I recently visited a hospital for a medical procedure and was surprised by the number of brands surrounding me. One doesn’t typically think of a hospital as an environment where brands are targeted to the consumer or patient, but (silly me) all you need to do is take a quick look around to see that brands are pervasive in this setting. After all, talk about a captive audience!
As I began my “journey” from check-in to the waiting room, to pre-op, to the OR and finally to post-op, I couldn’t help but notice the brands all around me. Waiting room screens, script pads, pamphlets, brochures, posters, gowns, labels, outer packs, IV bags, pumps, equipment, instruments, lighting, masks, gloves, gases, liquids, flooring, bedding, beds, and on and on and on.
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Having spent my professional life among health care brands, and having participated in the development of many of the brands I interacted with that day, it occurred to me that even though there were so many brands around me (as well as understanding that I, the patient, wasn’t the only intended target), very few succeeded in providing me with the comfort, trust and commitment that brands are supposed to deliver.
In fact, it was only when there was a human being who provided an introduction to and interaction with these otherwise “cold” brands did they deliver, intentionally or unintentionally, on the relationship that the brand owners intended in the first place.
It was the nurse who caringly inserted a branded IV line; it was the anesthesiologist who confidently described how he would deliver and manage the branded general anesthetic and the possible side effects I might experience; it was the surgeon who expertly described the procedure and the branded instruments and components he would use; and finally, it was the nurse who carefully finalized the post-op process with other branded components and products.
What I learned as a brander from this recent personal experience in the hospital is this: The clinical setting is an artificial, if not alien and scary, environment for patients. Brands of medical equipment, even well-known brands, may not become personally relevant until a human being makes them so. Accordingly, marketers of medical equipment should help health care professionals understand the value and the values behind their brands and how sharing those with patients and family members contributes to reassuring them and puts their minds at ease. Marketers need to take their brand messages the extra distance to ensure that brand perceptions beyond recognition and familiarity are created with patients and their loved ones. In the process, the brand is serving not just consumers better by creating a more comfortable experience in the hospital or clinic, but also serving their clinical and administrative clients better.
As companies develop and introduce new branded health care products, they would do well to remember the importance of informing and training health care professionals about their brand and product values and how they can represent these to their patients and family members for a better overall experience. Health care professionals are brand ambassadors who help to build trust and comfort the patient.