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Branding
Why Healthcare Needs a Systems Approach to Brand
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by CATHY RICHTER

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From clinic classification to brand architecture, structural challenges in healthcare are creating pain points for organizations across the industry

Just like other service sectors, the last decade has witnessed a tsunami of change in healthcare, beyond patient care. Whether it’s cost containment or brand expansion, healthcare brands are shifting, merging, acquiring and expanding, all while providers within are focused on delivering the best care for consumers. What all of this change has meant for many organizations is an uneven brand experience. Consumers are left to wonder: Which clinics do which services? Can I get antibiotics at the drugstore clinic? Is the neighborhood clinic connected to my doctor via the network?

Structural issues are now one of the biggest challenges for healthcare brands scaling for a sustainable future. Without a rigorous systems approach in place which makes relationships clear, M&A activity and any other system-wide change leaves the healthcare brand – and its consumers – searching for structure. Consistent alignment to the overarching brand and naming standards show that a healthcare brand understands the value of brand structure for their organizations. While consumers may not see a brand’s focus on cohesive architecture, they certainly feel it when it’s not there. 

Brand Architecture

As we addressed in our previous series on brand architecture, the way a brand is structured is one of its defining features of success, particularly following a merger or acquisition. Whether organizations want to admit it or not, consumers do experience a brand’s architecture. When the relationship to a parent brand is unclear, consumers are left to fill in the blanks themselves. For example, if an urgent care clinic changes ownership but keeps its old name, which is not identified as part of parent brand, consumers assume that there is no relationship there, and why would they? 

On the other hand, if the clinic reopens with its new name and its relationship to the parent brand is made clear, consumers assume there is strength in the union – that their health insurance is accepted, whatever care they get will be coordinated with their primary care doctor and the quality the parent brand is known for will be delivered in the new clinic. In other words, they have a seamless, convenient patient experience. While there may be some initial resistance from patients of the previous clinic, once it’s clear the parent brand is bringing quality care, those objections usually fall away. 

Clinic Classification

While having cohesive, intuitive brand architecture is mission critical for healthcare organizations, equally important is having a consistent naming structure or nomenclature for different types of care clinics across your network. For example, consumers who may need an X-ray don’t want to find out when they arrive at Urgent Care that they’ll have to travel to the hospital radiation department to get it. Consumers are looking for convenience, to be sure, but they also want consistency. They’re looking to go to one location to get all the care they need, especially in pressing medical situations.

Why Healthcare Needs a Systems Approach to Brand

What has become clear is that consumers don’t really understand the difference between Quick Care, Immediate Care and Urgent Care clinics, assuming the services they offer are similar, even though they may not be. Largely due to disruption, consumer confusion over care clinics has only intensified as healthcare systems add more types of medical clinics to their network.

“A systems approach for nomenclature would help define categories of care for providers and consumers, alike.”

While confusion in clinic categories is notorious throughout the healthcare industry, structure should begin within.

Why Healthcare Needs a Systems Approach to Brand

Setting the (Structural) Standard

Advocating for a systems approach to structure starts at the top. Leadership decisions about brand architecture and nomenclature are felt across the organization and set expectations for new additions to the brand network. While it may seem easy from the outside of an organization to say everyone needs to march to the beat of the same drummer, aligning brand efforts is only achieved by dedication to organizational structure, which doesn’t always come naturally from inside. As such, forwarding-thinking organizations may bring in outside brand experts to help facilitate internal structural change. 

Disruption in any industry can sometimes mean deferred decision-making. With structural issues, those delays can mean bigger organizational challenges in the future. With endorsement and expectation of executive leadership from the outset, clarity in all organizational structures– both brand and delivery –will help banish consumer confusion over structures and relationships under the larger brand umbrella. Especially important in mergers and acquisitions, leadership helps set the standard for the healthcare brand to communicate its brand values and differentiators in a dynamic and changing environment.

To speak with one of our healthcare industry and M&A experts, contact us at info@adrenalineagency.com.




Adrenaline is an experience design agency that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.

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