One of the keys to a strong brand is the ability to connect, or identify with a customer. A brand that stands for something positive, has a nice [aesthetic] image, and attracts others like ourselves can be very successful in developing a strong following.
This is, of course, true of consumer brands such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Budweiser, but is also very true of professions such as medicine, osteopathy, physical therapy, acupuncture, and dentistry. With regard to consumer goods, you probably know people (maybe even yourself) that would NEVER go to Starbucks, ALWAYS prefers Budweiser to Coors, and would NEVER be caught at a fast food giant, namely McDonalds. Now, NEVER and ALWAYS are strong statements, which illustrates the power of the brand to help consumers identify with a good or a service.
A brand stands for something. It’s a promise of a certain experience, a certain expectation, a certain way of doing things. Because a brand represents something greater than itself, it can have much power over an audience to influence feelings, emotions, and behaviors – even to the point of making consumers ALWAYS or NEVER do something. Pretty powerful.
The same is true of the healthcare professions. Healthcare professions, while looking different than consumer brands, have all of the same attributes and are used in the same way. Consumers (i.e., patients) identify with certain healthcare professions, and not with others. I know people that will ALWAYS seek a physical therapist and NEVER a chiropractor. I know others that would ALWAYS seek a medical doctor prior to seeing an osteopath. Now, is this because a chiropractor is unable to help someone that needs physical therapy, or would an osteopath necessarily take a patient down the wrong path compared to a medical doctor?
No, not at all.
This is the power of branding. By identifying with a certain consumer group or patient segment, healthcare professions, like other consumer goods and services, can influence behavior to the point of the ALWAYS and NEVER statements illustrated above.
So, how does this impact my healthcare practice you ask? It impacts your practice and your profession (whatever it might be) because it is the brand conveyed to your target patient population that will drive whether or not you are successful in attracting patients in your area. Whether or not patients in your community identify with your practice or your profession is a critical piece to the overall success of your practice, and it is wise to consider this as part of your overall marketing strategy and communication plan.
Make sure that your practice and your profession are finding ways to identify with your target patient population, and you will find yourself on the receiving end of the ALWAYS statement mentioned above.