If you been through rebranding at a healthcare organization, you know that it often starts as a high-adrenaline sprint, especially during the initial stages when the focus is on developing a new brand strategy, identity, and messaging. But once that phase is complete, the hard work of getting the brand out in the world begins. That phase typically can take 18 months to several years.
Here’s why: Your healthcare system has thousands of branded assets—from IT systems to hospital signage and medical staff uniforms. Changing the brand on these touchpoints reaches deep into your organization—and beyond. Brand change has financial, operational, legal, and regulatory implications. Truth be told, simply organizing all the people involved and defining workstreams is a gargantuan task. Marketers quickly learn that rebrand implementation work will take longer, and cost far more, than the brand strategy and creative development. Think of it as running endurance race—on a hilly course.
Below are seven ideas for getting your rebranding off on the right foot, and keeping it there.
1. Start planning for implementation as soon as the rebrand decision is made – or even before. As the healthcare industry adapts to change, rebranding has—and will continue to be—an inevitable result. Take a bit of time now to do a bit of forward planning. That way, when rebranding does knock at your door, you can answer it armed with a high-level plan that organizes your efforts, maximizes brand impact, and minimizes transition costs.
2. Understand that there’s not just one right way to roll your brand out to the world. Among the factors you need to consider are the reasons for the change. If the rebrand is triggered by merger and acquisition activity, there may be special requirements for confidentiality and timing. You’ll need to have a plan to address the complication of managing the change across more than one organization. Your plan also needs to address how you’ll fund rebranding implementation. Think about what funding has been earmarked for rebrand implementation, what resources are available in the capital budget, and which branded assets would fall under operating budgets. The final levers in your rollout plan are timing and quality of execution. Think through these factors to construct several scenarios that suit your company’s particular set of circumstances, and present the options to your leadership.
3. Branded assets are everywhere, and the Marketing department doesn’t own most of them. And yet, Marketing is responsible for changing them. Think about it: In a healthcare system, marketers produce and directly manage some key branded assets, such as the website and marketing collateral. But the lion’s share of things carrying the brand is controlled by others. Facilities likely buys and maintains exterior and interior signage, for example, and Security probably is responsible for employee ID/access badges. Even so, Marketing will be expected to ensure that all branded assets consistently use the new brand expression. BrandActive’s scoping template for healthcare organizations, is more than 600 items long! You’ll need a comprehensive plan to fund and transition everything that is branded.
4. Surprise! There are regulations to reckon with. When a healthcare system rebrands, compliance is a paramount consideration. If there’s a legal name change, that will trigger a host of required actions that affects branded assets. You’ll need to understand the requirements of state and federal statutes, accrediting agencies such as the Joint Commission, and local municipalities. Rely on the counsel of your organizations legal, medical, and managerial resources, and consult outside experts as needed.
5. KPIs are your friend. Have no doubt—this is a humongous project with a long timeline. In the midst of managing so many stakeholders and details, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture. That’s one of the reasons why KPIs are critical. Figure out up front how to track, measure, and report on the timing and cost of branded asset change across categories and locations. Then, integrate these KPIs in a project dashboard, to accurately report status for the life of the project both periodically and when asked questions by senior management.
6. There are many opportunities to improve patient experience. Rebranding is the ideal time to re-imagine key parts of the patient experience. Take wayfinding, for example. If you need to invest in updating all wayfinding signage anyway, why not pause to figure out ways to make it easier for patients, visitors, and staff to navigate your facility? (An article I wrote a few months ago for HITMC, “Three Ways to Improve Patient Experience during a Rebrand” has more ideas worth considering.)
7. Rebranding is a great catalyst to improve marketing operations. A well-executed rebrand can move the needle on your healthcare system’s market share—and signal availability of an expanded set of services. But it’s also a way to improve marketing operations. Promote the idea of “smarter, faster, better” during a rebrand and you can inspire staff to unlock improvements that will pay off for years to come. Among the potential actions:
a. Review marketing collateral. Some pieces may be duplicative or seldom used, so why invest in rebranding them?
b. Institute more effective procurement practices. Hospitals and clinics in the same healthcare systems often use multiple vendors for the same branded asset. But you’ll be buying a lot of branded assets in a short period of time. So, now is the perfect time to look at your procurement and vendor selection processes to ensure you’ll get the best quality at the most favorable price. Efficient RFP processes and vendor consolidation can produce ongoing savings and quality improvements.
c. Look at workflow approval processes and systems. Are your digital asset management system and associated processes optimized? Given the volume of branded assets that will move through your pipeline in a short period of time, improving workflow can yield considerable benefits for years to come.
d. Plan for ongoing brand management flexibility. Given the dynamic healthcare environment, it is smart to introduce branded assets that are built for change. Think about ways to make it less painful and expensive going forward. For example, you may add a new clinic or service, or introduce a partner that brings particular expertise that you want to showcase. Developing a signage system that allows you to replace the content without changing the sign structure itself allows you to make the most of these opportunities while minimizing rebranding costs.