5 considerations when merging healthcare brands.

April 09, 2014  

As community hospitals merge with larger healthcare systems, consolidating the parts can get complicated. And your brand is no exception. Factors like brand equity, public opinion, and internal buy-in are all pieces of a larger puzzle, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Having the right approach, however, will result in a more cohesive brand, and a deeper connection with your audience.

Here are five suggestions for bringing it all together.

Show a little respect. (Okay a lot.)

Community hospitals are usually just that—part of the community. And moving your brand into their neighborhood takes a considerate, even humble approach. So before you start plastering logos on buildings, billboards, and buses, take time to inform the community about your new relationship with their hospital. And like any good relationship, respect goes a long way. Embrace the hospital’s history and explain how it will shape your collective future. Market the technical and practical advantages you bring, but emphasize the core values you share with the local hospital as well. Be sure to show that you’re not taking over, but rather partnering with the community to build on past success.

Respect the local hospital’s roots, and your brand will grow naturally into something the community can trust.

Don’t guess. Ask.

Before making the call on how to consolidate your brands, consider implications like budget, brand awareness, and patient loyalty. Even seemingly routine steps must be strategically managed and well informed. So do your homework: What’s the perception and awareness of your organization in the area? What’s the community’s emotional investment in the local brand? Do you have the budget and team to support a master brand? The answers to these questions will help you know what to build on and what’s realistic moving forward.

As you’re mapping out a plan, important answers to tough questions will point you in the right direction.

Get your people to buy in.

Your brand isn’t just a logo. It’s an experience: one that’s shaped by every doctor, nurse, and associate who delivers it. So getting everyone on board with the brand is an essential step. This kind of alignment takes a deliberate, hands-on approach. Explain your brand early and often, and before announcing it to the public. Be straightforward about what you stand for and what you’re promising to patients. And don’t assume the advantages are self-evident to your staff. Start by helping administrators and physicians understand how your brand will benefit them and their patients—because once your leaders have bought in, others will follow along.

By getting your team invested in the brand, you’re not just making promises — you’re delivering on them.

Remember, your brand isn’t always about you.

If you want people to pay attention to your brand, stop talking about yourself so much. Patients want to know that you’re centered on their needs. Consider the patient’s point of view by communicating how your merger with the local hospital will affect them. Be up front about what’s new, and what they’re getting out of the deal. Answer questions before they become concerns, and directly address any worry, confusion, or fear of getting lost in the shuffle.

The more your patients matter to your brand, the more your brand will matter to your patients.

Embrace the power of one.

With logos piling on top of logos and taglines intersecting, keeping track of your health system’s brand (or more accurately, brands) can get confusing—especially for your audience. Having a master brand takes the guesswork out of who’s in your network, and who’s not. Instead of maintaining two or three brands, your efforts (and marketing dollars) stretch further. We call it the power of one. It means that no matter how many locations, services, or agendas you have, you’re recognized as a single entity. And promoting one brand boosts awareness, builds trust, and keeps you from becoming your own competition.

When people can connect the dots, it creates a consistent picture of who you are and what you offer them.