How to Approach a Health System Rebrand

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Rebranding your health system isn’t a question of if, but when. To stay relevant, brand promises and experiences must shift to meet new expectations – and expectations for patient care keep evolving. So, how should a healthcare marketing team approach a change in their identity? In our opinion, methodically.

By addressing the following three questions, any marketer can understand the basics of rebranding and decide if it’s time to put a plan into action.

  • What is rebranding?
  • When do you need to rebrand?
  • What type of rebranding strategy should you use?

What is Rebranding?

Rebranding in its simplest form is a process. The process includes several steps with an end goal of changing how the target audience perceives the company. Steps include:

Step One - Research

For hospitals and health systems, brand research generally means attitude, usage and perception surveys, competitor analysis, market share distribution, employee engagement surveys and social listening activities. The data results paint a picture of the audience -- if they know you, and what they think about you.

Step Two – Strategy

Information and insights from the research phase help form a strategy for repositioning the hospital. Often called “brand positioning” this step articulates the logical, data-backed goals and performance indicators that will allow the health system to better address the selected pain points.

Step Three - Identity

Successful marketers know that discussions about logo, color, design, words and taglines happen after research and strategy. You can’t attract an audience until you know who they are and what works for them. Once you have new or revised audience personas, start creating visual elements and/or messaging directed at them. This could include redesigning the website, overhauling collateral shared with the public, etc.

Step Four – Activation

After all of the hard work and planning, step four feels pretty simple. You activate the plan. During “brand activation” you strategically launch the various elements of the rebranding campaign and introduce your new identity to the world.

When Do You Need to Rebrand?

The short answer is whenever your health system experiences a significant change. More specifically, a rebrand is recommended in the following circumstances:

Merger/Acquisition/Affiliation - Over the last 10 years, population health initiatives, consumerism and the price of new technology led to a dramatic increase in hospital acquisitions and affiliations. The resulting entities need a rebrand to create or re-establish their identity and position in the market.

Adding/Removing/Changing Services - New partnerships or a shift in patient expectations can drive what services your health system offers. In this situation, rebranding gives the audience specific information on what is available and how to access it. Without targeted messaging, you’ll never meet operational goals.

New Strategic Focus/Direction - To stay competitive, your organization needs to address future trends and emerging models of care. If senior leadership revamps the strategic plan, focuses on new service lines or updates the health system’s mission, the brand must evolve. After all, the core function of a hospital brand is to use words and images to convey who they are, what they provide and who they serve.  

What Type of Rebrand Strategy Should You Use?

Rebranding is essential for any business seeking longevity. It’s the only way to meet current demands and stay relevant to a constantly changing audience. But one size does not fit all. Generally speaking, there are two types of strategy for a hospital rebrand: refresh and transformation.

Brand Refresh

Think of a brand refresh as a wardrobe update. Your personal style didn’t change dramatically, but you want to add some of the new spring looks to your repertoire. For a health system, this could mean modernizing your logo and fonts or touting digital services by adding “virtual options available” to your ads. The goal is to retain the brand awareness you’ve already built while attracting new patients with your unique, competitive differentiator.

By the way, this strategy requires less time and fewer resources to execute.

Brand Transformation

This strategy equates to a complete makeover worthy of a Discovery Channel TV show. It’s appropriate for health systems managing several mergers, moving from small community hospital status to regional provider and organizations who need a fresh start due to crisis, scandal or major leadership change.

Transforming your identity takes a coordinated and concerted effort from all parts of the business and entails significant investment of time and resources.

When it’s time for your hospital to level up, use the information in this article to guide your rebranding process. A thoughtful, well-executed campaign can strengthen your position in the market, emphasize services or characteristics, boost employee morale and most importantly, address the health needs of your community.

At Ten Adams, healthcare strategy is kind of our thing. If you’re ready to talk,  connect with our experts.

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