09.19.17 | Matt Kalina, V.P. of Membership, American Marketing Association, Phoenix Chapter
Is your company’s brand a household name or just another generic moniker of a bland product or service drifting in a sea of the forgotten and unknown? If it’s a no-name brand, where should you even begin to try putting some wind in its sails?
First, take a few steps back and make sure you truly understand your organization, says Debra Stevens, executive director of marketing and communications, Arizona Care Network, Phoenix. Next, stand in front of the mirror naked, so to speak, with no pre-conceptions. Then follow the money, document what you’ve learned and don’t get overwhelmed—prioritize what you can control.
First, let’s remember why a brand is important. According to Stevens, it:
- Provides a rallying cry for team members.
- Gives structure and consistency to organizational communications.
- Stakes out an advantageous competitive position.
- Connects to stakeholders in a relevant and memorable way.
- Saves money by making every interaction count.
- Supports new revenue generation.
Stevens played a big part in building well-known brands in Phoenix, leading start-up marketing for America West Arena—now Talking Stick Resort Arena—and working in the front office of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, in public relations, marketing and community relations roles.
She was director of marketing and communications 2006-17, for Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix, which enjoys an incredible 96-percent brand recognition, according to one survey. The hospital was established in 1983 and has become one of the largest children’s hospitals in the United States with 465 beds and a medical staff of nearly 1,000 pediatric specialists. PCH was recently named Phoenix Magazine’s people’s choice for the most valuable brand in the Valley. Phoenix Children’s marketing team clarified and amplified the brand under Debra Stevens’ leadership to become known as one of the top U.S. children’s hospitals.
Stevens help build the brand of the only licensed children’s hospital in Arizona despite a series of major hurdles. Before Stevens arrived, PCH was simply a hospital within Good Samaritan Hospital. It didn’t take long, however, before the children’s hospital outgrew its two floors, developed the well-known hand-and-heart logo in 1988 and moved to a free-standing building in 2002.
But along the way, it had to find its way through a flood, financial crises and new leadership. Robert L. Meyer, president and CEO since 2002, lead a bold plan for growth despite financial uncertainty, including kicking off a $54- million capital campaign, building an 11-story tower as a centerpiece of a 37-acre campus and specialty and growing urgent care locations expanded throughout the Valley of the Sun and into the suburbs.
The brand faced some big challenges, especially a high awareness of its brand name but a low understanding of its meaning to the community as a service, employer and economic driver. Remember that a brand takes shape in the marketplace, Stevens said. Brands live in the minds of consumers and take on life through their conversations. A brand is whatever your stakeholders believe and say—how they perceive and value the organization, she said.
Stevens got down to the basics and analyzed brand perceptions among all stakeholder groups, focusing on current beliefs, preferences and values. Next a competitive analysis was conducted, and the brand platform was refreshed and rebuilt to “how we wanted to be perceived in the marketplace,” staking out advantageous positioning and considering its attributes, voice and history.
One of the key takeaway messages: Phoenix Children’s is the right choice for the best pediatric care. The brand campaign was put together to educate stakeholders and promote the hospital as Arizona’s only license free-standing children’s hospital while the team explained why its new tagline “100% for children” was so important.
The brand standards were first launched internally to achieve staff buy-in and to create goodwill ambassadors. It took extra effort to explain the new nomenclature of the brand as Phoenix Children’s was now the main brand, shortened just a word, but an important word, from the original Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Many wanted to hold on to the legacy hospital in the brand name.
“It was hard to roll out new branding to 4,000 employees, but we just did it,” Stevens said.
Next came using the brand objectives and standards externally, creating customer journey mapping, discovering key touch points, documenting data analytics, securing leadership buy-in, building relationships with operational leaders, aligning enterprise priorities and, last but not least—improving the patient experience. Phoenix Children’s did a few interesting things, like tying employee performance to patient experience scores and inviting professional photographers to capture “moments of truth” at the hospital. The campaign paid off big time as PCH was named best children’s hospital by U.S. News and World Report 2016-17.
But what if your company isn’t a household name?
Fast forward to 2017 when Stevens joined Arizona Care Network, an accountable health care organization in Phoenix, as its first executive director of marketing and communications. The marketing team faces large branding challenges since ACN is not well know or understood. To complicate matters, ACN has a legal structure to follow, not to mention having the baggage of an unsustainable rise of health care spending in the United States, and to top if off, having to deal with the larger issue of health care being politically charged across the county.
People are asking for a better health care system, the means to access to great doctors who deliver high-quality care, better coordination among providers and a way to manage the rising cost of care, Stevens said.
ACN singled out four significant objectives:
- Improve health care with quality care.
- Enhance the patient experience.
- Increase provider satisfaction.
- Manage the rising cost of care.
ACN’s brand refreshing involved four campaign goals:
- Develop a new or revised brand platform based on value propositions while creating a differentiating brand position.
- Make the brand meaningful for its diverse stakeholders.
- Create and deliver a unique approach and a usable graphic brand identification package.
- Ensure deliverables to position ACN for measurable gains in brand awareness, understanding and growth.
Stevens followed a four-step brand-creation process:
- Discover. Review current materials, plans, industry research and consumer data, and complete stakeholder immersion.
- Define. Analyze current stakeholder perceptions, brand elements—products and services, organizational structure, personality symbols. Discover brand essence, revealing the core of what the company does. Compile brand benefits and brand personality—how the brand most accurately personified by stakeholders and archetypes.
- Develop. Brainstorm, work iterations and write brand positioning statements.
- Deploy. Design tagline, voice and brand guidelines, secure operational alignments to deliver on the brand promise, and compile a marketing and communications plan customized to priority stakeholders.
During the discovery process it was easy to see that healthcare consumers found the healthcare system extremely confusing with its complicated insurance policies, networks, premiums, co-pays, bills and variable pricing. Having a primary care physician they like and trust is a high priority, as is affordable healthcare.
The creative process demands that the branding team start broad but get narrow as it goes to work, Stevens said. Find the one differentiator, she said, the single-most important value the brand represents to each stakeholder group. Find what problem the brand can solve, but don’t listen to the loudest voice in the room. Tease out the words, terms, quotes and findings that are meaningful, she said.
Stevens’ idea generation exercises sometimes involved pulling key words out the corporate website, mission statement and working them over with a little help from Dictionary.com’s thesaurus. She lead exercises that asked stakeholders in the best circumstances, “Is our brand more X than Y? If our brand is a person, what qualities does it have?” Also, it’s important to remember to document the “why?” and to find subtle shades of meaning to help create a brand-positioning statement, she said.
But why is operational alignment essential?
“Customers and stakeholders make judgements about us based on their one experience and those they learn about,” she said.
And, those judgements lead to actions or inactions. Successful brands have a strong, positive relationship with stakeholders. “The future of ACN depends upon its beliefs and actions. There are a lot of one-strike-and-your-out health care consumers.”
To process how ACN aligns its brand with operations, Stevens invited operations to the marketing table early on and welcomed their feedback. “It’s important to just listen and keep your mouth shut.”
Also, she met with the finance and strategic-planning people to follow the money. “Learn what future state looks like and what it will require,” she said. “Ask: If you could wave your magic wand, what would the future of the company look like?”
Internal socialization of the brand took place next so that policies would align with the brand promise. This involved rolling the brand out in new employee orientations, employee training, the design of a new headquarters and much more.
The external roll-out of the brand included everything from tracking stakeholder journeys, creating standards for the lobby welcome and call center scripting.
Build the team and brand consensus, Stevens said.
“Marketing can’t do it alone.”
Interested in more interesting speakers and presentations like this? Join your fellow marketers at American Marketing Association, Phoenix Chapter.