Want a stronger healthcare brand? Look beyond the marketing department

Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center
Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center is part of AdventHealth, which recently rebranded from Adventist Health System. (Adventist Hospital System)

Want to build a stronger healthcare brand? You need to look beyond the marketing department, according to Justin Wartell, managing director of brand experience firm Monigle. 

Justin Wartell (Courtesy image)

“Brand and experience are everyone’s responsibility,” said Wartell, 37. “Creating effective brand experiences is about bringing diverse disciplines to the table in the spirit of what that big idea is all about.”

That means making sure a brand is demonstrated not only by the actions of a CEO and its leadership team, but also by how nurses and doctors are trained to deliver patient experiences that align with the brand, Wartell said.

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Helping healthcare organizations develop brand and experience strategies is a cornerstone of Monigle, which attributes nearly 40% of its revenue to healthcare services. The Denver-based firm has served over 200 health organizations in the company’s nearly 50-year history and employs around 110 people.

RELATED: Adventist Health System's patient-centered rebrand includes culture change focused on safety, love

FierceHealthcare talked with Wartell about why expanding branding beyond the marketing department is so important, how it’s changing the industry and best branding practices in the healthcare industry and beyond. 

How is healthcare branding changing? We’re hearing more and more brand and marketing leaders that are including HR more consistently and earlier in the branding process—almost approaching the process as partners—knowing that these core ideas around brand have to translate to behavior. I think those that are leading a bit more progressively are the ones that are bringing culture to the table and thinking about that interrelationship as they’re improving their brand.

Is the healthcare industry still behind other industries on the branding front? I think the healthcare industry is in catch-up mode, but they’re catching up much more quickly than you might have expected. The challenge is that many other industries just have a general orientation to moving more quickly, but highly regulated industries often led by individuals who have been in the industry for extended tenures often have a hesitancy to try new things.

How are hospitals catching up? [They're] realizing that research doesn’t mean eight weeks of work, a giant price tag and 150 pages of slides. Research can happen in 48 hours with a quick question out to a Facebook group, or organizations are building things like their own communities to engage consumers in an ongoing dialogue about the brand, so you’re getting feedback in real time.

RELATED: Sorry, hospitals. Spending on brand promotion apparently doesn’t inspire patient loyalty

How have other industries impacted healthcare branding? The whole emergence of experience is really coming from other industries, especially retail. When you think about healthcare brands bringing the experience principles into what they do, that means defining what they want people to feel emotionally when they’re interacting physically, digitally or through interpersonal interaction. Retail organizations are really effective in defining experience ideas and translating them across multichannel experiences. That’s becoming much more part of the dialogue in healthcare as well.

Why is healthcare branding so important in today’s market? The consumer has grown all the more powerful in terms of the impact their decision-making and their choice has. Not only how they select a healthcare brand, but how they consume information around the category. [It] has put the onus on healthcare organizations to define their brand more clearly so that people know what they’re getting into.

How does branding help the bottom line? As you chase the operational efficiencies and effectiveness, often you feel like everybody else. Brand offers an opportunity to stand out in the market and to make a meaningful impression on that consumer that more and more holds the power associated with healthcare decision-making—and ultimately the dollars associated with it.

How has recent merger and acquisition activity affected branding efforts across healthcare systems? It allows organizations to think differently about the work they’re doing and the brands that they’re creating. It almost gives an excuse to say “yeah, we’ve always been this from a name standpoint and this in the eyes of our audience,” but mergers become a provocation to define ourselves in new terms.