Rebrand to Promote Understanding
Are you finding it’s time to rebrand your agency? Creating a new and distinctive brand name can be a real challenge. Yet, it’s also a huge opportunity to choose words that can help connect the meaning of your brand to your target audiences.
If you’re like many of our clients, your agency has outgrown its original brand name. When home-based care providers first formed their agencies decades ago, they typically offered a single service line to a specific region – and didn’t see the day they would expand beyond that.
Thus, their agency’s brand name was very literal and descriptive: “Hospice of (fill in a geographic name)” or “(Fill in a geographic name) Home Health.”
As agencies expanded their geographic footprint and added service lines, however, they realized that their brand names were both inaccurate and limiting. Some adapted by simply adding a new service line to their name, such as “Hospice & Palliative Care of (fill in a geographic name).” But that model can work only for so long, especially as services and service areas continue to grow.
Dozens of providers have looked to Transcend Strategy Group for help in refreshing or totally transforming their brand names. Many of those have followed our advice to adopt an architecture known as an “umbrella brand” or “master brand.”
Allow me to explain. Brand names are composed of two parts – the “first name,” which ideally will be distinctive and available for a trademark, and the “second name,” which is a more straightforward descriptor line. Famous consumer brands are usually known by just their first names, such as “Kleenex” or “Michelin.” But their full, legal brand names are “Kleenex Tissues” and “Michelin Tires.”
The concept of an umbrella brand is to create a single, consistent “first name” that will cover (like an umbrella, get it?) the organization and all its service lines – which are detailed by the “second name” descriptor lines. The power in this approach is that you can build relationships and credibility with a single product or service. Then the reputation of that brand lends equity to other related products or services.
A good example in the consumer world is the Reese’s brand. That company built a delicious reputation with its Peanut Butter Cups, centered on peanut butter flavor as the core of their brand equity. Based on that reputation, the company has successfully added Reese’s Pieces (peanut butter in a hard candy shell), Reese’s Puffs (peanut butter flavored cereal) and Reese’s Peanut Butter (creamy, spreadable peanut butter in a jar).
A growing number of home-based care providers have followed this umbrella brand model, and I’ll get to a few examples in a moment. But there’s a big difference between building many consumer brands and most brands of home-based care … and it comes down to money.
A big reason is because the meaning of brands must be built over time for its target audience. And let’s face it – building an understanding of a brand can happen faster with a big marketing budget. I’ve frequently said you can take literally any word for a brand name (I’m looking at you, Google and Apple) and get people to understand what it stands for if you have millions of marketing dollars to educate consumers.
Unfortunately, providers of home-based care don’t have such luxuries. So those brand names need to work a lot harder and smarter to help their audiences understand the essence and purpose of the organizations behind the brands.
Based on my 40 years of branding experience, consider this advice if you’re thinking about rebranding your agency:
Make your brand name highly relevant to what you offer. Your brand name doesn’t have to be too literal – “Hospice of (fill in the geographic area)” is about as literal as you can get – but it should provide a pertinent platform to further describe the purpose, features or benefits of your agency. For example, when the agencies founded as Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (NC) and Hospice & Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell (counties in NC) merged in 2019, they needed a new, cohesive brand name to represent their combined organization. The agency wanted to make sure their new brand wasn’t limiting like each of their original brand names. After going through the branding process with Transcend, the agency chose the umbrella brand of “AuthoraCare Collective.” “AuthoraCare” is the platform for their brand story – that they empower patients to be the authors of the remaining chapters of their lives, and each patient has authority over the care they choose to receive. “Collective” as the descriptor line implies a continuum of care, a coordinated interdisciplinary team and a collaborative approach with others in the healthcare community. Done properly, a brand name not only promotes deeper understanding outside the agency, it provides unity and clarity of purpose for your entire internal team.
Be sure the brand name is broad enough to accommodate future changes or additions. Don’t include limiting words, such as specific service lines or geographic references, in your corporate umbrella brand name. When Hospice of Wake County added a variety of other services upstream from hospice and expanded its reach to four additional counties, their original brand name became obsolete. Transcend helped the agency rebrand to “Transitions LifeCare.” The “LifeCare” descriptor line was very deliberate to address the misperception that hospice is only for the last few days or weeks. It also implies that the agency’s care was for other stages of life. Combined with “Transitions,” the brand communicates that the agency is there for patients and families as a serious illness progresses, meeting their changing needs along a fuller continuum of care. As an umbrella brand, the name also applies to a cohesive and consistent brand family of services – Transitions HomeHealth, Transitions PalliativeCare, Transitions HospiceCare, Transitions GuidingLights (a caregiver support program), and any other additions they choose to make in the future.
Use your descriptor line to deepen understanding of your overall agency. Hospice of the Bluegrass – the largest provider in Kentucky – added multiple service lines and knew their brand name had to evolve beyond hospice. Their new brand name reflects the very heart of their overall agency strategy. Working with Transcend, the agency changed their brand to “Bluegrass Care Navigators.” They retained the “Bluegrass” part of their name because consumer research showed the value of keeping a Kentucky reference (and the agency never intends to expand beyond their home state). However, they changed their descriptor line to “Care Navigators.” Their entire agency is committed to helping lead patients and families to the right care at the right time – whether Bluegrass Care Navigators provides the type of care they need at the moment or not. This strategy provides a highly valued service in helping families navigate the complexities of serious illness and the healthcare system. By building that relationship of trust as early as possible, Bluegrass Care Navigators knows that the odds are in their favor for patients and families to eventually need services they provide.
Does your brand need to change to stay in step with the times? Be sure to create a brand that’s built for the future as well as today. Transcend Strategy Group can help, applying 20 years of expertise for this exact challenge. To get started, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.