Healthcare Branding: Identity vs. Image

Brand identity and brand image are often interchanged, but the two are not one and the same. Each plays a significant role in the equity a brand name holds and the overall success of a business. Many think a brand is defined by the visuals tied to the brand name, but in reality, there’s so much more that comprises a brand’s identity. On the other hand, brand image is the perception of the brand held in the mind of the consumer. What does this mean for healthcare? Is it even relevant to an industry that is run mainly on the necessity of services revolving around unpleasant symptoms and ailments? Below is a quick breakdown of the two concepts and how they apply to healthcare.

Identifying Yourself 

Brand identity is comprised of several pieces to the marketing puzzle. First, the company should have a unique position on how to resolve the target audience’s problem. A focused stance on what the company does, how they do it, and whom they do it for is known as the positioning statement. This will be the guiding force for the rest of the branding strategy. For instance, Mayo Clinic positions itself as “providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.” Their positioning holds high credibility as the hospital is known for its extensive research, quality care, and top educational programs for emerging medical experts. 

Brand personality also plays a role in the overall brand identity. This is where the tone and voice are established, in other words, the personification of the brand. An excellent go-to healthcare brand to display this is Children’s Mercy Kansas City. The hospital portrays a child-friendly, encouraging and loving persona. This is backed the family-focused facilities, encouraging advertisements, and leading pediatric care. Lastly, brand elements make up the brand’s visual aspects, like names, logos, slogans, colors, and fonts. Brand elements allow a company to stake claim to their products and services. The visuals associated with a brand strengthen recognition in the minds of consumers. A brand that does a great job with their brand elements is Blue Cross Blue Shield. The emblems are widely recognized by consumers across the country.

In the Mind of The Beholder

It could be said that the power is in the mind of the consumer, as the brand image is essentially what the target audience believes about the brand. The hard work of strategizing and designing are the beginning steps in developing a company’s brand image. The collection of experiences and engagement that consumers have with the brand are what a brand image is composed of. Consumers must have consistent encounters with the brand to develop certain feelings that the brand wants to be associated with. If the Mayo Clinic wants to portray that patients will receive the best care, their facilities and equipment cannot be outdated, and their physicians should be trusted experts in their respective specialties. All patients at the hospital should have a positive patient experience and feel like they received the best treatment possible. 

Going back to one of the original questions are brand identity and brand image relevant to healthcare? The answer is yes. With patients having choices and healthcare practices embracing customer experience, both concepts need to overlap to build a competitive brand. When it comes to branding, the work executed by the brand itself is just as important as how the consumer interprets it.

Next Steps

Now that the importance of brand identity and brand image has been established, take a closer look at how well your practice executes these concepts. Are you fulfilling your positioning promise? Are you staying true to your brand personality and are both aligned with your visual elements? If they are congratulations and strive to keep providing a consistent and credible experience for your patients. If they don’t see where you can adjust and bring them closer together and watch your practice flourish. If you haven’t yet, read my last blog on the importance of brand equity to a hospital.