Defining a hospital’s brand position

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Defining a hospital’s brand position

There was a time when it seemed a hospital’s only “marketing” was the blue and white “H” emblazoned road signs directing motorists to its location.

But that was in a simpler time; when reimbursements from the government and insurance companies were not so volatile and unpredictable, when procedures – and the medical equipment necessary to perform them – were not so unbelievably expensive and when indigent care did not force hospitals to fight for select, profitable cases to ensure their financial survival.

It is in this milieu that Prodigal’s Hospital Brand MRI was born. Hospitals are complex businesses with incredibly important missions. Almost every department merits public notice, but marketers know that strategic focus is necessary for effective marketing. We felt there needed to be a process that accurately defined a hospital’s brand – the essence of its individual personality, if you will – and give guidance for how to communicate the benefits of that brand to patients and referring physicians. By reaching out effectively in a crowded healthcare marketplace, hospitals improve their chances of earning increased patient volume and corresponding revenue.

An excellent example of the Hospital Brand MRI in action is our work with The Surgical Hospital at Southwoods.

To be clear, this hospital was not struggling…in fact it has been quite successful for several years. Still, the CEO cares deeply about how the community regards his hospital and he wisely decided to assess Southwoods’ brand strengths before embarking on expansion into ancillary services (namely a state-of-the-art imaging center, which has since become an unqualified success in our community).

Southwoods engaged Prodigal to conduct our proprietary Hospital Brand MRI process. Over the course of three months, we interviewed the hospital’s management team, conducted an extensive facilitated focus group with a cross-section of hospital employees and then launched a large email-based survey of the hospital’s staff, physicians, patients (current and past) as well as community members within Southwoods’ most desirable demographic to discover the hospital’s true brand position in the marketplace. As we suggested earlier, there was (and is) a lot going well for this hospital; many strong factors upon which to build future marketing. But what factors resonated most strongly with patients?

We came to find the answer was Southwoods’ patient experience. This hospital has fantastic surgeons and nurses with experience and skills that rival those of peers in prestigious teaching hospitals. Southwoods has also invested in medical technology that is second to none. All of these benefits are powerful and any one of them could provide a basis for marketing. However, if we had gone in that direction, we would have been off target. Our research found that patients acknowledged the tremendous clinical environment, but really appreciated the extra touches that made their hospital stay more pleasant than could be experience in rival facilities. We had several patient comments about the kind, compassionate staff, the ultra-clean environment and the high-end amenities, such as fine linens and hotel-level room service.

We ended up suggesting that Southwoods’ brand position was leader in patient experience and we developed a great tagline for our marketing campaign: “It’s not just about the treatment, but how you’re treated.”

That was nearly two years ago. Since that time, we have built the hospital a new website, produced several TV spots, created and placed print ads and special newspaper inserts, managed news releases for major events and orchestrated several additional marketing executions. Everything Prodigal has done for Southwoods has been focused squarely on the patient experience…an area we know Southwoods wins in. Fortunately the research provided us with the clear guidance that allows us to stay on message without duplication (Staying on point and fresh at the same time is what our creative team lives for).

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