How hospital systems can use a rebrand to improve their culture

How hospital systems can use a rebrand to improve their culture


Eniana Vrenozaj

Rebranding your healthcare organization is sure to be a massive undertaking. It’s not just about converting thousands of branded assets to the new brand identity. Your rebrand implementation project will touch on every aspect of your organization’s operations, from internal processes and staff training to branded patient touchpoints. Because of this, a rebrand represents the perfect opportunity to do something else entirely: drive cultural change in your healthcare system.

When you rebrand, you focus your organization’s attention on the brand as you systematically address each touchpoint and sunset old practices or collateral that don’t fit the new identity. When BrandActive helps healthcare organizations with rebrand implementation, we do so with an eye to strengthen culture. This enables our clients to emerge with a better, stronger, more unified brand — and a more positive culture, too.

Why rebranding and cultural change go hand in hand

While some non-healthcare organizations rebrand with specific cultural goals in mind, rebranding is more often driven by commercial concerns. But the fact is that a company’s brand identity can’t help but shape its culture. In that sense, the outcome of any rebrand will effectively evolve a company’s culture.

For better or worse, rebranding represents a time of cultural upheaval. If your corporate culture was already strong, your staff may be concerned about whether the brand change will detract from the existing culture. And if your culture was relatively weak, you will need to work harder to rally your team around your new corporate identity. The good news is that the rebranding process offers many opportunities to engage your staff in ways that elevate the new brand and build your company’s culture.

The idea that brand and culture go hand in hand is especially important in an industry like healthcare. That’s because healthcare companies are in the service industry. Each team member in a healthcare organization is, in a very real way, a brand ambassador. This includes everyone from the C-suite all the way down to the environmental services (EVS) team and nurses. Each play a critical role in expressing a healthcare brand in their interactions with patients and other stakeholders. In this context, an organization’s ability to create a positive internal culture matters. If a hospital’s staff takes pride in their brand, it will positively impact the way that brand is expressed at every touchpoint.

How to build your organization’s culture as you rebrand

When BrandActive works with healthcare organizations to implement brand change, we guide them in building their corporate culture using the following tactics:

Address the meaning and processes behind the assets

In order to build up your culture as you rebrand, you must go beyond the branded assets that form the core of your rebranding efforts. You must consider the meaning and processes behind branded touchpoints, as well as the interactions that various stakeholders have with them.

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By thinking deeply about what various assets communicate to stakeholders, it’s possible to enhance both brand and culture. Take wayfinding signs, for example. Most companies don’t see something as utilitarian as wayfinding signage as an opportunity to advance their culture. But when you consider the role of wayfinding signage in a hospital, you start to see that culture does, indeed, play a role. Patients and visitors who are trying to figure out where to go in a hospital or healthcare system may be doing so as part of an experience that is fraught with stressful emotions. If a hospital’s wayfinding system is seamlessly easy to navigate, it can reduce stress and improve the patient experience.

One client we worked with recognized this reality and approached wayfinding in a way that went beyond thoughtful branded signage. They put together a series of scripts for reception staff and volunteers to use when responding to wayfinding questions. These scripts prompt staff to offer directions to patients in a way that aligned with the organization’s brand and culture. They recognized that many patients and visitors needed more than just succinct directional information. They also needed a warm, friendly interaction to ease stress and offer comfort.

By considering the deeper context behind a branded asset — in this case, wayfinding signage — this organization took their branded experience one step further and built culture in the process.

Involve your staff as much as possible

Another way to elevate your organization’s culture in a rebrand is to involve your staff in the rebranding decisions that impact them. When employees feel that they are part of the rebranding process, they are more likely to take ownership of the new brand.

Take uniforms, for example. Scrubs, lab coats, polo shirts, and more are a major class of branded asset. But they are also articles of clothing that your staff must wear every day. For employees, these items become deeply personal. You wouldn’t want someone to dictate to you exactly what you’re allowed to wear. And neither does your staff.

Give your employees a reasonable level of input in the process of selecting uniform colors, cuts, and materials. Invite them to share their recommendations and wishes related to the new uniforms. Doing so will make them feel valued and heard. As a result, they will be more likely to wear their new uniforms with pride. And they will also be more committed to the new brand and what it stands for.

Centralization of processes

Many healthcare organizations are highly fragmented. They run a lot of their communications, asset development activities, and vendor relationships at the hospital level rather than at the central organizational level. This makes sense given that hospitals are physically separated and often become part of a larger healthcare system through a series of M&As and other deals.

But a rebrand is a project that demands centralized planning for decentralized execution. In our work with healthcare clients, we use this centralized planning function as an opportunity to step up collaboration moving forward. We help them find ways to leverage the various entities’ knowledge bases — including vendor portfolios and internal processes — to capture efficiencies and improve processes system-wide. Instead of handling approvals for marketing materials in five different ways, we work with clients to identify one simple process that the entire system can adopt. In the process, we rationalize assets and remove redundancies.

By creating consistency in internal processes, we build a shared culture across a decentralized healthcare system. This trickles down to patient interactions by ensuring that their experience at hospital A is the same as their experience at hospital B within your healthcare organization.

Communicate your rebranding plan internally

All the different stakeholders within your organization will have different needs and desires related to the rebrand. They will also need help understanding how they will be impacted by the rebrand and what their role will be in transitioning the brand.

Because there are so many stakeholders within healthcare systems, it’s critical that you come up with an effective and timely internal communication plan. This includes a help desk for internal questions, of course. But you should also be strategic about how and when to share information.

For example, if you’re dealing with a chief nursing officer (CNO) who’s responsible for a number of hospitals, you probably want to include the CNO in the decision-making process. And you’ll then want to cascade that CNO’s decisions to all the nursing managers at the different locations. You must cascade information in the appropriate manner in order to keep everyone informed throughout the process. Timely information and a transparent process go a long way in keeping your entire organization engaged in the rebrand. When your staff understands what is happening and why, they are eager to help implement the rebrand because they see the value in it.

Your rebrand will inevitably have an impact on your culture. The question is whether it will ultimately help or hurt that culture. By rebranding with an eye toward building culture, you can increase your rebrand’s impact — and strengthen your corporate culture, too.