Harley-Davidson, Tiffany & Co., McDonald’s, Nike, Apple, Disney, Betty Crocker. What do they have in common? They are all iconic American brands that have spent decades developing and honing very specific identities which have played a big role in driving their legendary success. With a simple blue box, Tiffany & Co. exudes elegance and sophistication. Apple radiates coolness and innovation. McDonald’s and Disney convey happiness and excitement, while Harley-Davidson embodies rugged individualism, an outlaw spirit, and luxurious rebellion.

Regardless of their level of success – or failure – every brand has an identity. Effective brands have a strong identity that speaks to their customer base on a deeper level, driving connection and loyalty. That includes health care organizations. Whether a specialized physician practice, community hospital or large health care system, every health care organization has a distinct identity that separates them from the competition. When that identity is authentic and communicated effectively, it has the power to move the needle with regard to both revenue and patient impact. Thus, it’s incumbent upon marketing to differentiate the organization by creating an identity that is true, memorable, compelling, and easily understood.

When working with health care clients, we carefully consider the message the organization wants to convey, ensuring it is authentic and considering what personification it may adopt.  According to the University of Southern California’s Online Master of Science Program in Applied Psychology, five core dimensions play a role in a brand’s identity:

  • Sincerity
  • Excitement
  • Competence
  • Sophistication
  • Ruggedness

In order to build a strong brand, an organization must develop a thorough understanding of each of these dimensions and determine how they want to use them within their marketing or brand image. They must decide what feelings they want people to associate with their brand and then leverage the core dimensions that are most applicable to achieving that goal.

Today’s consumers are holding health care providers to a higher standard – one that has been set by the likes of Amazon and Netflix.  It’s crucial for organizations to approach health care marketing no differently than a consumer packaged goods company or Internet merchant. Cultivating the desired brand identity requires health care marketers to move beyond traditional, outdated methods and employ psychology to tap into consumer’s emotions and create a sense of association.