital and Volkswagen dealership were using the same image on two different billboards at the same time within a 25-mile radius of each other. Am I supposed to think of patient care or a luxury brand of German vehicles? Besides, I had used the very same image about six years ago for a marketing campaign. I can’t make this stuff up.
You may be asking yourself, “If you did this, what are you protesting about?” Well, to my own defense – and the thousands of marketers out there who also feel this pain – we don’t always have a choice. Regularly, companies and business leaders are hesitant or simply unwilling to invest the time or money in building a brand or campaign that equals the time and money they’ve invested in developing that product or service. Some are just afraid to be different. Either way, it’s a challenge that faces the healthcare industry. It’s time to address it.
We Can’t All Be Mayo Clinic
A common rebuttal to this argument is the case of Mayo Clinic. One of the most powerful healthcare brands in the world. But, wait… they have a blue and gray logo! They utilize the same calm, recognizable branding strategies that I’m rebelling against. So what’s the deal? Simply put: Mayo Clinic has roots that stem back to the 1800s. They are a pioneer in the healthcare industry, and they entered the arena at a time when communication was simpler and the market wasn’t saturated. They played a pivotal role in shaping the healthcare industry and still do today. So, more or less, they created this branding strategy. At the time, this was the innovation and ingenuity that the industry needed. But as Bob Dylan would say, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
Stop Telling, Start Showing
So what can we learn from Mayo Clinic if this branding strategy is off the table? We can recognize the strong connection they’ve built between their image and their bottom line as a company. Mayo Clinic has worked for decades to build, sculpt, and protect a brand that reflects its dedication to patients. They’ve formed an emotional connection with their patients and other stakeholders. They’ve humanized their brand. This is a critical component in an arena like healthcare, where every visit to the doctor’s office is powered by a roller coaster of emotions and uncertainty. Think about it: trust in a healthcare provider can literally be a life-or-death consideration. Mayo Clinic has owned up to this responsibility and grown to mean hope, esteem, and expertise.
The 21st Century Is Calling
“Safe” branding just doesn’t cut it anymore. The healthcare business landscape is riddled with outdated systems, stringent bureaucratic policy, and miles of red tape that spans the length of the Great Wall of China. The roadblocks of the industry have dictated decades of delayed change and innovation, but we’re entering a new age and a dramatic shift in the way we do business. We’re seeing incredible advances in technology, which facilitate – and demand – that companies re-examine the way they communicate with consumers.
In today’s healthcare landscape, we’re competing against thousands of other brands whose goals, and products and services, may be exactly the same. In a lot of ways healthcare has become a commodity. Consumerism has changed, and advertising has exploded to cater to these changing markets. Unlike the good old days, consumers are drowning in choices and bombarded with branding. So we’re faced with an increasing urgency to really define our brand, make sure we’re catching our consumers’ eye, and make a big impression, fast. If we look like everyone else, how will they know what makes us special?
It’s time to stop being boring. Boring marketing is invisible! The ingenuity and passion behind you and your company, needs to match your brand and marketing appeal. Especially in sectors like digital health, telemedicine, mhealth, and wearables. Say no to the confines of corporate blandness and me-too marketing. Adiós to being invisible. Say yes to smart marketing that expresses the unique characteristics that make up the DNA or your company, product, or service.