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Friday, January 23, 2009

Building healthcare brands from the inside-out

I gave a presentation to the global sales force of a current client this week. We're formally relaunching the corporate brand next month. We introduced the team to the new brand direction and talked about how we were going to help them strengthen and build connections with current and prospective clients and partners.

For most healthcare brands your staff is your sales force. Branding begins from the inside out.

The timing for the meeting was particularly important. Because there's a backdrop of doubt, uncertainty and lack of forward movement on the part of their clients. So the idea that they could actually 'sell" a compelling and differentiating brand promise that transcended their suite of products and services really resonated with them.

In particular, there were a few concepts that stood out for them:

• that their brand is not a logo, a themeline, a product or service or manual. Rather, it's the difference between an MP3 player and an iPOD, a battery and an "energizer bunny" battery, a banana and a Chiquita banana, the hundreds of defunct department stores and Target. Rather, brand is an expectation – of a product, service or organization – ultimately delivering a feeling- based on ideas and experiences.

• given a market backdrop of too many (and too similar) product choices, too much information, a discerning consumer who can now decide how they connect, create and consume media – the old modes of brand-building based on transactions has now evolved to connections (to dynamic conversations, doing vs. saying, experiences vs. touch-points, building community versus building audience).

• the fact that (to borrow on a native american saying) "it takes a thousand voices to tell a single story." That absolutely everything the sales force (and the organization) does, either enhances or detracts from brand reputation. The fact that all actions have consequences – which compelled them to say to leadership and other supporting cast members "don't screw this up for us."

• that if you consider the advantages of building a strong brand – from both an internal and external, relationship and financial perspective – there are tangible financial and relationship benefits beyond what they had considered. And that they could actually sell against these benefits.

• the fact that brand value is tied to stock market value (in fact, represents a disproportionate share of stock market value in strong brand-driven companies); and that these corporate brands are supported by strong brand-centric cultures, where
all employees understand and are aligned in brand delivery.

The team was excited and energized about what the company was doing. They asked about additional materials and tools. And they extolled the company to please not let this one slip away. Pretty cool that this feedback was coming from the sales force.

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