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5 Brand Lessons from the Healthcare Marketing Summit

More than 600 healthcare marketers and communicators gathered in Orlando, Florida last week seeking solutions for their branding challenges at the Healthcare Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit. At InterbrandHealth we have seen the impact a strong brand can have on a company’s bottom line.

Many best practice case studies at the conference demonstrated this as well. Here are five key conference takeaways:

1. Measure your brand

Just like a diet, if you don’t know your starting weight and measurements, it’s hard to get to where you want to go. A Brand Strength assessment gives you valuable insight into where your brand is performing well and where it’s best to focus your resources to make it even stronger. Understanding your brand’s equity is key for marketers because it validates your work, demonstrates the value of marketing within an organization, and helps you justify and secure a budget. As Bill Gombeski (Director of Strategic Marketing, UK Healthcare) said, when senior executives understand the value of their brand, it elevates the discussion of marketing and brand in a much more tangible way, in addition to giving the marketing team credibility.

2. Strengthen your corporate brand

Many hospital systems, particularly those affiliated with an academic institution, have seen an uptick in brand recognition and perception when the corporate brand is strengthened and used across the system’s franchise brands. Just knowing the corporate brand that supports their local hospital can make patients more likely to use the smaller facility. Cleveland Clinic has been a key leader in global expansion; its Chief of Marketing & Communications, Paul Matsen, insisted that as systems come together, a unified master brand system makes all the difference.

3. Manage your brand across all touchpoints

It starts with a unique value proposition that helps your employees, shareholders, and customers know exactly what your brand is about. When this message is properly disseminated across all your communication touchpoints, the brand experience is strengthened. The brand experience includes any and all interactions that your customer has with your brand. Sometimes that point of connection is made through social media or press, but, more often, the brand experience begins the moment the patient walks into your hospital and continues until the moment the patient leaves. Therefore, it’s imperative that your employees know and champion the brand. Consistency of message also helps when you look to expand, either nationally or globally. Both Alison Brown (SVP, University of Maryland Medical Center) and Dalal Haldeman (SVP, Johns Hopkins Medicine) emphasized the importance of brand architecture for proper management and business development.

4. Be patient, be agile & take risks

Many healthcare brands are incorporating new marketing strategies and media for the first time. As Tadd Pullin (SVP Marketing & Planning, The Nebraska Medical Center) pointed out, the marketplace is noisy, and it takes time to see real change. This isn’t to say that plodding along is the best methodology. Having an overarching marketing plan is key to getting a buy-in from your c-suite. They need to understand what you do and why it’s important. But remaining adept and responsive is equally important. Customers expect real time service, and responsive brands are successful brands. If you are expanding into content marketing or brand journalism, remaining nimble is particularly crucial, and you will need to take some risks.

“If failure is not an option then neither is success. The guy who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.” – Seth Godin

5. Don’t forget the people

Healthcare brands serve people, often at their most vulnerable times. In both our brand and business strategies, we have an obligation to place our customers and our employees at the core of everything we do.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth