Launching a new corporate identity (a.k.a. brand identity) signals to the market that something is different within your operations, strategy or positioning, or external environment. In healthcare, corporate identity changes are most often born from (a) environmental influences leading to changes in operations, or (b) new ownership—such as a merger or series of acquisitions—which frequently results in a house of brands, a collection of different cultures and a bevy of competing product offerings. Regardless of the specific reason, firms are more likely to modify corporate identity when there is a significant change in their overall strategy. Just as corporate identity is inextricably linked to strategy, so too should it be coupled with brand strategy.
Healthcare marketers charged with rolling out a new corporate identity must ensure the firm builds affinity for the new brand, while also taking necessary steps to prevent losing customers during the brand migration process. That is no easy task, and certain pitfalls must be avoided. Having led corporate identity and rebranding initiatives since my early days in corporate marketing for the nation’s largest proprietary home health chain, I’ve seen firsthand how the following key areas can undermine an otherwise successful corporate identity transition:
Pitfall #1: Limited alignment of the firm’s actions/behaviors with the brand promise.
To what extent can your organization fulfill its commitment to your customers? Be honest and realistic when answering this question. Take a close look at the people in your organization and how they communicate (directly or indirectly) with your customers—then ask yourself:
- Do they exemplify the brand?
- Is the essence of your brand embedded so deeply in the ethos of the company that their actions and behaviors support your brand promise?
Solution: If your answers are no or you are uncertain, facilitate departmental work sessions to review the upcoming change in corporate identity and brand, and discuss how each department can contribute to keeping the brand promise. By using what we call a touchpoint matrix, employees in each department should map specific actions that align with the brand promise and work as a team to identify new behaviors that will further demonstrate that commitment. Leadership can use the matrix to measure adoption and to ensure each department is fully aligned with the brand promise before going public with the corporate identity transition.Changing your Corporate Identity: Top 3 Potential Perils & How to Avoid Them Click To Tweet
Pitfall #2: Assuming internal teams and key influencers are onboard with the brand and prepared to promote it.
Obviously, your employees will be better prepared to be brand ambassadors after your touchpoint matrix sessions. But don’t overlook your key influencers, partners and board members. Your closest stakeholders need to be your most vocal champions of and advocates for your new brand. Remember, this is not just about a visible change in identity—stakeholders need to understand the story underlying the change and be able to communicate it correctly for you.
Solution: Create a list of your key internal audiences and influencers. Segment the list carefully and establish steps necessary to ensure each associate can embrace the new brand ideology. Identify and use key messages aligned to each audience segment and its potential concerns. For example, think about the impact a change in corporate identity will have on long-term, highly vested employees versus new hires. Similarly, involve the sales team by developing specific tools and messages they can use to engage customers in a dialogue about the change and what it means for each specific customer.
In our brandscout+ process, we have tools and time built in to help our clients garner internal support before going to market with a new brand. In my opinion, Nick Ragone, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for Ascension, is spot-on in the remarks he made to AHA’s Health Forum about his organization’s rebranding efforts. Ragone referred to the journey of becoming ‘One Ascension’ as an “inside-out process,” one in which success depends on building support internally before launching the new identity externally. Achieving the right level of internal support takes time – according to Ragone, they “spent a good 18 months just doing extensive socializing with all our associates.”
Pitfall #3: Underestimating the value of a well-funded marketing strategy.
Conveying a change in corporate identity is very complex and likely a hefty investment, particularly if the change involves multiple brands, business lines, market segments and audiences. Less-than-stellar communication can result in a loss of positive equity your former brand established over the years. Brand and corporate identity changes require an integrated communication strategy (PR/media outreach, social media messaging, advertising, sales/marketing strategy)—far more than editorial coverage from one news release and a handful of social posts.
Solution: Allocate an advertising budget above and beyond that already established for company promotions, and carefully define the media strategy to reach your audiences across your various market segments. Also, don’t underestimate the length of time you’ll need to be in market with these messages. Depending on the scope of your transition (multiple market segments, multiple companies), you will likely need to run multiple integrated marketing campaigns—for example, one with messages that bridge your old and new brands to protect brand legacy, followed by new brand ads, followed still by company image and product ads that underscore the brand promise. Like I said, when done right, it will likely require a sizable investment.
Of course, all this advice assumes you have already developed a well-planned brand transition strategy (with baseline awareness and reputation data and customer insight to guide it), as well as an effective new corporate identity and brand architecture that’s ready to market. By making sure these three areas of concern are also well defined and properly addressed, you’ll be in a much better position to build affinity for the new brand while retaining your existing customer base through the process.
About the Author
Carol Dobies is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Health Marketing, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.