How do you know when your brand needs an update?

 In Healthcare Management, Marketing

One of the mainstays of a strong brand is unwavering consistency. You – and most providers of services or products, for that matter – work hard to build brand equity and a foster long-term relationships with target audiences.

Some of the most successful consumer brands have remained virtually unchanged and have held onto one of the top sales spots in their categories for decades or even a century or more. Household brand names like Ivory soap, Kleenex tissue and Morton salt come to mind.

I’m not talking about brand identity elements here. Many brands have evolved their logos over time as they make their graphics more contemporary. Pepsi tends to modernize their logo and packaging every few years. The Morton salt girl in the yellow raincoat has simplified and become more graphic over time.

What I’m talking about is the brand name itself and what it stands for. During the past 20 years, Transcend Strategy Group has helped an ever-growing number of senior care providers evaluate their brand to determine if it needs an update or an outright overhaul.

Overall, the number one driver of a decision to update or change a brand is when it becomes inaccurate or limiting in representing the full scope of what a provider does. The limitations our clients have faced that ultimately prompted them to change their brand fall into three main categories.

  1. Limitations in representing all current and future service lines

A significant number of Transcend’s clients were established as “Hospice of (fill in the blank).” They provided hospice care – and only hospice care – so “Hospice” became the core of their brand name. About 10 years ago, hospice providers started adding palliative care as a related but separate service line. So many providers “updated” their brand by adding “and Palliative Care” to their names.

There are drawbacks to this approach. First, it turned out that patients and families could be turned off to palliative care if the “H word” meant “imminent death” to them. Linking the two services together in the same brand created some obstacles.

Second, this brand architecture is unsustainable if agencies want to grow and add services. Some of our clients who originally added palliative care went on to add some combination of home health, private duty nursing, pediatric programs, adult day care, caregiver support programs and more. They couldn’t just keep adding service lines to their brand names without developing foldout business cards!

  1. Limitations in reflecting their entire service area

In the example above for “Hospice of (fill in the blank),” that blank was often completed with a geographic reference. The reference could be as specific as a city (Hospice of Greensboro), or broader to represent a county (Hospice of Wake County), a region (Hospice of the Valley) or an entire state (Hospice of Michigan).

Again, challenges occurred when growth or future goals expanded the agency’s reach beyond their initial geographic footprint. Originally, the more localized references were meant to convey that the provider was part of the community – neighbors caring for neighbors. But when their services expanded to areas not implied by the brand, it could be at best confusing to recipients or at worst make them think, “I don’t live there, so this agency isn’t for me.”

  1. Limitations in reflecting their culture

This attribute is very important and perhaps harder to pin down than the previous two factors. Yet, at times, an established brand name can imply and influence a mindset for the agency’s entire culture.

I’ll try to explain: Since many of our clients were established as strictly hospice providers, their brand included educating patients and families about how hospice care could provide many benefits for the last months – not mere days or weeks – of life. Still, their brand positioning and culture was geared solely as being experts in end-of-life care.

As a number of those clients expanded their services upstream from hospice, it could be difficult for their culture (especially longtime staff members) to shift their thinking about their full continuum of care. Emphasis was still on hospice care as their primary service line. Silos could form between service teams and opportunities lost to build relationships earlier in a disease progression and transition patients along the entire continuum, ending with hospice care when appropriate. A new mindset had to be nurtured for the entire agency culture to consider how they could help patients as early as possible and provide the right care at the right time.

These factors influenced Hospice of Wake County to rebrand as Transitions LifeCare; Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro and Hospice and Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell to re-emerge as AuthoraCare Collective; and for Hospice of the Bluegrass to renovate their brand as Bluegrass Care Navigators.

Transcend has helped multiple providers evaluate these and other possible limitations of their brands then develop relevant updates as required. How can we help your agency? To discuss your brand and its needs for the future, feel free to contact me at stan@transcend-strategy.com.

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