So – you are the marketing leader in your organization and you need to pitch the concept of a new, larger brand strategy. You know you are outranked – in most health systems, the senior marketing leader tends to be junior in title and position compared to most other senior leaders around the boardroom table. You have done your homework and you know branding is about something much bigger than an ad campaign or a new logo. But most everyone else around the table has only a superficial idea about branding that you need to overcome. And resources are tight – its likely that the dollars you need to implement a brand strategy will come from somewhere else in the organization. In order to get resources, you need to lay out a compelling reason as to why the resources need to be invested into a brand strategy.
And yet – if you have done your homework and researched branding (if you are looking for a great place to start – try my Great Reads page), you know that branding is about something big. Its about building an emotional, gut-level preference for your brand with your customers. Its about your organization’s identity and differentiating with a capital “D.”
Yet boardroom discussions are expected to be about business strategies and numbers, About features and benefits. About ROI. So how do you take a topic about emotional engagement and present to a room that wants numbers and ROI?
Its not easy but it is doable. You do need to be prepared to offer some numbers. But you also need to engage those senior leaders at an emotional level. Here are a few tips and starters:
- Enter the boardroom armed with the voice of the customer – One advantage the marketer has is that you have the natural expectation to conduct and use market research. Start with surveys, focus groups, even one-on-one interviews (even if you and your team has to go to patient rooms and interview patients and families – do it). Let your customers tell what their challenges are in navigating your hospital or health system and how that differs from their expectations. What they tell you should go a long way toward informing a brand strategy. And their perspectives will engage your boardroom.
- Conduct a logo audit. How many logos do you have in your health system? Define a different logo as any that presents either a modified or different symbol or a unique set of words in the bold, large font. For most health systems, this can often be an impressive collection. In my current health system we have a logo soup slide that shows about 30 different logos. And our survey of system marketers at our sites found that over 70% of them had at least 10 additional logos in use not shown on the slide.
- Connect the dots from logos to resource demands – each logo represents an ongoing demand for resources to support that logo; signage, letterhead, brochures, websites, advertising, etc… By simplifying brand identities (to just one ideally) you can dramatically reduce costs associated with maintaining your brand identity. And these savings represents a great opportunity to leverage current resources toward more and better brand building activities including advertising.
- Now combine that logo audit with the fact that the average person is exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages each day. Your customers do not have time to figure out your brand in their complex and over-saturated lives. If they see your message and they like your message, they need to be able to associate your message to your brand. Simplifying your brand identity will help in that cause.
- Take the time to align everyone in the boardroom around a new definition of brand. Connect your definition to being about a promise, about differentiation and about growth. If your customer connects with the promise that underlies your new brand, and that promise differentiates you from your competitor, then preference for your brand will grow. And as preference grows, so should market share – assuming you can deliver on your promise. And that is when you will begin to talk about the brand strategy that really matters.
- Branding ultimately should be about growth through greater loyalty and increased customer acquisition. Your brand strategy should demosntrate how you intend to measure those outcomes.
This road map has helped our small MarComm team at my current health system as we have presented to about 11 different boardrooms and other gatherings of senior leaders over the past 3 months. And we continue to see greater alignment and support for our brand strategy. I would like to hear about your story – how did you succeed at presenting on branding to your boardroom. How successful were you? What did you do to succeed?